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In season 7 episode 3, Jon Snow and Daenerys are talking about her dragons and Daenerys says:

I named them for my brothers, Viserys and Rhaegar. They're both gone now. You lost two brothers as well?

Jon nods in reply, which the audience knows is correct, Rob and Rickon are both dead. At this point in the story though, shouldn't Jon Snow reply that he lost three brothers?

Later on in season 7 episode 5 he clearly says:

I thought Bran was dead

This first scene always bothered me as a result. Is there any real explanation for this other than the writers making a mistake?

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    Losing three brothers would not mean two are not lost, perhaps he just didn't want to add details to the conversation? Nodding for partially correct information isn't quite the same as giving the wrong information, I think. – Megha Jul 6 '18 at 5:12
  • If you have three of something, it is also true that you have two of them (plus of course one more). – T.E.D. Jul 6 '18 at 13:23
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    Biologically speaking he's lost no brothers. Lots of cousins though. – The Evil Greebo Jul 6 '18 at 17:22
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Jon knew from Sam that Bran was alive at least when the two met on Bran's journey north of the Wall (source: S04E04, "Oathkeeper").

Perhaps he suspected his brother had subsequently died (I mean, the chances of Bran, in his condition, surviving the harsh weather and the armies of the White Walkers had to be slim).

Nevertheless, at the point when he met Daenerys, he only had confirmation of two dead brothers. Therefore, there's no real contradiction in him telling Dany he has two dead brothers and then later exclaiming that he thought Bran had died. Thinking something isn't necessarily the same as knowing something, and he had no real verification, only fears.

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Everything was correct, from a certain point of view

Now we know Jon's three lost brothers are Robb, Bran and Rickon.

Daenerys

Daenerys has likely heard of Robb's death in Season 3 Episode 9, "The Rains of Castamere", due to it being quite a talked about event. She had also heard of Bran and Rickon's "deaths" from Tyrion when Theon and Yara meet with them. From this conversation she also learns that the Stark boys aren't actually dead or weren't killed by Theon at the least.

Tyrion: It was. And how have things been going for you since then? Not so well, I gather. Can’t imagine you would have murdered the Stark boys if things had been going well.

Theon: I didn’t murder the Stark boys. But I did things that were just as bad or worse.

Yara: And he paid for them.

Tyrion: Doesn’t seem like it. He’s still alive. It was complicated for you, I’m sure, growing up at Winterfell. Never quite knowing who you were. But then, we all live complicated lives, don’t we?

Game of Thrones, Season 6 Episode 9, "Battle of the Bastards"

Again as the quote in the OP comes from after the Battle of the Bastards it is most likely she has since heard of Rickon's death. Therefore, from her poiint of view losing two brothers is correct.

Jon

Now I can spin this a few ways for it to make sense. Firstly, if you want to take the literal meaning of the word then Robb wasn't lost and Jon would have suspected that Theon didn't actually kill his brothers because of Rickon turning up. Therefore, the only two having their whereabouts unknown were Bran and Rickon.

If you want to take the implied meaning of the word, i.e. death, (which is most likely what Dany means here) then it can still ring true in Jon's head. At this point he knows for sure that Robb and Rickon are dead, however, he doesn't have any concreete evidence for Bran. As Theon's story of killing them is false we can assume that Jon doesn't really believe it.

So, what about Jon saying he thought he was dead? Well for starters it's a lot easier to admit something to yourself when you have hard evidence. It's likely Jon never wanted to actually admit most of his family were dead and so kept kidding himself. So, here again it would appear that Jon saying two brothers is also correct from a certain point of view.

Lastly, on Jon's part it's important to note he is there to ask for Daenery's help, she is having a private conversation with him and is starting to open up to him. The worst thing he should do is correct her and look like a smart arse in this situation if he believes she is wrong.

On a bit of a meta note for Jon's answer to the question here you say he nods but the transcript over on Genius seems to believe he shakes his head. Now I've watched the scene back and I think he does actually nods his head but it is only a slight nod. This could mean multiple things to slight agreement, hard for him to admit, etc.

Jon probably knew Theon didn't kill the boys

I'm not sure if there is any hard evidence for this one but Theon told Sansa about him not actually killing the boys and it was discussed later on. Therefore, it's highly likely Sansa told Jon about this but I can't remember if it happens on screen or not.

Theon: Jon will have me killed the moment I step through the gate.

Sansa: I won’t let him. I’ll tell him the truth about Bran and Rickon.

Theon: And the truth about the farm boys I killed in their place? The truth about Ser Rodrik, who I beheaded?

Game of Thrones, Season 6 Episode 2, "Home"

Jon knew Bran was alive anyway

Theon supposedly killed Bran and Rickon back in Season 2 Episode 8, "The Prince of Winterfell. Sam then meets Bran in Season 3 Episode 10, "Mhysa". Even though Bran makes Sam promise not to tell Jon about him going north of the Wall, Sam does tell him anyway.

Jon (to Sam): When you told me about Bran going beyond the Wall, all I could think about was getting my strength back so I could go and find him.

Game of Thrones, Season 4 Episode 4, "Oathkeeper"

Losing two doesn't mean you haven't lost three

Just because he hasn't opened up about the full extent of his "loss" doesn't mean he hasn't lost more. After all if you've lost 3 brothers and you say you've lost 2 that doesn't mean you haven't lost 3. It just means you are only telling part of the story.

Technically he has lost two siblings

This is a spoiler from Season 6 onwards and was explicitly confirmed in Season 7 Episode 7, "The Dragon and the Wolf". Of course Jon doesn't know about it at this point either so it could have been a hint by the writers to include the "2 brothers" thing.

Jon is actually the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. This means he has lost two half siblings already: Rhaenys and Aegon.

  • "Bran made Sam promise not tell Jon about him so, given Sam is good at keeping his word, it's most likely that Jon never knew about this encounter." As per my answer, we know for a fact that Sam told Jon, they even had an on-screen discussion about it. – delinear Jul 6 '18 at 12:13
  • @delinear You're correct I've rolled it back to the original state and edited in the relevant quote. – TheLethalCarrot Jul 6 '18 at 12:15
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    Theon told Sansa that he hadn't killed Bran and Rickon, and she probably told Jon. So it's very likely that he knew about Theon's lies before he even knew that Ramsay was holding Rickon hostage (I'm pretty sure he only received Ramsay's letter after Sansa joined him at Castle Black). – Arnaud D. Jul 6 '18 at 12:35
  • @ArnaudD. He did that's a good point... shall add it in. Just confirms he knew which brothers were alive and when but is more backing evidence than much more. – TheLethalCarrot Jul 6 '18 at 12:37

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