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Spoilers for A Storm of Swords / Season 4 episode 2 "The Lion and the Rose".

At the Purple Wedding,

Littlefinger and Lady Olenna Tyrell

perform their plan of

poisoning King Joffrey.

A short summary of their plan:

Littlefinger orders Ser Dontos Hollard to give Sansa Stark a beautiful silver hairnet adorned with amethysts.
At least some of the amethysts are actually strangler crystals in disguise.
Ser Dontos also, still under orders of Littlefinger, urges Sansa to wear the hairnet at the wedding, which she then does.
At the wedding, when Lady Olenna greets Sansa, she fusses her hairnet a bit, while secretly taking one of the strangler crystals.
Later, during the wedding, Lady Olenna puts the crystal in Joffrey's royal cup, poisoning him.

But why was their plan so complicated? Why couldn't Lady Olenna just bring a strangler crystal with her to the wedding (as suggested in this answer)?

Then they wouldn't depend on Ser Dontos and Sansa who could unknowingly have done something to prevent the success of the plan.

The only reason that I could think of, is Littlefinger and Lady Olenna plan for Sansa (and Tyrion as her husband with her) to take the blame for Joffrey's death.

They put the crystals on her person, so that upon examination it would clearly show that Sansa had the murder weapon on her. But Littlefinger had a plan he did not tell Lady Olenna, namely rescuing Sansa during the chaos ensuing the murder (and thereby leaving Tyrion behind as the only accused).

Is there anything confirming or debunking this theory? If my theory doesn't hold up, is there another explanation for why the plan was so needlessly complicated?

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    Exactly they needed a scape goat so that the invetigation doesn't uncover their involvement, i'm sure that's the only valid reason to do all that. – yondaime008 Jul 7 '15 at 21:25
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    I'm not convinced that it was an overly complicated plot. It ensured the presence of the weapon as well as the scapegoat(s), with minimal physical involvement of the perpetrator(s). – Möoz Jul 7 '15 at 23:28
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    @PrisonMonkeys Correct. This entire scene is riddled with intricacies which can have huge implications; Did they intend for Sansa to get caught? Probably not; Did they intend for Tyrion? Possibly; Did they intend Ser Dontos? Most probably. See There was a lot in it for Lady Olenna/the Tyrells to have Sansa as their ally (and even as their intended for their Heir), since this would give them a huge sway over the North; I don't see that they would have wanted her thrown under the bus. Did they intend for LF to sweep Sansa away? Probably not. All my opinions and interpretations btw! – Möoz Jul 8 '15 at 0:39
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    Always keep your foes confused. If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are like to do next. Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you. Remember that, Sansa, when you come to play the game. ©Littlefinger – Nika G. Jul 8 '15 at 10:06
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    In the books we only know what LF told Sansa about the events in question. And LF is anything but reliable. – Dima Jul 8 '15 at 19:56
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It is complicated because there a lot of moving parts to the plan and competing agendas.

I think you mostly have it right, except the part about Olenna agreeing that Sansa takes the blame. It may be more subtle than that.

See below:


Ostensibly, Littlefinger's main goal is to Assassinate Joffrey, per his agreement with Olenna.

But Littlefinger also knows this will give him his one opportunity to free Sansa, which most likely is his main goal. He won't get another opportunity as the Lannisters would never agree to give her up, and she is a perfect scapegoat with no allies at court and with the Starks as enemies of the crown. Meaning he cannot assume he will be able to stage an escape attempt after the assassination.

There will only be a short time window for her to escape, while everyone is distracted by the assassination.

Littlefinger needs someone Sansa trusts (Ser Dontos) to ensure his plan is successful. He can watch for the precise moment to escape with her, he has detailed knowledge of where to take her, and she will agree to go.


On the other hand, Lady Olenna is no fool and most likely only agreed to betroth Margery to Joffrey after Littlefinger guaranteed Joffrey could be replaced with a more suitable husband. She may have wanted to directly take part in the assassination to guarantee its success.

But, she would not want to carry the poison on herself because:

  • It might be found if guests were stopped and searched
  • The hall is crowded and someone might notice if she drops/discards it
  • Littlefinger could double-cross her (EG: a guest could accuse her, and then the Lannisters find the poison on her)

This plays into Littlefinger's plans as Sansa is the perfect candidate to carry the poison (for both Littlefinger and Olenna), and will most likely be happy to have done so when she finds out about it later

Olenna probably did not originally want Sansa to take the blame, as she wanted her to marry a Tyrell so the Tyrells could claim the north.

But Olenna may have felt it an acceptable risk for Sansa to carry the poison if someone else (Tyrion) was planned to take the blame. If Sansa is found out, Olenna still achieves her primary goal of assassinating Joffrey. She just loses an opportunity to also get Sansa. And of course she would not have cared about Sansa at all once Tyrion married her.

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    I like this answer because it addresses why Olenna Tyrell agrees to offer Sansa as a possible scapegoat while at first this seems against her motives. Also, I had not considered Olenna not wanting to carry the poison because of distrust towards Littlefinger and the possibility of him double-crossing her. Thanks! – PrisonMonkeys Jul 8 '15 at 17:09
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    Do we really need all these spoiler tags? They don't contain any spoilers beyond A Storm of Swords / Season 4 episode 2 "The Lion and the Rose", which is the scope of the question, and they make it really hard to read... please save spoiler tags for spoilers from beyond the subject of the question! – user568458 Nov 23 '15 at 10:10
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  • For Olenna, the frills on the plan make it more palatable: she gains a scapegoat with few living allies who everyone powerful will want to blame, she takes fewer personal risks stashing poisons etc, and she doesn't have to skulk around treating with common poison-peddlers. But she still gets to do the deed (rather than trust some oaf to not botch it). It's perfect for her.
  • For Littlefinger, the frills on the plan may make Olenna's plan more complicated with more possible failure points: but each way it could fail still suits his interests, creating useful, usable chaos. Don't think of it as a dastardly plan where he has his fingers crossed hoping all the pieces fall into place, that's not his style. Think of it as artfully creating a situation where almost every possible outcome strengthens his position and weakens his enemies.

For Olenna: the benefits of the scapegoat and less time hiding poisons are obvious; but
also keep in mind her personality. She doesn't even bother learning the names of her bodyguards: can you imagine her sneaking into some common criminal's tavern to secretly fraternise with some foul-smelling, unkempt and probably unspeakably unreliable poison smuggler? Sounds wretched.

Or even worse, she'd have to receive the poison from Baelish before he set sail, then keep it hidden for a long stretch of time, probably in her own personal quarters, in a city she can't stand which she considers (accurately) to be ridden with spies. While she doesn't mind offending people, she's very risk averse when it comes to actual personal risks (for example, she goes everywhere with two bodyguards, she takes precautions to ensure secret conversations aren't overheard even when there's no-one around, etc).

Exchanging letters with an intelligent and efficient minor lord, then plucking poison from the hair of a pleasant, safely silly, well-groomed young lady sounds much more palatable.


For Littlefinger: I think the other answers and the question are based on a subtle but very important misunderstanding about his schemes.

He doesn't do complex delicate plots that depend on good fortune and X, Y and Z all falling into place exactly as intended. Varys does, and these seem to go the way "the best laid plans" go in real life: nothing ever goes exactly according to plan. We see the pawns in Varys' plans getting so fed up of him changing the details every time circumstances change, they decide to do things their own way, forcing Varys to change other details, kill people he hadn't wanted to... What did Littlefinger tell Sansa about even the smallest pawns having minds of their own?

Don't think of Littlefinger as a cartoonish supervillian with cartoonishly elaborate plans which, in real life or well written fiction, collapse like a house of cards the moment one piece slips slightly out of place. Instead consider his apparent mantra: chaos is a ladder.

His schemes embrace uncertainty and probability, setting up situations where whatever happens, he's strengthened and his enemies are weakened.

In this case, consider the possible outcomes:

  • Olenna is caught or observed administering poison. Lannisters turn on Tyrells, possibly bankrupting themselves or at least creating hunger and chaos. Both the most powerful houses are substantially weakened. With Littlefinger's distance and lack of motive, any attempt by Olenna to implicate him will look desperate and has no reason to be believed. Sansa is either:

    • Bundled into a boat, fueling Cersei's paranoia, implicating Tyrion, adding the possibility of a Lannister implosion at the same time as they lose their most important ally, and gaining Littlefinger a useful pawn
    • Caught, with Ser Dontos. Olenna, Sansa and Tyrion all go on trial at once, and their stories are bafflingly contradictory. Much chaos and confusion, much paranoia fuel, and plenty of opportunities to turn people against each other.
  • Assassination succeeds. Sansa is discovered missing. Tyrion's arrest is later and is less dramatic (no-one could have predicted Tyrion implicating himself so badly), and the case against him is less overwhelming - meaning even more internal Lannister division and discord - but otherwise things pan out exactly as they did: much paranoia, much chaos, House Lannister weakened, and much leverage gained over the matriach of one of the most powerful houses.

  • Sansa is somehow caught with the poison, before Olenna can take it. Her and Tyrion are immediately under suspicion of planning treachery. The (still living) Joffrey goes berserk, House Lannister turns on itself. Chaos created, enemy weakened, minimal risk (Olenna will keep quiet, Littlefinger is miles away and seen by Joffrey as an ally). Littlefinger has information (the Dontos connection - who has no reason to be told who was behind his being hired) which he could use to sow paranoia or gain favour, depending on how things go. He also has a devastating secret about Olenna which might be useful blackmail fuel...

...And so on. Almost every possible or probable outcome created chaos and paranoia Littlefinger can use, and discord and distrust he can exploit, and weakness which will be useful if and when he wrangles himself serious lands and armies.

  • Why would she need to consort with some poison dealer? She has Littlefinger who is more than happy to do that for her. – Chan-Ho Suh Jul 8 '15 at 20:52
  • Littlefinger's (deliberately) miles away in the Vale, communicating by letter. She needs to collect the poison from someone - better for her to do it on the day, than meeting some shady go-between somewhere shady – user568458 Jul 8 '15 at 21:56
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    You miss my point. Littlefinger clearly already procured the poison beforehand, created the necklace, and gave it to Dontos before he left for the vale. You're saying he is unable to get it to Olenna and she'd have to meet some shady go-between. That seems a stretch. – Chan-Ho Suh Jul 9 '15 at 4:20
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    True, but she'd then have to keep the poison in her quarters for a long period. She's pretty risk-averse, and (rightly) assumes KL to be ridden with spies, so this wouldn't be attractive either. – user568458 Nov 23 '15 at 10:12
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Littlefinger's plan is to poison Joffrey and spirit Sansa away in the confusion. He recruits Lady Olenna to slip the poison into Joffrey's wine as she'll be seated nearby and Ser Dontos as the stooge who will win Sansa's trust and lead her to the ship. He knows Lady Olenna won't talk but Ser Dontos is unreliable and must be eliminated. By using Ser Dontos as the go-between he proves to Sansa that he was behind Joffrey's death and her rescue, and also discredits Ser Dontos as an untrustworthy hireling. As a nice final touch he arranges for the dwarf jousters hoping it will provoke some sort of confrontation between Joffrey and Tyrion, thereby implicating Tyrion in his nephew's death.

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I see a few reasons:

Littlefinger

  • wanted Sansa as she reminds him of his only love, Catelyn, and she is the key to the north.
  • wants power and the best way to gain power is to diminish the most powerful family: The Lannisters

Olenna

  • doesn't want her granddaughter to be wed to a sadistic prick
  • also wants power

Result:

  • With this complicated plan, they can blame Tyrion (and Sansa). As everyone knows that Cersei hates her brother, they bring the Lannisters even more apart. Jaimie is the only one who still likes Tyrion and thus they bring Cersei and Jaimie apart as well.
  • Sansa was easier convinced to flee with Dontos in the turmoil when her husband is accused by Cersei right away.
  • Tommen is a nice little boy and by wedding him, the Tyrells gain a lot of power as they can influence him to their needs
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    While these are valid reasons why they plotted the Purple Wedding, they don't address why they did it this way (except for the blaming Tyrion part). – PrisonMonkeys Jul 8 '15 at 16:06

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