The Crowned Clown: Episode 3
Thank goodness our little clown-turned-king has some strong supporters, because he seems determined to get himself into trouble. He ignores their advice and puts himself in scary situations, and his allies are kept busy running around trying to clean up his messes. But the mock king is no fool, and when things don’t go quite as he planned, he’s willing to change tactics in order to do the right thing.
EPISODE 3 RECAP
Ha Sun escapes from the palace and reunited with his troupe, only to learn that his little sister, Dal-lae, was raped by Minister Shin’s son. His confrontation with Shin Yi-geom ends in failure and humiliation, so he makes his way back to the palace.
Minister Lee finds him in the throne room, once again wearing Yi Heon’s royal robes. He asks why Ha Sun came back, and Ha Sun says darkly,”I returned to find a way. A way to trample someone until he stops breathing. Teach me the way.”
Minister Lee laughs, then he snatches the sword out of Ha Sun’s hand and points it at his throat. Ha Sun trembles, but he raises his chin and actually takes a step towards Minister Lee, making him back up uncertainly.
He says that for Yi Heon’s sake, Minister Lee can’t kill him, and a tiny light of respect enters Minister Lee’s eyes as he asks what Ha Sun wants. Ha Sun says that he’ll do whatever Minister Lee says, even die, but on one condition. Minister Lee guesses that he wants to use the power he’ll have as king to kill someone, and he asks who it is.
Ha Sun tells him that his sister was brutally violated by Minister Shin’s son, Yi-geom, and Minister Lee looks horrified. Ha Sun gasps that he wants to make Yi-geom wish he was never born, and he asks Minister Lee what he’ll do — kill him, or help him now and sacrifice him later on behalf of the king.
Minister Lee chooses the latter, and a few minutes later he meekly follows Ha Sun outside. He tells Eunuch Jo to let Ha Sun be alone today, then the young guard, whose name is Jang Moo-young, asks to speak to Minister Lee about Gye-hwan, the maid who was poisoned. He leads Minister Lee to another part of the palace, where another maid, the one who poisoned the food, hangs dead.
Court Lady Kim informs Minister Shin that the king refuses to see anyone, even her, and they wonder if the queen dowager killed the second maid to silence her. Minister Shin belatedly asks why the king won’t see Court Lady Kim, and she reports that he hasn’t even asked her for drugs in the last few days.
Minister Shin grumbles that his sudden sobriety must be the reason he spared the life of Queen So-woon’s father. He reminds Court Lady Kim that her job is to keep the king drugged so he doesn’t focus on court affairs.
Three men follow Minister Lee to the gibang where the clown troupe were staying. He asks Woon-shim where Dal-lae disappeared to last night, and when she says she doesn’t know, he can tell she’s lying.
But Woon-shim says that he’s the one who taught her to hide what she knows to survive, when a lord named Gil Sam-bong passed away. At his look of shock, she points out that he’s survived the same way, and he says that her tongue is sharp enough to kill.
Still holding the two yang that Minister Shin gave him as payment for Dal-lae’s virtue, Ha Sun thinks about last night. It had been Woon-shim’s idea for Gap-soo and Dal-lae to go into hiding, fearing for their safety. She’d led Gap-soo out of the city, carrying a sleeping Dal-lae on his back, and Ha Sun had sobbed again as he took one last look at her poor little battered face.
Gap-soo had acknowledged Ha Sun’s rage and desire for vengeance, but he hadn’t understood what Ha Sun could do to make Yi-geom pay for what he did. Ha Sun had simply told him to follow his instructions if he wants to live, and he’d promised that he’d return to Gap-soo and Dal-lae alive.
Today, Eunuch Jo asks Ha Sun why he returned when he could (and should) have run away. Ha Sun says that he returned to repay what he owes, and he asks when Minister Lee will be coming back to the palace.
Minister Lee takes Ha Sun’s request to Yi Heon, who laughs at the upstart clown, but Minister Lee points out that Ha Sun has agreed to die in his place if necessary. Yi Heon is still angry that his order to have Minister Yoo beheaded was changed to banishment by Ha Sun, so he doesn’t trust him not to rebel. He even accuses Minister Lee of plotting with Ha Sun, but he suddenly becomes very fearful that someone might hear them talking.
Minister Lee tells him not to worry about the head monk, but Yi Heon gasps, “Not him. Yul. My brother Yul is back. He must have faked his death and come back to haunt me.” He starts to frantically search the room, then huddles in the corner, shaking and demanding that Minister Lee find Court Lady Kim and make her bring him his opium pipe.
Worried, Minister Lee leaves. The head monk explains that he took away Yi Heon’s pipe, so Yi Heon went to the temple looking for drugs. They found him passed out in the mountains, and since then he’s been having auditory hallucinations.
As the monk used to be a physician, Minister Lee entreats him to cure Yi Heon, and the monk asks who Yi Heon is that Minister Lee cares so much about his recovery. Minister Lee tells him that Yi Heon helped him escape from prison after Lord Gil Sam-bong died, by having Lord Gil’s body embalmed. Okay, there must be a lot more to this Lord Gil story.
The queen dowager is indeed behind the attempted poisoning, and she tells her lady not to worry too much that it failed, because they still have a long way to go. Her lady presents her with a box of dried flowers, and the queen dowager nods darkly.
When Minister Lee returns to Ha Sun, he’s unhappy that Ha Sun hid Dal-lae. Ha Sun relaxes when he hears that the king doesn’t object to his plans (though it’s more like he can’t object). Minister Lee says they need to find out who wants the king dead, and Ha Sun also wants to identify who killed Gye-hwan, the maid.
Minister Lee instructs him to visit the queen dowager tomorrow after breakfast, explaining that she would choose a successor should the king die and telling Ha Sun to deliberately make a huge fuss. When he arrives at the queen dowager’s quarters, So-woon is waiting to visit the queen dowager with him.
It’s been two years since the king visited the queen dowager, and she notes that he seems better than the last time she saw him. Her lady serves tea to Ha Sun and So-woon, but Ha Sun just stares at his cup accusingly. The queen dowager asks if he thinks it’s poisoned, and Ha Sun requests that it be tasted.
The queen dowager accuses Ha Sun of taking her “joke” too seriously, and asks So-woon what they should do. So-woon offers to taste her tea first, but Ha Sun yanks the cup out of her hands and flings it. Furious now, the queen dowager asks if he actually suspects her, and she pretends to be offended that he’s accusing her of attempting to kill him.
Again, she turns to So-woon for her opinion. So-woon takes the blame for causing this argument, but the queen dowager gets angry at her, too, for telling her not to punish the king. She demands an honest answer — does So-woon respect her as her mother?
Ha Sun orders the queen dowager to stop this, and when the queen dowager refuses, he violently flips his table. He grabs So-woon and pulls her from the room, leaving the queen dowager screaming impotently. She stops screeching as soon as they’re gone and rolls her eyes — yep, it was all an act.
When they reach the courtyard, So-woon yanks her wrist from Ha Sun’s grasp. Ha Sun says that it made him angry that the queen dowager was deliberately trying to find fault with So-woon, but So-woon snaps that if he truly wishes to protect her, then he’ll never do that again.
She says that kind of behavior only gives his enemies a valid excuse to make public issue of his disrespect of the queen dowager, and she doesn’t want to see that happen. She tells him to stay away from the queen dowager, and she’ll continue visiting her for the both of them.
Ha Sun reports to Minister Lee that he threw a tantrum as instructed, and that the queen dowager reacted exactly as predicted. Minister Lee is satisfied, but Ha Sun worries that it was a bad move after what So-woon said about Yi Heon’s enemies. Minister Lee promises to handle that, and orders Ha Sun to just do as he’s told.
Prince Jin-pyung is less than thrilled about what happened, but the queen dowager snaps that if he’d done his job, she wouldn’t have the king suspecting her now. He says that he will “get it done” at the upcoming hunting event, but the queen dowager doesn’t believe that the paranoid king would risk attending such an event. Prince Jin-pyung believes that he’ll show just to prove he’s in good health.
Ha Sun is reluctant to eat the king’s regular late-night snack, but he tells Eunuch Jo that he’s not afraid it’s poisoned, it just reminds him of Dal-lae and Gye-hwan. He offers the snack to Eunuch Jo, who says that he can’t eat it either after hearing that. Awww.
They split the snack, not wanting to waste it. Ha Sun thinks that Gye-hwan should be honored, and Eunuch Jo says that the queen has already ordered that Gye-hwan’s family be taken care of.
He tells Ha Sun that Yi Heon keeps his distance from So-woon, but nobody takes her lightly because she’s so generous and compassionate. Ha Sun sighs that he managed to get on her bad side, but Eunuch Jo says that it’s all because he looks like the king. Ha Sun snaps that he regrets sharing his snack, hee.
The queen dowager’s lady brings So-woon some flower tea that she claims will help her sleep. While getting her room prepared, So-woon’s maid Ae-young accidentally drops a box, spilling the hazelnuts that Ha Sun gave to So-woon. The queen pretends not to remember them, but when Ae-young teases that she’ll just throw them out, So-woon stops her.
Ae-young smugly returns the hazelnuts and asks So-woon why she was so cold to the king earlier when she clearly cares for him, and he’d just stood up for her. So-woon admits that she’s scared of being disappointed again, because she’s barely holding it together as it is.
Ha Sun allows Court Lady Kim to dress him for bed, and she tells him that Minister Shin would like a private audience. Eunuch Jo discreetly shakes his head, but Ha Sun agrees to talk. Minister Shin is led into Ha Sun’s rooms, and Eunuch Jo goes running to find Minister Lee.
Minister Shin wants to discuss filling the Border Defense Council position that was left vacant when Minister Yoo was banished. Ha Sun asks who Minister Shin recommends, and Minister Shin says it needs to be someone familiar with government affairs.
Minister Shin also tells Ha Sun to replace everyone on the Council who were appointed by Minister Yoo, because the court officials blame the recent problems in the royal house on corruption. He’s helpfully made a list of candidates, which of course Ha Sun can’t read.
Before Minister Shin realizes anything is wrong, Eunuch Jo returns with Minister Lee. Ha Sun hands Minister Lee the list of names, and Minister Lee informs Minister Shin that he can’t just singlehandedly reform the court as he pleases. But Minister Lee tells Ha Sun that if he can’t accept his advice then he must have Minister Yoo beheaded.
Upset but backed into a corner, Minister Lee says regretfully that Ha Sun has to appoint Minister Shin’s list of candidates to avoid killing Minister Yoo. Ha Sun protests that he’s not stupid — he knows that Minister Shin is running the country. Minister Lee says that even a king can’t do whatever he wants, and when Ha Sun asks why Minister Shin is being allowed to do what he wants, Minister Lee goes silent.
The appointments are made, and some council members grumble that Minister Shin is gaining too much power.
Later, Prince Jin-pyung asks Ha Sun if they can still hold the upcoming hunting event. Ha Sun says they may, and Minister Lee can’t think of a reason to object. But he tells Eunuch Jo that Ha Sun needs to participate in order to show that “the king” is healthy, even when Eunuch Jo reminds him that Yi Heon is a skilled archer while Ha Sun is… not.
But when Ha Sun goes out to practice his archery, he shocks Minister Lee and Eunuch Jo by making perfect shot after perfect shot. He’s apparently even better than Yi Heon, causing Guard Jung to ask if he’s been practicing secretly.
Minister Lee and Eunuch Jo take Ha Sun aside and ask when he got so good at archery. Unwilling to admit that he has a lot of experience gambling on illicit archery games, Ha Sun just says that he was born good. PFFT.
Eunuch Jo worries that the hunting event is an opportunity for the king’s opponents to kill Ha Sun, but Minister Lee says that Ha Sun fully understands the risk. He says that watching and waiting for the right time only resulted in Minister Shin gaining more power, and reminds Eunuch Jo that this is for Yi Heon (in other words, don’t get too attached to Ha Sun).
Still, Eunuch Jo tells Ha Sun that he can always claim to be sick and avoid the hunt. Ha Sun chuckles that Eunuch Jo must be afraid he’ll die, and when Eunuch Jo is alarmed that he knows it’s a possibility, Ha Sun gasps that no, he didn’t know.
The following morning he arrives for the hunt, and he’s shocked to see Yi-geom, Dal-lae’s attacker, there. Minister Shin explains that his bad knee won’t allow him to accompany the king, so he’s sending his son in his place, and Minister Lee warns Ha Sun not to do anything stupid.
Prince Jin-pyung says that he brought hunting dogs, and Ha Sun freezes up when the dogs bark and lunge in his direction. Prince Jin-pyung laughs, so Ha Sun approaches the dogs to prove that he’s not afraid. He holds out his hands, and thankfully, the dogs lie down submissively.
As soon as he can, Minister Lee asks how Ha Sun pulled that trick with the dogs. Ha Sun says he once spent time with tiger hunters, who don’t use dogs because they’re too scared of tigers. He grins at Minister Lee and pulls a scrap of tiger fur from his sleeve (and at the palace, Eunuch Jo wonders why the tiger skin that hangs in the king’s room looks ragged on one edge, lol).
Yi-geom volunteers to accompany Ha Sun when the hunting party splits up, and Ha Sun accepts, ignoring Minister Lee’s attempted protest. As they move through the forest, Ha Sun keeps an eye on Yi-geom, while Minister Lee keeps an eye on Ha Sun, and Prince Jin-pyung keeps an eye on everyone.
Soon, a deer is spotted, and in the mad dash after it, Minister Lee orders a guard to stay close to Prince Jin-pyung. But the prince senses his tail, and he manages to shoot an arrow into the guard’s arm and get away.
From a distance, Minister Lee sees Ha Sun order his guards in another direction then follow Yi-geom alone. Eventually Yi-geom stops, having lost the deer, but Ha Sun is nowhere to be seen.
From behind a tree, Ha Sun takes careful aim, memories of the way Dal-lae looked after Yi-geom was through with her flashing in his mind. He’s too focused to realize that Prince Jin-pyung is nearby with an arrow aimed in his direction. But Minister Lee arrives before anyone shoots, and he screams a loud, “Your Majesty!!”
Ha Sun releases, and his arrow flies true, directly at Yi-geom. Prince Jin-pyung fires, but as Ha Sun steps to the side to see if he succeeded, the arrow buries itself into a tree behind him. Prince Jin-pyung runs away, and Minister Lee and Ha Sun arrive at where Yi-geom stands, Ha Sun’s arrow having pinned him to a tree by the fabric right between his legs (I choose to believe Ha Sun aimed there on purpose).
Ha Sun pretends to be oh-so-sorry, claiming that he was aiming for a pheasant, and he even tries to free Yi-geom. But when Yi-geom looks down, Ha Sun’s expression goes dark.
Once they’re alone, Minister Lee slams Ha Sun against a tree and growls that he could have ruined everything. Ha Sun says that he just got so angry, and that he wanted to kill Yi-geom, but he realized that if he did and called it an accident, Yi-geom’s crimes would never be known.
He says he doesn’t just want to punish Yi-geom, but those who turn a blind eye to his crimes, so he changed his mind about killing him now. Minister Lee slowly lets Ha Sun go, looking a bit stunned, as if he’s just realized that their sacrificial clown is actually pretty brilliant.
While they’re out, Eunuch Jo tells So-woon that the king has ordered her to stop her daily visits to the queen dowager. Displeased, she marches over to speak to him as soon as the hunting party returns to the palace.
One of the hunting dogs gets loose and heads directly for the queen, but Ha Sun throws himself in front of her and takes the bite on his forearm. The guards pull the dog off, but not before it mauls Ha Sun arm pretty badly.
Ha Sun says he’s fine, but he’s obviously hurt. Even so, when Moo-young raises his sword to kill the dog, Ha Sun physically pushes him away. Prince Jin-pyung says that he’ll kill the dog himself, but Ha Sun argues that if you kill a soul for every mistake, no lives would be left.
Minister Shin backs up Ha Sun, surprising everyone, and he reminds Prince Jin-pyung that he’s here himself because the king gave him a second chance. Prince Jin-pyung backs down, and So-woon leads Ha Sun away to have his arm treated.
Luckily, the tiger skin in his sleeve protected Ha Sun’s arm from being too badly injured. After the physician leaves, Court Lady Kim starts to clean up Ha Sun’s hand. He pretends to be in a lot of pain and cringes away from her touch.
Eunuch Jo announces the queen and Hwa-dang, Yi Heon’s favorite concubine. Court Lady Kim makes a show of familiarly straightening Ha Sun’s sleeve, but he pulls away again. So-woon demurely bows and sits, but Hwa-dang rushes to Ha Sun to fuss over him, inelegantly shoving Court Lady Kim out of her way.
So-woon’s gaze on Ha Sun’s face never wavers as Hwa-dang whines and pouts, and when Ha Sun asks a vague, “Excuse us,” Hwa-dang turns to Court Lady Kim and tells her to leave. Court Lady Kim snaps that he meant her, and HAHA, I don’t like Court Lady Kim, but I also don’t blame her for looking gleeful as she peels Hwa-dang off of Ha Sun.
Apparently the physician was overly dramatic when he told the ladies that the king could have been seriously hurt, so Ha Sun assures So-woon that he’s really okay. She asks why he ordered her not to visit the queen dowager, and he says he just doesn’t want the queen dowager to upset her, with the sweetest look of concern on his face.
So-woon says that she’s noticed that, while she talks about the right thing do, Ha Sun actually gets up and does it. He asks what he did, and So-woon almost smiles at him.
Minister Shin is upset to realize that it wasn’t the drugs that made the king change his orders in regards to Minister Yoo, but he actually changed his mind. Court Lady Kim doesn’t think it’s that simple, but Minister Shin tells her to do her duty, or she’ll lose her position and the perks that go along with it.
Ha Sun belatedly remembers his skit making fun of So-woon and Hwa-dang’s rivalry, where he portrayed the queen as a jealous screeching harpy. Having met them both, he realizes now how wrong he was, especially about gentle, caring So-woon. He feels terrible for believing the rumors and mocking her, thinking about how lonely and tired she must be.
In her rooms, So-woon pulls out the special box where she keeps the hazelnuts that Ha Sun gave her, then sneaks out alone to the stream where her ladies were making wishes. She tosses one of the hazelnuts at the floating bowl and misses, and behind her, a voice says, “It will not go in if you throw it like that.” Ha Sun!
He picks up a stone, and they both get excited when it lands in the bowl on the first try. So-woon realizes that she forgot to make a wish, so Ha Sun throws another, which also lands true. It disturbs a flurry of fireflies, which dance around them as they marvel at their beauty.
So-woon makes her wish while Ha Sun watches her. He looks away to grin at the fireflies, and when So-woon opens her eyes, she catches him in a completely unguarded moment. He looks at her in wonder, saying that this is what it would look like if the stars fell from the sky.
He asks what she wished for, then realizes it might be a secret and takes back the question. To cover his blunder, he throws another stone. So-woon watches him making his wish, and she asks him what he wished for.
He tells her seriously, “My wish is to see you smile, big and bright. That’s what I prayed for.”
Well, if So-woon had any feelings towards Ha Sun before, that will clinch it. As far as she knows, he’s someone who used to be caring towards her but had changed, and is now returning to the compassionate man she married. Several times during this episode, he put her feelings before his own, so it’s understandable that So-woon is beginning to think of him positively, the way she used to. She’s very reserved, and she’s right to fear letting herself care again, but I don’t think she’s going to be able to resist Ha Sun for long.
Minister Lee might just be my favorite character in this whole show, if only in terms of being so complex and layered and interesting. He’s fiercely loyal to his king, unwilling to turn his back on Yi Heon because he knows there’s still a good person deep down, behind all the fear and paranoia and addiction. You can see Minister Lee trying not to get attached to Ha Sun, aware that his reason for being in the palace is to die. But when Ha Sun told him what happened to his sister, you could see all those walls begin to crumble as Minister Lee realized that Ha Sun is not just a pawn but a person, with people he loves and wants to protect, and that his reason for wanting revenge isn’t frivolous. Setting out to kill Shin Yi-geom will make Minister Lee’s quest to get rid of Minister Shin exponentially more difficult, but despite his gruff exterior, I don’t think he’s going to be able to ignore Ha Sun’s desperate need for help on behalf of his sister.
I’m glad for Ha Sun that even though he’s playing a dangerous game, and he accepts that he’ll almost certainly die, that he’s surrounded by good people. Minister Lee is stern, but fair and compassionate, and Eunuch Jo is just a big sweet teddy bear (I teared up when he was affected by Dal-lae and Gye-hwan’s tragedies). Queen So-woon is a treasure, willing to be a supportive partner and friend even after years of mistreatment by Yi Heon, and I’m looking forward to her and Ha Sun growing closer, even though it’s going to create some serious problems once she learns that he’s not actually her husband. Ha Sun has knowingly put himself into a difficult situation, but it makes me feel better that he has people around him who are kind and that he can talk to, to make (what he thinks are) his last days a little bit easier to bear.
At least the source of Yi Heon’s horrific behavior and paranoia is explained — we saw Court Lady Kim giving him opium in the first episode, but her conversation with Minister Shin confirmed that the two of them are keeping Yi Heon drugged on purpose in order to keep him from interfering with Minister Shin’s schemes. It explains why Yi Heon’s behavior is so erratic, and also why people kept saying that he didn’t used to be the monster that he is now. I said last week that I was waiting to pass judgment on Yi Heon since there might be a valid reason for his behavior, and involuntary drug addiction is enough for me to give him a chance to show that he’s a better person when clean.
Now that he’s outside the palace, Court Lady Kim isn’t there to carefully monitor Yi Heon’s opium intake, and for a while he was partaking a lot more than he was before. Instead of resting and feeling better mentally and emotionally, his paranoia and hallucinations seemed to be getting worse, because there was nothing stopping him from smoking opium all day long if he wanted. Hopefully, now that he’s been isolated from his drug of choice (and I noticed that the monk has him locked in his room for his own safety), Yi Heon can get sober and go back to the palace with a healthier outlook, and take on his enemies with a clear mind.
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- Lee Kyu-han joins The Man Who Became King
- Yeo Jin-gu, Lee Se-young become the king and queen of Joseon
- First script read for The Man Who Became King
- The Man Who Became King confirms main pairing Yeo Jin-gu, Lee Se-young
- Lee Se-young courted to be Yeo Jin-gu’s queen in Gwanghae remake