The Crowned Clown: Episode 12
Every time our clown catches a break in one area, something explodes in another area, and it’s starting to feel like he’ll never be able to have a moment’s peace. The longer he impersonates the real king, the more chances there are that he’ll slip up and say or do something that will tip off the wrong person that he’s not who he says he is. His only hope is that when (not if) that happens, he’ll have enough time to think of a clever explanation.
EPISODE 12 RECAP
Ha Sun follows So-woon to a cliff where she’s planning to kill herself, and he begs her to live, even if only for him. Before she can answer, an arrow flies past them. Ha Sun throws his arms around So-woon to shield her, and takes a second arrow in the back.
Luckily, Moo-young followed Ha Sun, and as Ha Sun collapses in So-woon’s arms, Moo-young runs over and starts knocking arrows out of the air with his sword. He and his men go after the assassins, leaving So-woon begging Ha Sun desperately to wake up.
Minister Lee faces his own impending death at the hands of the Ming envoy, who is offended that the king didn’t come himself to greet him. But just as the envoy is about to slice Minister Lee’s throat, a voice calls to him to stop. It’s Minister Shin, who apologizes on Minister Lee’s behalf (HA, Minister Lee rolls his eyes).
Minister Shin tells Minister Lee to apologize, but Minister Lee refuses. He says he represents the king, while Minister Shin is here for personal gain, and that he won’t dirty himself or his king just to save his own life. He says that surely the Ming envoy doesn’t wish to sever ties with Joseon, and the envoy reluctantly admits that he’s correct. He says that he’ll go to the palace tomorrow, but that he wants Minister Shin to serve him.
Ha Sun wakes in a strange room, and he’s surprised and a bit scared when So-woon enters. He asks if she was hurt, and she admits that she was frightened to think that she might lose him, more frightened than at the thought of dying. Ha Sun asks hopefully if she’s decided not to die.
So-woon tells Ha Sun that she felt guilty that she was ignorant of her own sin (of loving him without knowing who he truly was), so she thought she should pay for it with her life. But now, she says that even if the world condemns her, she wants to live by his side.
Ha Sun hugs her gratefully and tells her that she just saved two lives, because he’d have killed himself if she’d died. He lies down so So-woon can clean his arrow wound, ans he makes her promise never to leave him. It’s a promise she makes happily.
Moo-young sends a guard back to the palace to tell Minister Lee that Ha Sun is okay but they couldn’t catch the assassins. Eunuch Jo wants to go get Ha Sun and bring him home, but Minister Lee has to be at the palace when the envoy arrives. When he does, with Minister Shin in his wake, the ministers all wonder why the king is absent.
The envoy is predictably angry when the king isn’t at court to greet him, but Ha Sun appears in the doorway just as he’s screaming his displeasure, quipping that he’s got a good grasp on their language. The envoy is only slightly mollified, wanting to know why the king wasn’t waiting for him.
He actually talks down to Ha Sun, reminding him that disrespecting him is the same as disrespecting the emperor. But Ha Sun brings in a huge tiger pelt, and he tells the envoy with his most charming smile that he personally went hunting for the banquet, and was a little delayed by the tiger.
The envoy seems reluctantly impressed, though he notices that the pelt is missing its tail. Ha Sun chuckles that he only noticed the tiger had no tail after he killed it, and claims that it makes the pelt that much more rare and valuable. (Ha, Eunuch Jo can barely hide his snicker — he knows exactly what happened to that tail.)
They sit down to talk, and the envoy expresses surprise that the king would dismiss someone as loyal as Minister Shin. He tells Ha Sun that the emperor wishes him to reinstate Minister Shin, and Ha Sun offers Minister Shin a new title, having heard how Minister Shin served the envoy in his absence. Minister Lee stares at Ha Sun, but his expression gives nothing away.
In Ha Sun’s chambers, Minister Lee admits that he was scared Ha Sun wouldn’t return in time, but Ha Sun grumbles that he gave his word. He thanks Eunuch Jo for tipping him off that the envoy would request Minister Shin’s reinstatement, since he might have caused an angry scene otherwise, though he’s upset that Minister Shin used the envoy to get his job back.
They’re all worried about who might have attacked both the king and the queen. Minister Lee says that he thinks it’s the only person who noticed that Ha Sun wasn’t in the palace — the same person who demanded he hand over the king’s seal and plaque.
Sure enough, the queen dowager screams at Prince Jin-pyung for failing to kill Ha Sun yet again. She asks if she can trust him enough to include him in her future plans, and he insists he’s the best person to help her. She snaps that if he’d kept his word he’d be king already, then curtly dismisses him.
That evening, So-woon performs a tea ceremony outdoors. Minister Lee sees her praying, and when she’s finished, he tells her that he’s grateful she decided to return to the palace. She says there’s no need for thanks — she fled to avoid punishment, and returned to pay the price for her sins.
She says that her only duty now is to protect the person they both know, and that she’ll willingly face whatever she must to do that. Minister Lee tells her that that person once narrowly avoided death, and that he said the exact same thing afterward — that he wanted the power to protect something precious.
Minister Shin has a private drink with the Ming envoy and thanks him for helping get his position back. The envoy retorts that he only did it for the ten thousand soldiers Minister Shin promised.
Ha Sun finds So-woon still outside later and brings her a cloak to stay warm. He tentatively asks for her hand, and when she holds it out, he places several hazelnuts in her palm. She remembers the first time he did this and smiles, and he reminds her that if she cracks one open, a house goblin will grant her wish.
So-woon asks when he’ll stop speaking formally, wanting him to talk to her comfortably like he used to. Ha Sun is nervous to do that now that she knows he’s not really the king (or her husband), but she says it will help keep his identity a secret, so he makes himself lower his speech.
She tells him that she’ll return to her chambers after praying for three days, then says, “I’m So-woon. My name is Yoo So-woon.” Ha Sun repeats her name reverently, and eagerly tells her his name when she asks. So-woon smiles and says that Ha Sun is a warm name.
The following day, Ha Sun learns that Ming wants Joseon soldiers to help them defeat their enemy, Later Jin. Minister Lee tells Ha Sun that if they refuse, Ming will just invade them first, but if they send the soldiers, they’ll make an enemy of Later Jin. Scared, Ha Sun asks if there’s any way for Joseon to avoid the war, and Minister Lee says that from now on, the two of them will walk on a tightrope.
Minister Shin returns to court with his son, Yi-geom, and accepts congratulations on his new position of Head of Privy Council. When Ha Sun enters the court, Minister Shin says that they need to fulfill their duty as a vassal state and help Ming fight against Later Jin.
Ha Sun barely controls his knee-jerk emotional reaction and looks to Minister Lee, who says that this is something to discuss with the court. The Minister of Taxation recommends they deny the request since they are short on rations due to the drought, but Minister Shin argues that they owe Ming after they aided them similarly during the last war.
Ha Sun refuses, and Minister Shin gets on his knees in false grief that the king is choosing to be an ungrateful son. Ha Sun says that if Ming is the father of Joseon, then he is the father to his people, and he won’t send his sons to their deaths. He says he would rather commit a sin against Ming than against his own people, and Minister Shin accuses him of betraying law and courtesy.
He asks angrily how Ha Sun will endure the scholars’ appeals after saying such a horrific thing. Ha Sun says he’ll gladly grant Minister Shin’s wish, and gives the officials and scholars permission to go fight, Minister Shin along with them. Minister Shin goes quiet, and Ha Sun bellows that he cherishes his own life, but he doesn’t care about the lives of the people. He slams a fist on the table and yells that the officials should be ashamed, then storms out, leaving Minister Shin fuming.
Minister Lee visits the Ming envoy again to deliver the king’s message. He tells the envoy that in Joseon, they don’t train soldiers, so in order to provide military support they’ll have to draft and train the men. He asks for two years to prepare soldiers and provision them, and the envoy counters with one year.
Minister Lee takes Ha Sun a letter he’s drafted to General Nurhachi of Ming regarding their inability to provide troops even if war breaks out. He asks Ha Sun to stamp it, but Ha Sun hesitates, unsure whether he has the right to use the royal seal. Minister Lee tells him that he’s the only one who can, and after a moment, Ha Sun does it.
Minister Lee gives the letter to his spy, but something about his expression is worrisome. The spy doesn’t get very far before he grows nervous and unsheathes his dagger, but when nothing happens, he puts it away again.
Minister Shin summons Prince Jin-pyung to his home to introduce him to the Ming envoy. He gives the envoy a box full of silver ingots, presumably from Prince Jin-pyung as proof of his loyalty to Ming. The envoy says that he’s angry over Minister Lee’s request for a year’s grace period, and he warns Prince Jin-pyung to come through on his promise of twenty thousand soldiers within half a year. Prince Jin-pyung says that he’ll do anything to secure the throne.
Ha Sun and So-woon make a surprise visit to the queen dowager, who’s annoyed to see So-woon back, and says that she has no shame for not killing herself for having left the palace. Ha Sun snaps that he approved So-woon’s return, but the queen dowager sneers that So-woon disgraces her title as queen because he goes easy on her.
She demands that So-woon step down as queen before the court deposes her and makes her drink poison. So-woon respectfully refuses, and the queen dowager accuses her of disgracing the entire royal family. Ha Sun has had enough, and he tells the queen dowager to stop harassing So-woon, or else.
The queen dowager says that she knows he feels no duty to be filial towards her, and that he can try to do whatever he wants to her, but she won’t go down easily. Ha Sun tells her that he knows she demanded his seal and plaque while he was gone, and he wonders what the people will think when they find out.
The queen dowager stammers that she had to do it, but Ha Sun also wonders who would believe her when they found out he was almost assassinated. He orders her again to leave So-woon alone or he won’t forgive her, takes her silence as agreement, and leads Woon-shim away by the hand. The queen dowager sinks to her knees, then screams in fury.
Ha Sun gets some good news from Ho-geol — they they’ll be able to implement the rice payment law sooner than expected. Ho-geol beams under Ha Sun’s praise and promises that he’ll keep up the good work, and poor Ha Sun has to get Eunuch Jo’s help to make Ho-geol and his giant man-crush leave.
Since the rice payment law failed once before, Ha Sun decides to go on a procession to ask the people what they think. He asks Minister Lee where Dal-lae and Gap-soo are, though he says he knows he can’t see them, but that it’s necessary to make a better country for them and everyone else.
He asks Minister Lee to find them a safe place, which will make it easier for him to cut ties with his past. Minister Lee agrees to do that for him, and Ha Sun hands him a pouch with four hazelnuts inside to give to Dal-lae.
Moo-young scares ten years off Ho-geol’s life by grabbing his shoulder while he’s doing math in his head, hee. Moo-young says that Minister Lee will be coming for Dal-lae and Gap-soo, and Ho-geol looks a bit disappointed to be losing his houseguests so soon.
Eunuch Jo brings Ha Sun a bedtime snack of dried persimmons, though it’s obvious that Eunuch Jo wants one more than Ha Sun does. He practically drools as Ha Sun tries them, but instead of offering Eunuch Jo one, Ha Sun takes one more for himself then asks Eunuch Jo to take the rest to So-woon, because treats should be shared.
BWAHAHA, Eunuch Jo gives Ha Sun the saltiest look as he picks up the box again. Ha Sun takes pity on him and gives him the second persimmon, and Eunuch Jo loves him again. Their bromance is so freaking cute.
So-woon received the persimmons and a note from Ha Sun, which says that he’s going on procession tomorrow and asks her to come with him.
Ho-geol watches Gap-soo and Dal-lae pack their things, wondering how they even have things to pack since they arrived empty-handed. He playfully yanks something out of Gap-soo’s bag, which turns out to be the poster accusing the king of being an impostor.
Ho-geol glares at them suspiciously, then chirps that they must love the king as much as he does. Dal-lae asks in surprise if this is really a picture of the king. Ho-geol says it is, and that the king is even coming to their area if they want to see him in person.
He leaves for work, promising to cook them one last feast before they leave tonight. After he’s gone, Dal-lae runs off to see if the king really looks exactly like Ha Sun.
When the procession starts, Ha Sun’s first stop is at an outdoor tavern, and after asking the people not to bow, he orders a bowl of soup and rice. He asks the peasants how life is treating them, and gets the expected, “It’s wonderful all thanks to you,” answer.
He asks them to be honest, so one brave man says that he cultivated some unclaimed land to make some income, but a noble said it was theirs and took it. He asks Ha Sun to return the land he cultivated, and Ha Sun immediately gives his permission.
He warns that he’s about to implement the rice payment law which will only tax landowners, and asks the man if he still wants to own land. The peasants agree that paying taxes according to your wealth is fair — it’s being taxed when you’re broke that’s the problem. Ha Sun agrees, and that opens the floodgates of complaints, with the entire courtyard of people begging to be heard.
Nearby, So-woon watches Ha Sun, dressed as a noblewoman to hide her identity. She smiles to see him treating the people so fairly, and he catches her eye and smiles back.
Yi-geom happens to be in the area, and his eyes go wide to see the king here, but he keeps walking. A little way down the street, Dal-lae is trying to find the king herself, but instead she finds herself facing her rapist. She ducks into an alley to hide, and luckily Yi-geom doesn’t see her, but his father’s right-hand man does.
Gap-soo sees asks Dal-lae if Yi-geom is the guy who hurt her, and she nods fearfully. Gap-soo asks a shopkeeper ajumma to keep an eye on Dal-lae and follows Yi-geom, grabbing a harvesting knife from a merchant’s table on the way. His first wild swing only slashes Yi-geom’s arm, and it takes four men to bring Gap-soo to the ground, screaming in frustration.
While that’s happening, Minister Shin’s man sneaks up behind Dal-lae, and when the shopkeeper ajumma looks again, the alley where she was huddled is empty. Minister Shin’s man gives Minister Shin the dragon knife that Dal-lae was carrying, and Minister Shin tells him to make Dal-lae “comfortable.”
When Ha Sun returns to the palace, he’s told that Yi-geom was attacked in the marketplace by a clown named Gap-soo. Ha Sun wants to see Gap-soo, but Minister Lee stops him by saying that this is likely a trap laid by Minister Shin, and he asks Ha Sun to trust him and wait while he scopes out the situation.
Ho-geol is already at the jail looking for Dal-lae, who he believes must have been brought here with Gap-soo. Minister Lee confirms that Gap-soo was alone, but Ho-geol had assumed she was arrested for possessing the dragon knife (only kings were allowed to have the dragon symbol). Minister Lee remembers Yi Heon being given a dragon knife when he became crown prince, but he can’t tell Ho-geol how Dal-lae must have gotten it.
Minister Shin arrives at the palace to see Ha Sun, and a nervous Eunuch Jo asks Ha Sun to refuse him. Ha Sun agrees to speak with Minister Shin alone, and after Eunuch Jo leaves, Ha Sun says that he heard about Yi-geom being attacked, but Minister Shin says that he’s not here about that.
He gives Ha Sun a box which contains the royal dragon knife. Ha Sun has never seen it before, but he demands imperiously to know why Minister Shin had it. Minister Shin says he got it from a girl named Dal-lae who was with the clown that attacked Yi-geom, and he asks Ha Sun if it’s the same dagger that the Ming emperor gave to him.
Thinking fast, Ha Sun says that he had the dagger earlier when he left the palace, and must have dropped it. Minister Shin asks if he’s sure, and when Ha Sun says he is, Minister Shin tells him that in fact, the former king gave him the dagger when he fled the country and made him crown prince. Dammit.
Ha Sun immediately realizes that he’s made a fatal mistake. Minister Shin orders him to reveal his true identity, or Dal-lae’s life will be in danger.
Shaking, Ha Sun silently reaches into his desk and pulls something out. Keeping his fist clenched, he stands, then tosses something at Minister Shin’s feet — the two yang he paid Ha Sun for Dal-lae’s virtue. Ha Sun says in a gruff voice, “I am the one you paid two yang,” and after a moment of shock, Minister Shin begins to laugh.
AWESOME. If Ha Sun had to admit his true identity to Minister Shin, at least he got to do it in the most in-your-face way possible, which had to be very satisfying. Say what you will about Ha Sun, but you have to admire his guts and sense of showmanship. He used the tension of the moment to make his big reveal, and by now I trust his intelligence enough to feel confident that he’s not just giving Minister Shin his true identity in a fit of anger — he’s got a plan, or he’ll come up with one quickly. Between Ha Sun and Minister Lee, they generally “walk the tightrope” well and use seemingly damning information to their benefit, so let’s hope they’re able to do that this time, too.
Ha Sun is really turning into an amazing king, and I love it when he says or does something that makes even Minister Lee look at him in surprise and respect. It’s not so much what Ha Sun does as how he does it, and his intense dedication to serving the Joseon people is particularly impressive. I expect him to be able to adopt a commanding presence, having been a performer all his life, but he goes one better by being quite intelligent and always managing to say exactly the right things at exactly the right times. I believe that it’s this that will give Ha Sun the edge over Minister Shin when it comes down to it — Minister Shin has the same talent, but it’s entirely self-serving, while Ha Sun uses his speaking skill to protect and defend others.
I don’t know why it made me cry when So-woon told Ha Sun her name, except that maybe it’s partly because I hadn’t realized he never knew her name until she confronted him. It makes sense once I think about it, that in a society that would have exclusively referred to the queen by her title, a mere peasant would never know the queen’s name. Somehow, nobody ever though to tell Ha Sun when he began impersonating the king (they really didn’t prepare him very well at all), except that they told him to avoid her and didn’t expect them to ever cross paths, much less fall in love. But that moment when she said, “I’m So-woon,” and asked Ha Sun his name in return, felt every bit as intimate and romantic as a confession of love. It was as if, by telling Ha Sun her name, So-woon was breaking down the last wall separating them and inviting him into her most private world.
I feel compelled to mention what an incredible job Kwon Hae-hyo is doing as the conniving Minister Shin. If I remember correctly, I first saw him in Lie To Me, what feels like a million years ago. He played a sweet, supportive ajusshi character, and those types of roles are mostly what I think of when I think of him. This is the first time I’ve seen him as a truly evil character, and to be honest, I didn’t think I’d buy it at first. But he’s really selling Minister Shin as a shifty, grasping, power-mad manipulator, and I’m having a lot of fun seeing him do something different. I hope he’s enjoying doing it as I’m enjoying watching him!
- 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