The Crowned Clown: Episode 15
Things are looking very bad for our clown king, who finds himself in a very dangerous position. For the first time, he’s forced to rely on his own judgment, when the least mistake could cost the lives of everyone he’s grown to care about.
EPISODE 15 RECAP
Moo-young learns that Prince Jin-pyung has forced his way into the city with his army and orders the palace gates closed. When he sees this, Prince Jin-pyung heads to the West Palace, where the Queen Dowager now lives.
Ha Sun and So-woon are reading stories in the library, and after one story, So-woon asks Ha Sun what he’d do if he were the protagonist — choose his son, or his loyal servant. Before he can answer, Eunuch Jo runs in yelling that Prince Jin-pyung has led an army into the capital.
Moo-young reports to Ha Sun that he saw the torches moving towards the West Palace, and that Minister Lee isn’t in the palace but he sent a message. It says that the letter to General Nurhachi was stolen and Minister Lee promises to get it back, and he advises Ha Sun to pretend he knows nothing about it.
Moo-young suggests they get help from General Kang, who handles national defense with Minister Lee, and So-woon recommends asking General Kim, her father’s friend, for aid. Moo-young says that it will take four days for the generals and their soldiers to arrive, and that they don’t really have enough soldiers to protect the palace for that long, but that they’ll do their best.
Eunuch Jo even offers to have the eunuchs help guard the palace, and So-woon volunteers to take care of feeding everyone. Ha Sun thanks them gratefully, then he burns Minister Lee’s letter.
The Queen Dowager hears the soldiers outside and fears that the king’s people are there to kill her. She’s relieved instead to see Prince Jin-pyung, then grows angry again when Minister Shin enters and bows to her. She tells Minister Shin that he’s crazy, but he says he has a gift for her. He leads her outside, where he has Minister Lee bound and on his knees.
She tells Minister Lee that this serves him right, and now she gets to have her revenge for him killing her son. Even Prince Jin-pyung and Minister Shin look shaken by that truth. She says that Minister Lee fooled Yi Heon, then made him kill his brother and steal the throne, and she demands he be deposed as a traitor.
Minister Lee bursts out laughing, saying that even if the Queen Dowager wants the king gone, removing him without justification is treason, and she’ll be blamed for it. He says she can call it revenge on him, but she’ll really be self-destructing.
Prince Jin-pyung says that they have evidence that the king has secret ties with Aisin Gurun, and tells Minister Shin to show the Queen Dowager the letter. But Minister Shin says he doesn’t have it, and he won’t say where it is in front of Minister Lee.
Minister Lee takes advantage of Prince Jin-pyung’s anger to remind him that Minister Shin killed his father and brother, and asks if he’s really foolish enough to side with him. He taunts Prince Jin-pyung until he pulls his sword and threatens to cut out Minister Lee’s tongue. Even then, he keeps chuckling that Prince Jin-pyung is like a worm that wants to be a dragon, but the Queen Dowager stops Prince Jin-pyung from killing him on the spot.
She says that Minister Lee is trying to get them to kill him so that the king will never relent. Still in a rage, Prince Jin-pyung says that if she gives the order, he’ll charge into the palace right now, kill the king, and bring her the royal seal. But the Queen Dowager says that she can’t support him as the leader of a band of traitors — this will only work if it’s a justified restoration and they make the king surrender.
Later, Minister Shin tells Prince Jin-pyung that he’ll tell him where the king’s letter is once he’s in the palace preparing to make the king surrender. He warns Prince Jin-pyung that they only have four days before the help arrives that Ha Sun surely requested, so they have no time to fight amongst themselves. He promises to bring Prince Jin-pyung the royal seal within four days, because he has no other choice.
Prince Jin-pyung stalks away, and a court lady takes Minister Shin to see the Queen Dowager again. She asks if he really put up the posters to insult the king, and he admits that he put them up, but the part about the king being a clown is true. She asks where Yi Heon is, and Minister Shin doesn’t know, but he can’t imagine him allowing a clown to take his place if he were alive.
The Queen Dowager wishes the king weren’t dead so she could make him stand next to his lookalike – it would be enough to depose him. Minister Shin asks for full authority and he’ll make sure to get the king’s surrender within four days, and in return, she promises to give him a say in whoever she chooses to be the next king — but only if he also delivers her the royal seal, and the heads of Ha Sun and So-woon.
Concubine Hwa-dang worries over what to do about the letter Minister Shin entrusted her with – keep it as her uncle said, or show it to the king. Her lady thinks she should obey her uncle, and Hwa-dang says that the king doesn’t like her anyway, but then, Minister Shin did have her poisoned.
Ha Sun is preoccupied as So-woon helps him dress, so she tells him that Minister Lee is probably just late because he’s working on stopping the rebels. But Ho-geol comes to the palace with a letter from Minister Shin that says that if Ha Sun opens the palace gates and approves of Minister Lee’s beheading, Minister Shin will end the rebellion.
Ho-geol bursts into tears and drops to the ground to beg Ha Sun to save Minister Lee, especially since he was finally getting to create the world he’d envisioned. Eunuch Jo tells Ho-geol that they all want to save Minister Lee, and Moo-young urges Ha Sun to hang in there for four days until the army arrives.
When So-woon hears about the letter, she finds Ha Sun where he’s thinking, to see if he’s okay. He says honestly that he doesn’t know, because this is the first time Minister Lee wasn’t there to advise him. She reminds him of the question he didn’t get to answer of whether he’d save his child or his loyal servant, and he replies, in true Ha Sun fashion, that he wouldn’t give up either.
She’s not surprised by his answer, knowing that even when there seems to be no solution, he always finds one. She says she believes he’ll find the right answer this time, too.
Hwa-dang visits Ha Sun in private, where she apologizes for her uncle’s treasonous activities. She says she’ll leave the palace if he wishes, but he asks what she wants to do, and she says she wants to stay. She cries in gratitude when he says she may stay since she’s done nothing wrong, and she tells him about the letter Minister Shin told her to keep safe. He knows right away which letter it is and sends her to retrieve it immediately.
In the meantime, Ha Sun gives Moo-young a letter for Prince Jin-pyung and Minister Shin, telling them to meet with him in the morning. Moo-young is concerned about letting them inside the palace, if they even agree, but Ha Sun is confident they’ll come since he told them to bring Minister Lee with them.
Prince Jin-pyung thinks that Ha Sun is stalling for time, but Minister Shin says they need to comply anyway. It makes Prince Jin-pyung uneasy to think about going into the palace without their own guards and surrounded by the king’s, but Minister Shin says that the incriminating letter is in the palace, and they need it to depose him.
Minister Shin asks Moo-young if they can bring their own soldiers, but Ha Sun anticipated this and plans to allow them only ten soldiers, since the entire court will be there. Minister Shin counters that the king can also only bring ten soldiers, and the agreement is made.
Moo-young asks Ha Sun how he knew what the other side would ask for, and Ha Sun says that they want inside the palace because the proof they need is there. But he assures Moo-young that they won’t get it, though he’s worried because Hwa-dang hasn’t returned yet.
Unfortunately, Hwa-dang is found moments later in her rooms, stabbed to death. Ha Sun orders Moo-young to search the palace for Hwa-dang’s murderer, starting with her court ladies, and sends Eunuch Jo to look for a letter stamped with the royal seal.
He waits nervously, but Eunuch Jo is unable to find a letter. Moo-young suspects one of Hwa-dang’s ladies, Court Lady Jo, of the murder, so Ha Sun tells him to interrogate her and find the letter before the assembly in the morning.
Minister Shin explains to a furious Queen Dowager that this assembly is part of his plan, but she wants to see Ha Sun this instant. She tells Minister Shin to send him a message to come to her quarters immediately, and Ha Sun agrees to go, against Eunuch Jo’s advice. Moo-young offers to escort him, and Ha Sun promises mother-hen Eunuch Jo he’ll return safely.
When Ha Sun arrives at the Queen Dowager’s courtyard, the first thing she does is to call him a lowly clown and order him to bow to her. Ha Sun says that he doesn’t have to, since she’s been deposed. She scoffs that he’s gone crazy with power, but Ha Sun ignores her and asks if Minister Lee is safe.
She says that she’s not planning to kill Minister Lee until she gets revenge for him killing the king, and it’s Ha Sun’s turn to laugh that she almost sounds like she cared for Yi Heon. She admits that she’d wanted Yi Heon dead for a long time, but at least he was the legitimate king.
Ha Sun tells her to be honest — she’s doing all this to get revenge for her son’s death, and to gain control of the throne. The Queen Dowager says that as soon as Minister Lee is dead, Ha Sun will be next, but she offers him a deal… report Minister Lee, and she’ll forgive his only crime of following Minister Lee’s orders.
He growls that she has no right to judge or forgive him, so she threatens to tell everyone that he’s just a clown. Ha Sun asks how she’ll prove it, or get people to believe her when she’s been branded a traitor.
She goes for the throat, threatening to reveal how the queen treats a clown as her husband and make history see her as an adulterer. Ha Sun lunges at her, but he stops and just looms over her as he says that if she does, he’ll make her pay for every tear So-woon cries.
The Queen Dowager asks if Ha Sun isn’t afraid of the heavens, but Ha Sun retorts that the heavens decide what’s lowly or not, and that it’s about what’s in your heart, not your status. He says she doesn’t know what’s truly valuable, and asks if she’s not ashamed of herself — but then, he adds, her blood is all she has to be proud of.
Minister Shin visits Minister Lee and offers to plead with the Queen Dowager to spare Minister Lee’s life, if he’ll talk Ha Sun into surrendering. He asks if Minister Lee is willing to give his life for a lowly, fake king, but Minister Lee asks what he means by lowly and fake, as the things Ha Sun has done for the nation and its people are far from lowly, which makes it absurd to call him fake.
Minister Shin calls that “dog shit,” and Minister Lee agrees that people like him and Prince Jin-pyung, who only care about themselves, wouldn’t understand. Minister Shin tells Minister Lee that Ha Sun wants him at the assembly tomorrow, and Minister Lee is worried, but he tells Minister Shin that the more he threatens Ha Sun, the stronger he’ll become.
A nobleman arrives at the gates to see the Queen Dowager, but Prince Jin-pyung snarls at him to leave unless he wants to die. Prince Jin-pyung tells the Queen Dowager that he knows she’s meeting with other members of the royal family, but the Queen Dowager lies that she’s never considered anyone else to replace the king.
So-woon finds Ha Sun outside brooding in the cold, and he admits that he’s worried about tomorrow. So-woon says that she should be offering him support, but she’s afraid something will happen to him. He promises her that nothing will happen, and says that, like the intertwined trees, they can lean on each other.
Before the assembly, Moo-young tells Ha Sun he couldn’t get the court lady to confess. Eunuch Jo urges Ha Sun to postpone the assembly, but he says that it has to be today if they’re to save Minister Lee. The good news is that the soldiers Ha Sun requested will be at the capital tomorrow.
On their way to the assembly, Minister Lee suddenly stops and tells Minister Shin that he thought about his proposal, and he wants to speak to the king. Prince Jin-pyung doesn’t want to leave them alone together, so Minister Lee says he can join them.
The three enter Ha Sun’s chambers, and Minister Lee stays quiet while Ha Sun, Minister Shin, and Prince Jin-pyung exchange loaded insults. When he gets a chance to speak, he reminds Ha Sun of the two ways to survive in the palace (crush your enemies, or ignore them), and he tells Ha Sun that today, he should remember the second one.
He tells Ha Sun to make the nation and its people his priority, and discard everything else, even him. Ha Sun objects, saying that it would be like the man in the story discarding his loyal servant. Minister Lee is honored to be compared to such an honorable person, and he and Ha Sun look at each other with tears in their eyes, everything they can’t say out loud written all over their faces.
Minister Lee says to Ha Sun, “Your Majesty, I was honored to be able to serve you. I have no regrets.” Ha Sun insists that he’ll live for many more years, and Minister Lee says that’s what he wanted to say: “For this nation and its people, you must stay strong for years to come and protect the throne.”
Prince Jin-pyung ends the conversation and tells Ha Sun to start the assembly. Minister Lee kneels in the courtyard in front of the court, looking up at Ha Sun serenely as Ha Sun struggles to control his emotions. He insists on Minister Lee being untied, saying that in his mind, Prince Jin-pyung and Minister Shin are more treasonous, and Minister Lee hasn’t been convicted of anything.
Minister Shin calls for the proof of Minister Lee’s guilt, and one of Hwa-dang’s court ladies scurries out to give him the letter. He reads it out loud, where it says that Joseon will not fight Aisin Gurun or send soldiers to Ming.
Prince Jin-pyung orders Minister Lee to confess his crimes, but he says he has nothing to confess because he’s not ashamed of his actions, and that it’s the two of them who should be ashamed. He asks what’s wrong with making peace when it protects their own nation. Minister Shin asks Ha Sun if he really didn’t know of this letter when it has the royal seal on it — either he knew, which could get him deposed for treason, or Minister Lee used his seal without permission, which means death.
The truth is that Ha Sun didn’t know what he was sealing, because he still can’t read hanja and he trusted Minister Lee when he told him to stamp the letter. But before he can say anything, Minister Lee blurts out that he used the royal seal without permission.
Ha Sun begs him not to do this, but Minister Shin asks him to remember his request and protect the future. He stands, then suddenly grabs a sword from a nearby guard and runs at Prince Jin-pyung. Another guard slashes Minister Lee’s back, which stops him for a moment. Ha Sun screams and tries to run to him, but Moo-young holds him back.
Determined, Minister Lee stays on his feet and runs Prince Jin-pyung through with his sword. The guard attacks him again, and he goes his his knees as the entire court watches in shock. Minister Lee looks up at Ha Sun one last time, pleading with his eyes, then collapses to the ground.
Horrified, Ha Sun screams his friend’s name, “HAK-SAN!!”
I know I said in the previous recap that I wouldn’t be surprised if Minister Lee was dead by the end of this drama, but I’m sure this is the end for him and I’m heartbroken anyway. He isn’t perfect, but he always does what he thinks is right at the time, even if it’s a backwards, misinformed sort of “right.” You can tell he’s a deeply good man despite some of the things he was forced to do by the way people care for him — Woon-shim, Ho-geol, Moo-young, not to mention Eunuch Jo and Ha Sun. They genuinely love and respect Minister Lee, and that says to me that at the end of the day, he’s a good person. I am glad that he’s getting to go out like a hero, like I wanted, and though I would have loved it if he’d killed Minister Shin, too, I think that honor (if it’s to be done) rightfully goes to Ha Sun.
At least Minister Lee took out Prince Jin-pyung, who was a dangerously loose cannon and independent of anything else, would have made a terrible king. That said, as much as I hate it, I do think that for Ha Sun to be a true king, Minister Lee has to die. As long as he’s alive, Ha Sun will always run to him every time something happens, and he needs to trust himself to make the right decisions. He does know what the right thing to do is, but he always hesitates until he gets Minister Lee’s opinion, and that will hinder him if it goes on for much longer. He needs to be able to rely on his own instincts and be decisive, and he can’t do that with Minister Lee there to catch him all the time.
Still, it was crushing when Minister Lee told Ha Sun before the assembly to let go of everything besides the good of the nation, because that’s when I knew that he was planning something that would probably get him killed. Ha Sun knew it too, and you could see him wanting to fight it with everything he had, but also wanting to give his friend this last show of respect for his final wishes. It hurt to watch Ha Sun struggling to keep himself from erupting and giving his enemies what they wanted, but in the end he did what a true king would do, and let events play out in such a way that lives were lost, but the country could still be saved from a tyrant. And Minister Lee can die knowing that Ha Sun will be a good king, who will work for the people and not himself, and that he’s leaving his beloved country in the care of someone who loves it as much as he does.
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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