The Crowned Clown: Episode 5
Our kingly clown is getting himself in deeper and deeper, but he does what he can to make the best of the situation. He genuinely wants to be a good king while he’s wearing the robes, and thank goodness he has a loyal adviser to help or he’d be dangerously in over his head. But his biggest threat isn’t in the court, but in his heart, as he begins to fall for the one woman he can never, ever have.
EPISODE 5 RECAP
After seeing that Yi Heon has maimed himself in his madness and fear, Minister Lee takes Ha Sun to a clifftop. He stabs the terrified Ha Sun in the chest, saying, “Ha Sun the clown is dead. Now you are the king of this nation.”
Minister Lee helps the weakened Ha Sun down the mountain and back to the palace. Seeing Ha Sun lying in bed bleeding reminds him of the way Yi Heon looked after stabbing himself in the ear, in an attempt to stop hearing the cries of his murdered little brother. The monk, Jung Saeng, said that Yi Heon didn’t damage anything vital, but his pulse was worryingly weak.
Jung Saeng is also worried about Minister Lee, who hasn’t looked this bad since Lord Gil’s funeral. Minister Lee remembers how Jung Saeng tried to talk him out of becoming a court official, but he says it’s time to try to build the world that Lord Gil and their people wished for.
He’s watching over Ha Sun when he wakes, and helps him sit up. Ha Sun asks if he’s dead, but Minister Lee says that he barely scratched him. Ha Sun wants to know what he meant by saying that he’s now the king, and where the real king is. Minister Lee just says he’s far away, and they don’t know when he’ll return.
He tells Ha Sun not to die or run away, and Ha Sun asks why he stabbed him. Minister Lee explains that Yi Heon has a scar there from an injury he got during the uprising, and that Ha Sun has to be the real king in order for them both to live.
Eunuch Jo tells the court ladies that the king is unwell, but doesn’t wish to see the court physician. Guard Moo-young is suspicious, but Minister Lee tells him not to make a fuss or someone might think something really bad happened to the king. He explains that the king simply wants to rest after the recent uproar in the queen’s court.
Court Lady Kim doesn’t take the news that she’s barred from the king’s chambers well. Minister Shin is also refused, but he’s about to bully his way in anyway when the queen arrives. She politely chastises him for not respecting the king’s wishes and sends him away.
She’s allowed in, and Ha Sun tells her that he only has a minor cold. She’s brought him some herbal medicine, and when she hands it to him, seeing her beautiful face up close reminds him of her smile by the lake. He snaps out of it, and as he’s about to drink the medicine, the queen dowager is announced. Ugh.
She rushes in, full of fake concern for Ha Sun’s fever. She accuses So-woon of not taking proper care of the king, and So-woon humbly admits fault. But then she turns it around and says she’s going to take full control of his care from now on, adding pointedly that she won’t allow anyone to distract her. Ha Sun looks like he could burst with pride.
As the queen dowager leaves, Court Lady Kim offers her service as a replacement for Court Lady Jang (who sacrificed herself to hide the queen dowager’s guilt from cursing the queen). The queen dowager doesn’t respond, but by the look on Court Lady Kim’s face, this isn’t over.
So-woon stays with Ha Sun as promised, concerned that his fever seems to be getting worse, but Ha Sun says nervously that his flushed face isn’t due to a fever (hee). He’s angry the queen dowager accused So-woon when she’s not exactly innocent of wrongdoing, and he tells So-woon that he’s glad she said her piece without him needing to interfere.
So-woon confesses with a cheeky grin that she had to restrain herself from saying what she was really thinking, ha. She says that she’s glad he wasn’t unhappy to see her, and Ha Sun stammers that of course that’s not true.
At that, So-woon makes him lie down and rest, saying that she’ll stay by his side until he falls asleep. Ha Sun sneaks little peeks at her, feeling awkward, and finally admits that he can’t fall asleep. So-woon offers to read to him, ignoring his protests and picking up a book.
Inside are Eunuch Jo’s translations in Hangul, and Ha Sun worries that he’ll be caught for not being able to read Chinese writing. He stammers that he’s trying to learn the commoners’ writing, impressing So-woon with his apparent desire to be closer to his people.
Prince Jin-pyung comes to check on the king, but is gleefully refused by Minister Lee. He asks Minister Lee to tell the king that he’ll take him hunting again when he feels better, to catch that deer he missed last time, and Minister Lee replies slyly that the king may wish to hunt bigger prey next time.
Minister Lee leaves Eunuch Jo with instructions to use the queen’s presence in the king’s chambers to turn away any visitors. But Eunuch Jo looks uncomfortable about Ha Sun being alone with So-woon — he was there when So-woon smiled at Ha Sun by the lake, and he saw the smitten expressions on their faces. He tells himself that this isn’t right — after all, Ha Sun is not really So-woon’s husband.
Luckily, the most scandalous thing going on in the king’s chambers is poetry reading. One poem about a woman’s feelings for her husband makes So-woon smile, remembering how she couldn’t sleep after they were married. She tells Ha Sun that he caught a grasshopper and gave it to her, saying that the chirps would help her sleep, and she found out later that he’s afraid of insects.
Ha Sun’s face falls, knowing that she’s actually speaking about Yi Heon, and he says that he’d like to be alone to sleep. So-woon quickly leaves, and Ha Sun tries to convince himself that the pain and pressure in his chest is from being stabbed by Minister Lee.
Court Lady Kim tells Minister Shin that the king has only been visited by the queen, and the queen dowager for a few minutes. She muses that the king likely won’t depose the queen, but Minister Shin reminds her that the king changes his mind often. He tells her to try to get her chief court lady status back, and in the meantime, he’ll consider whether to keep working with her.
Minister Shin approaches Minister Lee about going back to the days when they were allies. Minister Lee agrees to consider it on one condition — that Minister Shin resign his position as Left State Councilor. Minister Shin laughs like it’s a great joke, and he brags about all the people he killed to get where he is now, calling it his loyalty to the king.
He accuses Minister Lee of getting his position by hiding behind the king’s father like a coward, not sacrificing anything personally. Minister Lee reframes Minister Shin’s deeds as taking from the people to satisfy his own greed for power, not loyalty, and he says that if there’s any real loyalty in Minister Shin, he’ll remove his greedy self from the king’s court.
With a lot weighing on his mind, Minister Lee goes back to the gibang to see Woon-shim. She asks if something is bothering him, but he says that in fact, he’s in a great mood. He admits that he’s been having regrets, and tells her to send out a message to “the members” that it’s time to gather again.
The court physicians are distressed when So-woon insists on brewing the king’s medicine herself. Ha Sun drinks it without hesitation, and she notes that he’s looking better and says that she’ll keep making his medicine for ten more days.
She reminds him that his mother’s death anniversary is approaching, and she asks him to stock up on the rice they give to the poor on that day. He eagerly agrees, but Minister Shin tells him it’s impossible. The local officials usually supply the rice, and this year they need their help finishing the palace instead (the main palace was badly damaged in the uprising).
Ha Sun tells him to postpone the construction, but Minister Shin argues that they need to show the king’s authority. He claims that he’s only being loyal to his king by insisting on serving the king before the people, and he says that the only way to get more rice is to raise taxes.
Ha Sun keeps calm, but in private, he rants to Minister Lee about Minister Shin wanting to build a palace rather than feed the people. Minister Lee tells Ha Sun to talk to the Minister of Taxation, who advises Ha Sun against raising taxes, especially since the whole purpose of getting more rice is to help the people.
He also tells Ha Sun that villages from all across the country have been sending rice for as tribute, but the country officials are keeping the surplus for themselves. His suggestion is for the king to investigate the tribute payment.
Mention of tribute reminds Ha Sun of the maid, Gye-hwan, who had told him that she was sold to the palace because her father couldn’t pay his taxes. Minister Lee tells him that officials often refuse tributes on purpose, so that people have to buy other things as tribute, which benefits the vendors.
Ha Sun wonders why they don’t just take rice only as tribute to avoid this, so the Minister of Taxation suggests they bring back the rice payment law. He warns that the law will get objections from ministers and officials, since only people with land can be taxed, so they must carefully calculate the price of the rice in each district.
The problem is that he has nobody who can perform those calculations. But he does know of someone who can, a man named Joo Ho-geol. Ho-geol likes to use his extraordinary calculating skills to gamble, and when he gets caught, Minister Lee rescues him at the last second.
Ho-geol tries to escape, but Minister Lee grabs him and chides him good-naturedly for starting fights when he’s terrible at fighting. Minister Lee offers him a chance to help create the world that they and Lord Gil dreamed of, but Ho-geol laughs that just dreaming of it will get them killed for treason.
A county magistrate brings Minister Shin a bribe in an attempt to get a promotion. Minister Shin praises his “loyalty” and promises to make him a governor, and as the man leaves, we see a long line of lesser officials waiting to purchase their own promotions.
When she sees him again, Woon-shim is happy to tell Minister Lee that she’s received a message that their former members agreed to meet. She wants to go alone, but he says he’ll accompany her. When they join their former friends the following day, they’re not happy to see Minister Lee, whom they regard as a traitor.
They start to leave, but Minister Lee gets on his knees and confesses that when Lord Gil and his followers were killed for high treason, he did nothing. He begs their forgiveness, but one man spits that they’ll forgive him when he brings the dead back to life, and tells him never to contact them again.
They leave, and Minister Lee tells Woon-shim that he didn’t expect to be forgiven easily. She says that they’re still longing for the Daedong Group, and Minister Lee promises her that he won’t give up.
Ha Sun slumps in exhaustion that night while studying with Eunuch Jo, sighing that he underestimated the king’s duties. Eunuch Jo agrees that translating all these books for him is a lot of work, so Ha Sun thanks him and tells him to rest.
The queen is on her way to see the king, and she spots Eunuch Jo leaving the royal library. She tells her lady Ae-young that she’ll go in alone to give the king his medicine, and she surprises Ha Sun, who thinks that she’s Eunuch Jo returning.
He rounds a stack of shelves and smacks right into So-woon, nearly knocking her off her feet. He drops his book to catch her, pulling her into his arms. They’re both affected by the closeness, but Ha Sun lets go first, apologizing profusely. So-woon explains that she was bringing his medicine, which he drinks in one gulp.
She looks around the library, while Ha Sun hides the translations that Eunuch Jo was making for him. So-woon marvels at all the books, having never been in here before, so Ha Sun gives her permission to come here any time she wishes. He asks her favorite book, and she tells him that she likes the poems of Tao Yuan Ming because it’s easy to read.
Ha Sun says that if she likes things that are easy, then living in the palace must be difficult for her. So-woon admits that it was, once, and that she even dreamed of living somewhere else, but she says that now she can’t imagine living anywhere else. She moves closer to Ha Sun, staring into his eyes in invitation.
Eunuch Jo returns, and when he hears from Ae-young that the queen and Ha Sun are alone, he rushes into the library. He’s just in time to stop anything from happening, and So-woon goes back to her rooms, blushing as she thinks about how Ha Sun caught her in his arms. Ae-young pouts that Eunuch Jo returned too soon, and So-woon jokes that she’s not sure if she should reward or punish him.
Court Lady Kim infuriates the queen dowager by visiting her without being summoned, and the queen dowager snarls that the late king warned her about Court Lady Kim. He was the one who sent her to attend Yi Heon, and the queen dowager says that he’d turn in his grave if he could see her now. Court Lady Kim looks visibly distressed, but the queen dowager tells her to do what she does best, and she’ll see how good Court Lady Kim is at solving problems.
While gathering nuts with Gap-soo, Dal-lae spots someone walking through the woods and into a hut. She goes to get a closer look, but the door to the hut is locked. She peeks through a crack and sees someone lying on the floor, but Gap-soo finds her and fusses at her for wandering off.
Ho-geol is gambling again when guards burst in looking for him. They accuse him of slicing off a man’s hand in exchange for his gambling debt, and they drag him off to prison. Minister Lee arrives looking smug, cluing in Ho-geol that he got framed, and this time when Minister Lee invites him to join him in return for freedom and money, Ho-geol wants to know where the money is coming from.
Cut to: Ha Sun, sitting on the king’s throne. He asks if Ho-geol can really solve equations that others can’t solve, and if he’d be willing to use his talent for his country. With a side-eye in Minister Lee’s direction, Ho-geol says that he’s sick and tired of the government.
Ha Sun suggests they gamble, and the winner gets to make a request of the lose. Ho-geol agrees, though he warns Ha Sun that he’s never lost a bet in his life. Ha Sun looks nervous at first, but he wins hand after hand, until Ho-geol is forced to agree to his work for him.
But Ha Sun tells Ho-geol that he won’t make him to do something against his will. He dismisses the confused Ho-geol, and tells him to come back when he’s decided what he wants to do. Minister Lee asks Ha Sun how he managed to win, so Ha Sun shakes his arms until a whole armful of sticks falls out, rendering Minister Lee speechless. HA! He just blatantly cheated.
Ho-geol leaves in a daze, offending Minister Shin’s son Yi-geom when he doesn’t even acknowledge him, but one of the ministers finds Ho-geol awfully familiar. He goes to Minister Shin to report that he saw the son of ex-Minister Joo, the man who ruined his family in the Daedong conspiracy. Minister Joo used to brag about his son, who was a mathematical genius despite being his son by a slave.
Minister Shin matches up the fact that the Minister of Taxation was recently at the palace, and now Ho-geol, and pieces together that the king is looking for evidence of embezzlement. He decides it’s time to take action. The following day, the Minister of Personnel enacts a takeover of the taxation office.
He tells Ha Sun during court that the people are suffering because of delays in appointing county magistrates, blaming the Minister of Taxation for not turning in documents to his department on time. The Minister of Taxation argues that the Minister of Personnel is doing this to cover up crimes committed by the magistrates.
They continue to bicker, so Minister Shin suggests that Ha Sun have the Inspector General determine who’s at fault. In private, Minister Lee explains that if the Inspector General concludes there was no problem with the documents, the Minister of Taxation will be dismissed, and they won’t be able to implement the rice payment law.
He says that they need to find proof of embezzlement, so he decides to meet with Ho-geol again. When Minister Lee arrives at the meeting place that night, he realizes that Ho-geol is surrounded by assassins, and he calls out a warning — but he can only watch helplessly as Ho-geol is struck down.
So-woon brings Ha Sun’s medicine to the library again that night, but it’s quiet when she arrives. She looks around and finds Ha Sun behind a shelf, fast asleep, awww. She watches him for a minute, then reaches forward to gently touch his face. His hand slides from his lap, so So-woon sits and places his hand back where it was, leaving hers on top of his.
Ha Sun wakes, but she doesn’t notice, so he closes his eyes again. Thinking that he can’t hear her, So-woon says softly that she keeps looking in the direction of his chambers as if it’s the moon or stars, and she finds reasons to visit the garden and library multiple times a day hoping to see him.
She whispers that she can’t hide her fluttering heart anymore. She tells Ha Sun, “I have fallen in love with you. Only now has that happened.” He manages to keep his eyes closed and show no reaction, still pretending to be asleep, but So-woon leans forward to kiss him.
When their lips touch, Ha Sun’s eyes fly open.
Oh, my heart! This is just the best kind of pain. I do adore a good, angsty they-can-never-be love story, and Ha Sun and So-woon are just killing me. Ha Sun is definitely developing feelings for the beautiful, gentle queen, and she believes that the kinder king she married, who seemed to have been destroyed by fear and paranoia, is returning to her. But at this point it’s not her memories of Yi Heon that she’s falling in love with, but Ha Sun himself, and that’s going to be a big, big problem. Ha Sun knows he can’t have So-woon, but he also can’t resist enjoying the little moments they have together. Soon his honor is going to demand that he either push her away, or tell her who he really is, and that could ruin everything.
It’s interesting to watch Ha Sun’s conflicting emotions when it comes to So-woon. She’s such a lovely person inside and out, caring and supportive yet strong and wise. It’s no wonder Ha Sun can’t help the way he’s starting to feel for her. but not only is it wrong because she’s married, but she’s the queen and married to the king — they could both die for treason even for this one, innocent kiss. So Ha Sun is dealing with his feelings (and now So-woon has fallen in love with him), but So-woon keeps telling him stories from when she first married the king that make it clear that she would probably have fallen in love with Yi Heon if things hadn’t gone so horribly wrong. So Ha Sun has the weight of potential treason on his shoulders, plus now he has the knowledge that this woman loves him, and her stories show that her husband, despite everything that’s happening, likely loves her. Ha Sun may be a simple commoner, and a clown at that, but he’s an honorable man who would never purposely get between two people who love one another, married or not, king and queen or not. I don’t envy him the position he’s in.
I want to know who this Lord Gil is that Minister Lee and his people are so fixated on. He seems to have been an idealist who dreamed of a better Joseon, but who was accused of and killed for high treason for his efforts. It sounds as though his followers, who called themselves the Daedong Group — Minister Lee, monk Jung Saeng, Woon-shim, and others including Ho-geol’s father — scattered and hid their association with Lord Gil to save their necks, but with an idealist like Ha Sun acting as king, Minister Lee sees a chance to try to rebuild their group and try again. It’s dangerous, as people have already died for the ideals that Lord Gil stood for, and I’m scared for Ha Sun as Minister Lee uses him for his purposes without his knowledge or consent.
I love sageuks, but I’ll admit that I get a little overwhelmed sometimes when the court machinations get complicated. It’s a credit to the writer that, even as Ha Sun gets pulled deeper and deeper into the fights between the ministers, everything is generally spelled out clearly and it’s not difficult to understand. I feel like Ha Sun, who needs everything explained in small words, and it’s a clever storytelling trick to have Minister Lee give Ha Sun a rundown in simple terms whenever things get convoluted as the ministers argue amongst themselves. The Crowned Clown necessarily has a lot of court intrigue to wade through, it’s just the nature of this kind of drama, but I really appreciate that the show has found a way to make the events understandable to those of us who are more clown than king!
- Premiere Watch: Neighborhood Lawyer Jo Deul-ho 2, The Crowned Clown, What’s Wrong Mr. Poong-sang
- The clown gets a lesson on how to be a king
- Three teasers for The Man Who Became King
- 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