The Crowned Clown: Episode 2

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The Crowned Clown: Episode 2

With the focus turning to our kingly clown, this episode lightens things up a bit. He has a lot to learn about being king, especially this king, whose personality is the exact opposite of his own. But the fun of ruling quickly wears off as reality sets in, and an irreversible tragedy begins to shape our clown into a true king.

 
EPISODE 2 RECAP

Ha Sun is taken to meet the king, who laughs like a madman at the sight of someone who looks exactly like him. Yi Heon prepares to leave the palace, but Minister Lee warns him that Ha Sun could be used against him if he isn’t trained to impersonate Yi Heon perfectly.

Yi Heon says coldly that Ha Sun’s job is to be killed in his place, which needs no training. Concerned, Minister Lee asks Yi Heon if he’s had that hard of a time, and Yi Heon replies that he’s so frightened of assassins that he’s afraid he’ll kill someone again.

Ha Sun is… less than thrilled at the idea of being the king’s double (“Just flog me instead!”), but he’s informed that if he tries to refuse, both Dal-lae, his younger sister, and Gap-soo, the clowns’ leader, will be tortured. Minister Lee says it’s only for a few days, and that when it’s over he’ll receive enough riches to last him the rest of his life.

The idea of being rich gets through to Ha Sun, but he hides his grin and pretends that he’s only agreeing because the king ordered it. He’s introduced to Eunuch Jo, who assesses him and pronounces his speech vulgar and his carriage unacceptable, and gives him major stink-eye when Ha Sun touches him. I’m gonna like this pairing.

Ha Sun’s first day as king begins before sunrise, when a whole retinue of court ladies let themselves into his bedroom. They wash his face and blow his nose (his expression when they congratulate the successful blow is priceless), then Court Lady Kim, Yi Heon’s closest attendant, comes in to dress him.

He was warned that fooling Court Lady Kim is critical to the success of this plan, so he hilariously does his best not to make eye contact even when she’s inches from his face. He yelps when her hands get a little personal with his thigh, but he plays it off as a stiff back.

At breakfast, Ha Sun marvels at the excess, but he remembers Minister Lee’s advice not to eat the same thing twice in case someone detects his favorite food and poisons it. He winces as he takes the first bite, scared he’ll drop dead, but it’s so delicious that he makes a yum noise and surprises everyone.

When he realizes what he did, Ha Sun makes the noise again and pretends to choke. The palace maid brings him a cup of water, but she gets scared and fumbles it. Ha Sun catches it and shocks everyone by saying that it’s fine. Court Lady Kim looks at him through narrowed eyes, and Eunuch Jo clocks her suspicion nervously.

Later, alone on the grounds with Eunuch Jo, Ha Sun congratulates himself on doing a pretty good job impersonating the king. Eunuch Jo warns him to have some restraint, particularly with all the smiling and showing his emotions, but Ha Sun gives him a baleful glare and walks away.

He stops in his tracks when he accidentally runs across Queen So-woon. He goes slack-jawed at her beauty, but his awe turns to horror when he learns that he’s ogling the queen.

Minister Lee had forbidden him to go near anyone from the Internal Court, especially the queen, so he clumsily huddles behind a wall when she gazes in his direction. PFFT. She knows he’s there and approaches, so he stands and makes his best stern face… then runs like a big ol’ chicken.

He gets away, leaving So-woon confused, and his next responsibility is to sit in on court discussions. Ha Sun is bored silly, but he catches Eunuch Jo’s looks of alarm when Minister Shin walks in unexpectedly.

He asks what the king has decided on as punishment for Minister Yoo and asks permission to have him executed, but poor Ha Sun has no idea what he’s talking about. Minister Lee had told him that if anyone asks permission for something, to simply say he approves.

So Ha Sun says he approves, surprising even Minister Shin, who leaves before he can change his mind. After he’s gone, Ha Sun asks Eunuch Jo innocently, “So who’s Minister Yoo?” Oh, you poor sweet child, you have really stepped in it now.

So-woon’s maid, Ae-young, runs to tell her that the king has ordered her father beheaded. So-woon barges into the king’s chambers, and Ha Sun goes into full-on panic mode when he hears that the queen is on her way.

She gets on her knees to beg for her father’s life, then pulls out a small dagger which she points at her own breast. Ha Sun runs to her and grabs her hands, accidentally tackling her in the process, but she gasps that he should have knows she’d do this when he ordered her father beheaded.

Ha Sun wrestles the knife from her hand and tosses it away, holding her tightly as he asks what he can do to make her stop. So-woon tells him that only saving her father’s life will work, so they exchange promises — Ha Sun swears to save So-woon’s father’s life, and So-woon promises not to try to kill herself again.

Ha Sun suddenly realizes that he’s got the queen in a death-grip and lets her go. He says he’ll keep her knife, while she stares at him with an expression of confusion and maybe a little respect.

Minister Lee throws his hat at Ha Sun, bellowing that the palace is not his playground, then tries to physically attack him. Ha Sun has good reflexes from his clowning experience and mostly avoids injury, but Minister Lee manages to get him into a headlock on the floor and throttles him until he taps out.

Ha Sun protests that he was only saying what Minister Lee told him to say, which gets Minister Lee to set him loose. He tells Ha Sun that he needs to be wary of Minister Shin — isn’t that the first thing you should have told the poor kid? When Minister Lee orders Ha Sun to let it go, he resorts to a series of pathetic puppy-eyed pouts.

Back in her chambers, So-woon tells her maid Ae-young that she didn’t expect the king to stop her from killing herself, and she half-believes that he’ll change his mind about saving her father. But she says that seeing him today reminded her of a time when he was crown prince and she’d cried from the stress of palace life. Yi Heon hadn’t asked her why, he’d simply held her hand and comforted her.

In the dark of night, Minister Lee goes to the hermitage where Yi Heon’s hiding out. When he arrives, he finds Yi Heon sitting in a circle of candles, clearly high on something (opium?). Yi Heon dips his hand into a bowl, scooping out something thick and black, which he smears on his face. He pours the rest of it on the ground, and as Minister Lee watches, he looks like he’s going to be sick.

Later, he approaches a still-stoned Yi Heon to discuss Minister Yoo, but Yi Heon decides to accept Minister Shin’s request and have his father-in-law executed. He does seem concerned with So-woon’s reaction when she finds out, wondering if she’ll resent him, but it doesn’t change his decision.

Minister Lee takes the king’s official orders to Ha Sun, who confesses that he can’t read the Chinese characters. Minister Lee tells him what it says so that he can officially “read” the order later, that Minister Yoo is to be removed from office and executed. Alarmed, Ha Sun reminds Minister Lee of the promise he made to the queen, but Minister Lee says that he shouldn’t make promises he doesn’t have the power to keep. He tells Ha Sun that there are only two ways to survive in the palace — step on everyone and crush them for good, or ignore them for good.

When it comes time for him to officially give the orders from Yi Heon, Ha Sun takes out the scroll and pretends to read. He repeats the part about removing Minister Yoo from office, but then he says, “… and imprison him in exile!” Minister Shin masks his surprise, Minister Lee glares angrily at Ha Sun, and Ha Sun hides behind the scroll.

When court adjourns, Minister Shin tells Minister Lee in a friendly tone that he’ll live to regret this, assuming that he changed the king’s mind. Minister Lee goes along with his assumption, saying that life is all about living with regrets.

The queen dowager is furious, ranting to Prince Jin-pyung that letting Minister Yoo live will hinder their plans to get rid of Minister Shin. Jin-pyung points out that the king likely doesn’t trust Minister Shin, and Minister Shin will probably retaliate. The queen dowager isn’t mollified — she tells Prince Jin-pyung to let her know now if he doesn’t have a clear plan to take the throne.

Minister Lee storms into the king’s chambers a second time to grab the upstart clown and give him a good shake for altering the true king’s orders. He’s curious how Ha Sun knows about imprisonment in exile when he’s admittedly uneducated, and Ha Sun looks guilty while Eunuch Jo studiously inspects a random window tassel, hee.

In his defense, Eunuch Jo squeaks that Ha Sun asked him which punishment comes directly underneath execution. Minister Lee snarls that if it happens again, Eunuch Jo’s place in the palace will be out with the latrines. He turns back to Ha Sun, who’s collapsed to the floor, but he just huffs in disgust and leaves.

Ha Sun learns that Minister Yoo will be leaving for exile the following day, so he asks Minister Lee if the queen can see her father off. Minister Lee informs him of the rule that once a woman enters the palace, she can never leave it alive, but Ha Sun argues that filial piety is more important than tradition (Minister Lee: “Did Eunuch Jo tell you that?” Ha Sun: “Um… I just heard it somewhere…”).

Because he’s actually a big old softie, Minister Lee escorts So-woon to say goodbye to her father himself. Their goodbye is heartbreaking, but Minister Yoo tells So-woon that he’s grateful to the king for sparing his life. Ae-young gives him some clothing that So-woon made herself, and he finally breaks down.

The palace maid that Yi Heon terrorized steels herself before bringing Ha Sun his bedtime snack. Ha Sun notices her fear and asks about her, so she tells him that her name is Gye-hwan and she’s fifteen.

She serves his food, and her own tummy growls at the scent. She confesses that the maids are only given his breakfast leftovers to eat, and today he ate a lot. Shocked, Ha Sun tells Gye-hwan to taste his porridge but not to burn her mouth, and now she’s the shocked one since to her knowledge, this is the same person who force-fed her piping hot porridge just a few days ago.

She obediently tries the spoonful of porridge, then another, and he adopts a stern expression and tells her to keep tasting. As he watches her eat, he wonders what Dal-lae is doing right now.

Dal-lae is begging the gisaeng, Woon-shim, to save her brother. Woon-shim tells her kindly that Ha Sun wasn’t arrested, but she can’t explain what’s happening. Woon-shim promises to find out what happened to Ha Sun, and she sends Dal-lae to bed.

On the way there, the same young noble that was staring at Dal-lae earlier notices her sniffling and wiping her eyes. He asks Woon-shim who she is, and Woon-shim tells him that she’s a clown, not someone who serves men. The young noble doesn’t look pleased to hear that he can’t have her.

He leaves the gibang angry, but a servant follows him and offers to bring Dal-lae to his home — for a fee. The noble pays the man.

While walking the palace grounds, Eunuch Jo asks Ha Sun why he keeps picking up hazelnuts. Ha Sun admits that they’re a gift for his sister. Dal-lae, and when Eunuch Jo offers to get her something better, Ha Sun says that the hazelnuts are special because they come from the king’s palace.

They come upon a bridge where So-woon’s ladies are tossing pebbles into a bowl floating on the water. Eunuch Jo says they’re making wishes, following the legend of a king’s maid who made a wish this way and gave birth to a son. Ha Sun notices that So-woon isn’t wishing, and Eunuch Jo explains that as queen, she has to remain dignified.

The ladies notice Ha Sun is near, and So-woon approaches to thank him for letting her see her father, making Ha Sun giggle shyly, but So-woon doesn’t return his smile. He asks for her hand and drops the hazelnuts into it, which confuses her.

He murmurs that he knows she wants to make a wish but can’t, and that cracking a hazelnut surprises the goblin that protects a house into granting her a wish. He tells So-woon to crack one and make a wish in private, and maybe it will come true. As she heads back to her chambers, So-woon stops to look at the hazelnuts, and something in her expression softens.

Gye-hwan is given orders to take Ha Sun his bedtime snack again. She leaves the kitchen, and a woman enters and sprinkles a white powder on top of the food.

Gye-hwan reminds Ha Sun of his sister so he asks how she came to live at the palace, and she tells him that her father couldn’t pay his taxes. He’s about to take a bite of his food, but he puts it down as he asks Gye-hwan to explain. Whew!

The gibang worker tells Dal-lae that he’s supposed to take her to her brother. She follows him to a house and tells her to wait, but it’s not Ha Sun who arrives. Wordlessly, the young noble steps inside and closes the door.

Ha Sun learns that Gye-hwan’s father had to borrow money to pay an unfair tax tribute. He ran out of possessions to use as collateral, so he sold Gye-hwan. She says that it’s better that her father has one less mouth to feed, plus she’s proud to have helped pay his debt.

Ha Sun is moved to tears by her story, angry at the people who are exploiting the poor. He offers Gye-hwan his sweets, nearly making a huge mistake and saying that she reminds him of his sister. Gye-hwan eats the treat gratefully, but after only a few seconds, she gags and vomits up blood.

Ha Sun screams for help as Gye-hwan collapses in his arms. He picks her up and runs to the royal physician, but it’s too late. Ha Sun is unable to believe that Gye-hwan is dead when they were just talking and laughing, but soon it hits him that she’s gone.

Minister Lee arrives with the palace guard who always seems to be nearby. The guard says, “My lord, that’s…” but Minister Lee cuts him off before he can say any more. He tells Eunuch Jo to take Ha Sun back to his chambers and not to leave him alone, and after he’s gone, the physician tells Minister Lee that the girl was probably poisoned.

In shock, Ha Sun can only stand in his chambers shaking, realizing how close he came to eating the poisoned sweets. He looks down at Gye-hwan’s blood on his hands and his knees give out.

Minister Lee finally shows up and tells the guard not to allow anyone in the king’s quarters. Ha Sun asks frantically if the reason he’s here is to die in the king’s place. He says that he’s leaving, but Minister Lee grabs a sword and holds it to Ha Sun’s throat, threatening to kill him if he tries.

Ha Sun spits that he’s dead either way, but he stops when Minister Lee tells him that if he dies, his sister and Gap-soo will both be punished. Eunuch Jo announces that the queen is here, and Ha Sun calls out to let her in, forcing Minister Lee to put down the sword.

When they’re alone, So-woon noticed that Ha Sun’s hands are trembling. She takes his handkerchief and wipes the blood away, then reaches up to clean the blood from his face. She gently removes his stained robe, and Ha Sun finally speaks, telling her that he’s sorry.

In the hall, Minister Lee hears a thump, and he rushes into the king’s chambers to find So-woon alone. Ha Sun had told her that he couldn’t stay in the palace any longer, but when he got up to leave, she’d stopped him with a hand on his arm. She’d reminded him that when he (Yi Heon) was the crown prince, he’d told her that he could do anything with her at his side, and that they’d be friends forever.

She’d said that she wants to be there for him, but Ha Sun had just gasped, “I can’t,” and pulled away. He’d escaped through a secret tunnel he’d previously discovered behind the bed, leaving So-woon behind, heartbroken.

He makes it to the gibang and finds Gap-soo, who wails at the sight of him, but when Ha Sun asks for Dal-lae, Gap-soo cries even harder. Ha Sun staggers inside to find Dal-lae, battered and bruised, and she throws herself into his arms. Ohthankgod, she’s alive.

Ha Sun asks who did this to her, but she’s mute from shock. Gap-soo explains that a servant took her to a horrible man who did this to her when she resisted him. It dawns on Ha Sun exactly what his sister has suffered, and he pulls her into his arms, both of them sobbing piteously.

When he gets control of himself, Ha Sun demands to know the name of the man who did this. Woon-shim tells him that he’s Shin Yi-geom… Minister Shin’s son.

Hearing that, Ha Sun gives Dal-lae one last loving look, then storms out. His face hidden by a clown mask, he grabs the servant who lured Dal-lae and leads him to the Shin home, a knife to his throat. He bellows a demand to see Yi-geom, drawing out both Dal-lae’s attacker and his father.

Minister Shin immediately knows that his son has done it again (~shudder~), and Yi-geom at least has the sense to look ashamed. Minister Shin orders one of his men to send the brother away with two yang, about the value of a dog in the market, and when Ha Sun objects, he’s beaten by Minister Shin’s men.

His mask flies off and he shakes with fury, screaming that his sister is not a dog. They continue beating him until Shin’s man stops them, tosses two yang to Ha Sun, and tells him to be grateful he’s getting away with his life.

Minister Lee shows up at the gibang looking for Ha Sun, and Woon-shim lies that she hasn’t seen Ha Sun since Minister Lee took him away. He arrives at the palace at dawn, only to be informed that “the king” has returned on his own. He finds Ha Sun in the throne room, wearing the royal crimson robes and looking for all the world like Yi Heon in a homicidal sulk.

Ha Sun approaches Minister Lee as if the weight of the world is on his shoulders and reminds Minister Lee that he said there are only two ways to survive in the palace. Minister Lee asks why Ha Sun returned, and Ha Sun says that he came back, ” …to learn the way to trample someone until they stop breathing.”

He steps closer to Minister Lee, looks him directly in the eyes, and asks, “Teach me the way.”

 
COMMENTS

Ha Sun was so cute playing king, but unfortunately, cute is the very last thing he has the luxury to be. This is what I was afraid of — he’s so young and innocent, and now he’s learning the hard way that one careless glance, one simple noise made at the wrong time, could literally get him killed. Palace life is going to change him, and not in a good way, and I think that’s going to be very hard to watch. And it’s already begun — when Gye-hwan was poisoned and the reason for his being in the palace hit Ha Sun full-force, for a moment he looked and sounded exactly the way Yi Heon sounds when he’s losing it.

My hope is that being king will change Ha Sun for the better once he gets ahold of himself, and we saw the beginnings of that when he bucked the king’s order and sent the queen’s father into exile instead of killing him. To me that moment said two things: that Ha Sun is a man of his word who is committed to keeping a promise he made, and that he’s got the kind of moral fiber that makes him willing to risk his own life to do the right thing. Now he has a personal reason to stay — revenge — and I’d love to see him is his fear and anger in a more productive was than Yi Heon has been able to, and use it to grow stronger.

Yeo Jin-gu continues to amaze me with his performance as both the king and the clown, so you may as well get used to seeing me gush about him in my Comments! It’s incredible how distinct and separate the two characters are, but what’s really fascinating is how Yeo Jin-gu’s chemistry with Lee Se-young (which is absolutely off the charts) somehow feels completely different depending on which character he’s portraying in that moment. Yi Heon and So-woon smolder and seethe, anger and longing lacing their every word, making it obvious that there was love there once. But between Ha Sun and So-woon, the chemistry is bright and sparking, tinged with Ha Sun’s innocence and So-woon’s hope that she might be getting back the man she fell in love with. You can’t fake that — that’s just pure talent and charisma on the part of both actors.

Ha Sun and So-woon’s first meeting (not that she was aware of it) was explosive, and just another example of why I already love this drama to a ridiculous degree. Ha Sun had already been struck speechless by So-woon’s beauty, so when she tried to kill herself right in front of him, it’s no surprise that he got very emotionally involved, very quickly. And she, to the best of her knowledge, is seeing a surprisingly caring side of her husband that reminds her of happier days, and she looked both shocked and intrigued in that moment. Compound that with the fact that he kept his promise and continues to do kind things for her, and it’s no wonder she’s discovering renewed interest in him.

I really like how this episode lightened the mood a bit with Ha Sun’s antics, while managing not to minimize the extreme danger he’s in. In fact, the show actually went to a very dark place and upped the ante when not one, but two young girls suffered horrendous fates because Ha Sun wasn’t able to protect them. I feel like it was necessary for something tragic to affect Ha Sun personally, because as horrible as it is to see a violent act done to a child, Ha Sun needed some sort of incentive to make him understand exactly what’s going on and take this whole thing seriously. He’s about to figure out how to be proactive instead of reactive, which is what’s needed for a true king to survive and rule. If someone had to suffer in order for that to happen, then as appalling as it is that one girl lost her innocence and another lost her life in the space of one night, their misfortune might just spur Ha Sun on to doing what Yi Heon couldn’t, and actually enact some positive change.

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