In Episode 9 of Season 6:

Littlefinger commanding the knights of Vale comes to the rescue for Jon Snow and his army.

Sansa had sent crow to Littlefinger asking help from him, surely she would have gotten a reply of confirmation from Littlefinger.

It would be understandable that Sansa would want to hide from Jon that LittleFinger might be able to help them as she wasn't sure about whether LittleFinger will help her.

But why would she hide that the Vale's Army is coming to join their army from Jon? Knowing LittleFinger, he might have planned to let Jon's and Bolton's army destroy each other before sending his army to finish off the battle, just to reduce his loss. But why would Sansa? Did she play Jon?

She knew Ramsay well, she knew Ramsay would play a game with Jon before the battle start, she warned Jon, she knew Rickon is as good as dead, she knew that to beat Ramsay she have to play a bigger game.

She has started showing that she could play the politics of Game of Thrones well, Did she outplay Ramsay and Jon in the Game?

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    I haven't watched the episode but I'd note that you are assuming that Sansa got confirmation letter from Petyr Baelish. Is there any reference for this? If Sansa did not know herself, how could she let Jon know? Second, assuming Sansa did get such a confirmation, One would say that she would have wanted to prove to North that it was her who saved the day and won winterfell for Starks. She is already suspicious of Jon's influence and wants power of her own.
    – Aegon
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 9:55
  • 3
    Ravens are trained to return to a specific place. Since Sansa and Jon were on the move, I don't think we can assume that a reply would reach them, even if Littlefinger sent one.
    – kuhl
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 10:44
  • Also, ravens can be shot down or intercepted, and Sansa didn't know she could trust Baelish. Sending him a raven saying "reply to our camp, which will be here" would be crazy dangerous. Presumably she didn't know if they were coming but rode off looking for them (armies are easy to spot) to direct them Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 10:48
  • Speculation- she might have been afraid Ramsey could have spies in their camp? Loose lips sink ships and all that.
    – Nu'Daq
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 21:24

5 Answers 5


There is no confirmation, we also don't know where Sansa was during the battle.
The fact that she rides next to Baelish is just to confirm to the viewer that it was her doing that made the knights of the Vale come to their aid.

We see her writing a letter in one of the previous episodes after Brienne has already left, so we assume that letter was sent to Baelish. It seems a lot is left to the imagination of the viewer this season, a lot of small details that are not really explained but only implied to have happened. One could assume that Sansa gave Baelish the location to their base camp and that is where he first went instead of going straight for Winterfell.

Sansa most likely asked for help in the hopes that the army of the Vale would have arrived before the battle started.
If the army of the Vale would have arrived after Jon and his forces left for battle, then they would only find Sansa and Lady Melissandra at the camp.

As to the question: Did Sansa outplay Jon?
I don't believe Sansa is playing people at this moment.

  • She could have taken the knights of the Vale when Baelish first offered them, but she refused because she does not trust him anymore.
  • Jon is her only true family that she has seen in years but besides being a good fighter, he holds no real power in any political play. Even as Lord Commander he only held power at Castle Black, which would never fight a war or side with any political party.

Conclusion: At this time, she and Jon only tried to save Rickon and get Winterfell back, for Jon this was also something he was seeking because:

  • He did not get to avenge his fathers (Ned) death
  • He did not get to fight with Robb or avenge Robb's death
  • He was betrayed by the Watch and that only enforces the previous 2 reasons.
  • Winterfell is still his home as much as it is Sansa's

-Edit- After episode 10, its safe to say Sansa did not play Jon. If anything, she played Littlefinger.

  • 2
    FYI, it's been confirmed that the letter was to Littlefinger. nerdist.com/…
    – kuhl
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 12:15
  • That picture does cut off half of my answer's theory
    – Vahx
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 12:51
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    Another facet of this is that the troops amassed at first (some Night's Watch and Wildlings) are really following Jon, they don't necessary have any allegiance to Sansa, so she can't choose what they do, only discuss Jon's plan with Jon. Sansa does tell him not to do what Ramsay is going to try to make him do. And of course Jon doesn't listen, or he forgets that advice. If Jon had not reacted, things probably would have gone more smoothly. None of that addresses why Sansa didn't tell Jon that she had plans of her own. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 15:49
  • Well, I thought her last encounter with Ramsey was well "played" on her part, at least. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:07
  • 1. It doesn't matter where Sansa was exactly during the battle (as long as she wasn't fighting alongside John). 2. The question of whether the Vale army arrives before or after the battle was not a matter of hope; Sansa made a conscious decision of not telling Jon about the Vale army, and had she told him he would have postponed the attack. Remember he mounted the attack to begin with at her behest pretty much. 3. Sansa is emotionally traumatized and scarred enough to be able to "play" even her true family.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jul 4, 2016 at 8:53

My answer will be dependent on the assumption that Sansa did know that LF was coming with the Vale.

Sansa did try to convince Jon to wait, to not attack yet. But, assuming that she knew LF was coming, she didn't tell him why because of the peculiarities of her struggles. She has no trust left in her, or very little at least. She has learned much from LF, whether she likes that or not, and what he has to teach is intrigue and how to win, no matter the cost. Basically, she knew that keeping the Vale participation secret would be a massive advantage and she didn't trust Jon to use it correctly. Their conversation the night prior to the battle is a small hint of this.

As for how it all was executed, it was brilliant tactically, while at the same time ruthless and cold. Let Jon wear down Ramsey's army and then, whether Jon won or lost, the Vale sweeps in all but guaranteeing the outcome. She said it herself, she knows Ramsey better than anyone alive at that point (after Ramsey's paramour was killed) and she knew that he'd commit everything once it became clear that he would win against Jon. She also knew that when he did that she would crush him.

So, to answer your question, that depends on your perspective. She let Jon do whatever he wanted to do, even though she did subtly try to get him to wait. From that perspective, no, she didn't play him.

But from the perspective of knowingly letting Jon go in at a major disadvantage and using that to her own advantage, then yeah, she played him a little bit.

  • 4
    This seems to be the reason she kept it secret, but it also seems to be a mistake to have done so, not a "massive advantage". Rather than giving Jon Snow an actual reason to stall and save his forces, most of the forces loyal to the starks are slaughtered, and now littlefinger holds all the cards.
    – Colin
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 19:20
  • 1
    I don't think she sees a real difference there. What she has gone through and what little she knows of Jon, for example, is that he ignored her completely when setting up the battle. She wants to see a Stark back in charge of Winterfel and if that means Jon has to die while doing it, then she'll cry for him later, but happily cut his throat in the mean time.
    – todd.pund
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 19:34
  • Maybe she sees no difference, but that is a mistake. Jon obviously takes his family ties seriously and would never harm her, and is manipulable. Littlefinger is a snake and unpredictable.
    – Colin
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 19:39
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    Well, if she thought that Littlefinger's word was reliable enough that a mere "I'm on the way" could be trusted at face value, maybe. Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 21:10
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    Possibly Sansa is impatient, and does not trust that the passage of time will do anything other than screw over plans they might have. If faced with a superior force, Ramsey doesn't come out to do battle, and they are in for a long slog. This way Ramsey commits, and the battle is definitive, one way or the other. That might be a reason why more would die, if she felt time was a crucial factor, like her (supposed) half-brother appeared to also think. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 19:58

First of all, who stays rational as the deliberate slaughter of a brother is committed basically in their face?
Once that had happened, Ramsey had the upper hand. (Which is why Sansa was trying to subtly tell Jon that Rikon was "gone" already.) And Sansa had sent a raven, yes, but everything else was in play...nobody was stopping to wait for Petyr and his troops-was Jon supposed to just call a timeout, or,"Raincheck!" The timing was what it was because...life.

  • Sansa was not subtle about saying Rickon was already (going to be) gone. Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 14:28

I'm calling yes, she played him.

Before going to Kings Landing Sansa never had any time for her bastard brother, taking her lead on that from her mother.

She was genuinely glad to see Jon, but then he was her only hope of escaping Ramsay.

The only way she and Jon have of escaping Ramsay is to kill him first. When it was apparent they didn't have the forces she PM'd Little Finger.
Why didn't she tell Jon about Little Finger?

She didn't believe in Jon enough to think he could win the battle, even with the force from the Vale. She couldn't afford a winter siege, and Jons un-augmented force was enough to pull Ramsay out into a toe-to-toe battle. She believed Ramsay would gain the upper hand, and knowing he was completely without mercy, guessed he would encircle Jons forces and finish them.

So, the Vale arrives in time to rout Ramsays forces, attacking unprotected flanks, Ramsay flees, but is quickly captured and killed.

So obviously Sansas primary goal is achieved, Ramsay is dead.
It's the secondary outcomes that are most interesting, as they leave Sansa in an excellent position.

  1. She is the legitimate warden of the north.
  2. She can "forgive" her vassal lords that declared for Ramsay, but demand tribute of money and men for the favour, quickly building her resources to a point where she's somewhat safe.
  3. The wildling army on her doorstep has been decimated.
  4. The only force of opposition left near the north are the Freys, and they're far enough away, and committed to the south, that they're unlikely to be an immediate problem.

The fifth beneficial secondary outcome, that could easily have happened but didn't, would have been Jons death in battle.
With Jon gone Sansa is the eldest (she believes only) living child of Ned Stark. As a member of the Nights Watch Jon wasn't a threat, but now that his watch has ended, the North is as likely to legitimise Neds bastard and declare for him as they are for "a slip of a girl".
It'll be interesting to see what happens there, does she actively want him dead? Or just out of the way?

Did she think all those things through, I don't know, but she knew she'd be better off not giving Jon the forces from the Vale.
It's been a long time since she's been the empty headed girl that left Winterfell. She's learned a lot dealing with Joffery, Tyrion, Little Finger and not least Ramsay.


Yes, but only because the script made her do it.

While what we've seen in S06E09 is likely due to incredibly poor writing, editing and oversight by Benioff and Weiss, if you consider it at face value it is actually even worse than just "playing" Jon:

  • Sansa let her younger brother, Rickon, die - by not threatening Ramsay Bolton with the Vale Army if he doesn't surrender her brother (she was in a position to negotiate terms for his surrender, and pretended to not have the upper hand militarily). She admitted herself she knew that, in case of a battle, Ramsay would not let Rickon live. Bargaining using the information she had, or using that information to delay the battle, would have increased the chances of Rickon staying alive.
  • Sansa let the armed forces loyal to house Stark (directly or via Jon) be decimated by fighting a superior force instead of waiting for reinforcements.
  • Sansa let Jon, her half-brother, enter a battle in which he was much more likely than not to perish (as she could not know exactly when the Vale army would arrive; a half-day later and Jon's forces would have been slaughtered to the last).
  • In fact, Sansa had deceitfully orchestrated the entire attack on Winterfell - she convinced Jon to do it (although, ok, there was the pink letter, but without Sansa's enthusiasm Jon might not have tried to mount his attack). And remember: Sansa called on him to mount such an attack to save Rickon (whom she later claimed she knew cannot be saved).

So, if it were not for the fact she suggested they delay the attack, you could say Sansa has made a play for the entire North, hoping to rule it with no military forces available to challenge the external influence of Littlefinger/the Vale.

By this point in the story, Sansa Stark is a person who is willing to execute people by feeding them to dogs, and stand watching (for a while) while they tear off a man's flesh and he screams in agony, blood spurting from his unfolding entrails; then walk away smiling, not at all troubled by the sight. She also does not trust anyone, essentially, saying that "No-one can protect anyone", feeling she is always at mortal threat from people surrounding her and that intimacy and trust are either impossible or just a prelude to being betrayed and victimized. So, if written correctly, this could have been a very interesting plot line, especially with Ramsay saying "You can't kill me. I'm a part of you now."

However, no such luck. The writers are simply terrible at their jobs and make character - and the physical reality - behave inconsistently and incoherently. This is just like what we saw with Arya in Braavos.

PS - Ramsay would obviously have known about the Vale army. For which reason he would never be as stupid as leaving Winterfell to fight Jon's forces in the field like that, keeping himself completely open to an attack he not only knew was coming, but was likely aware of its timing almost exactly, due to his scouts and other travellers along the Vale's route of advance. But who cares, right? We got an awesome battle scene.

PS - Credit goes to Preston Jacobs' lampooning video for some of these observations.

  • 3
    No. If faced with the addition of Knights, then instead of trying to decimate his enemies, Ramsey instead holes up and makes this army with zero siege engines try to take Winterfell. This is exactly what he did even after his standing army was wiped out, and he was confident that they (not counting on giant-power) would not be able to do so for a long, long time, at which point he could probably rely on some assistance from the Lannister clan. Poor analysis. He would not allow Rickon to live under any circumstances, as Sansa points out, it invalidates his claim to any kind of power. Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 19:55
  • @AndrewMattson: If Ramsey were to hole himself up in Winterfell, he would invalidating his claim to the controlling the North, however... remember this isn't King's Landing or even one of the Northern cities. If you and your supposed army are hiding in a castle/fort, what kind of ruler are you? Ramsey would immediately lose support of the unaligned houses and the Starks gain some of them. Smalljon is a pure opportunist who will not huddle up with Ramsey for a siege, so that might be lost as well.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 21:50
  • But then, why would you think the Vale army is not prepared for a siege? Their specific task (from the King at least) is to overthrow Ramsey, so they were planning on taking Winterfell, Hence, planning on mounting a siege even if as one of several contingencies. ... and what's more, as for the Lannisters - remember the Vale attack is under the king's authorization and coordinated with Cersei. If anything, the Lannisters would help the Vale army.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Jun 21, 2016 at 21:59
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    einpklum - "Knights of the Vale." Knights. Horsed. Cavalry. Not "army of the Vale." There could be more troops in reserve, but there's nothing to indicate that is so. Has anyone taken Winterfell by siege since this series began? No. I'm not sure why you seem to think this is some kind of easy undertaking. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 13:28
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    While this is an interesting and relevant discussion, it's gone on a bit too long for comments, so I've moved it to chat. Please do continue the conversation there, and let me know if I've deleted any comments I shouldn't! :-)
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 13:32

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