Watched the first two episodes of The Crowned Clown yesterday and was completely absorbed in the story, the production value, the acting, and just everything. I loved it so much! I feel like I am setting myself up to be this taken with a kdrama so early on, but my emotions feel what they feel, y’all.
Our first recap is below in our typical format with divides around every 8-12 minutes
We open with Lee Hun, looking at the King’s robes. A child cries in the background. Lee Hun is kneeling in front of the King who is sick. Lee Hun is looking at the child crying next to his father who is laying on his bed, sick and unable to move. The father apologizes for not being able to watch the little boy grow up.
Then the father calls the crowned prince to come forward. The little boy goes back to kneeling in the near distance and Lee Hun comes forward. He tells him that thinking about giving up his King’s position that he got with his blood sweat and tears, makes him not want to die.
His face turns stern as he tells him that he worries about his hatred to him that he will give his little brother a hard time. He wants him to promise that he will protect his little brother. Lee Hun leans forward and tells him that he should not ask in that way. You should cry and beg me. They both look at each other with daggers. The King tries to sit up and does so belaboredly.
He grabs Lee Hun by the neck and tells him, okay, I will look forward to what your world will be like, you ungrateful boy.
He collapses and dies. Lee Hun look pretty affected by this and softly lays the King back on the bed. The other boy runs up crying.
VO – You should keep your honor to the King. (Manners to the dead)
Cut to everyone mourning the Kings death outside.
Inside, Lee Hun bows to the dead King.
LH – Your Highness, I will protect this King’s position that you guarded with your blood, sweat, and tears. Go in peace.
A tear trickles from his face.
Scene change to clowns playing in a courtyard. Lots of acrobatics is all around with drums banging and people cheering. One of them asks the crowd what they think the scariest thing is?
People – Tigers?…..Epidemic?…..
Clown – No, no, no, the scariest thing, more than tigers or epidemics or Japanese pirates that cut of your ears and nose…the scariest thing of all is….
Another dancer comes out dressed in black and red with a mask on.
Red Man – The one even the ghosts avoid, the worst a-hole in the world. The guy who does not know who his father is!
He points at a woman in the crowd.
Red Man – I am the King here, how dare you go ahead of me! Just hit him!
Scene change to a man being tortured in the palace. He is all bloody and Lee hun looms over him. A man tells them to not stop torturing until he confesses. So they keep torturing him, it looks horrible. He has sticks under his fingernails and everything. The man tells him to stop, please just don’t kill me.
One of the politicians comes (Chi-soo) out and asks for the name of the head of the rebels. Tell me the name! The tortured man says that it is the father in law of the past King. Chi-soo asks if he is talking about the second prince’s grandfather? The camera zooms in on Lee Hun.
LH – Bring him here!
Cut to the grandfather forced to kneel in the open outside his home. Chisoo is there interrogating him. The man wonders that Chisoo did with his snake-like tongue. I will tell the King all that you did! But Chisoo pulls out his sword and kills the man.
In the morning the little prince is taken away from his mother and the palace bu guards. The mother runs after him, but she cannot stop him from being taken away.
(Stepmom) Queen – King! How can you do this to your mother! You killed your father and you are taking my son! Aren’t you afraid of the gods! (she literally said, of the sky)
The politicians all meet to talk about the fate of the little king. It is an intense scene. They think they should punish the grandfather, not the little prince, he does not know anything. But Chisoo speaks up and says no, the name came out. If you do not punish that person then you are not doing your job. Your Highness, you should not leave any regrets with this.
But another politician thinks that the prince is his brother! If he punishes him too harshly then people will blame him for not following the ways of Confucious! Please be merciful.
However, Chisoo thinks anyone who wants to stop investigating the cue should be punished as well. Murmurs all around. One of the politicians whispers that Chisoo wants to kill the prince, but what the King wants is the final decision.
Cut to the little prince walking out of the jail in all white. He sees his brother and tries to run to him but is stopped by the guards. However, Lee Hun lets them drop their weapons so the little brother runs and gives him a hug.
The little brother asks why he was so late to come to him. Lee hum kneels and tells him that he has to send him somewhere for a little bit. If you behave well and eat well and wait, then I will bring you back in the future. The little boy tears up and asks, do you promise?
Lee Hun stands and does not confirm if he promises or not. Then the little brother is pulled away by a guard.
We see the little prince at the new home somewhere in an isolated place, eating. It looks like he is eating alone, but there is a man sitting there. Possibly this is his last meal? OMG, cut to the little boy dead on the ground. The man that was sitting there walks out. OMG, this kid is definitely dead, blood is all around.
At the palace, a lot of rebels are being slaughtered.
Then on another day, Shin Chisoo is given a higher position. We see his ceremony with all the pomp and circumstance.
LH – For Shin CHisoo who removed all the rebels. I am giving him the first-degree honor and the name of first minister.
All the good politicians hold their tongues as Chisoo is given this highest honor in the palace. The camera focuses on Lee Kyu as the tension builds.
Then we cut back to the clown in the courtyard. He starts dancing and then throws his mask up in the air revealing to us that he looks exactly like Lee Hun. He smiles and the crowd cheers. But someone in the crowd looks like they are stunned by the way this boy looks.
This man is Ha Sun, he is all sweaty and smiley and takes a long drink of water. The politician in the crowd thinks this guy is too handsome for his class level.
Ha Sun is having a fun time and tells the crowd that they love the blood so much so he can’t stop doing crazy thing! He starts to happily spray the water over the crowd.
The next day, it looks like this rich looking man does not want to pay the clowns because they made fun of the King. He tells them that they should be grateful because he is not calling the government. Now leave.
The troupe is kicked out. One of the girls, Dalrae, curses and spits, but she accidentally spits on someone. They all look at her like, come on now. Hasun tells them that he can’t just leave this alone and runs back inside the nobleman’s house.
While inside, he starts looking around the bottles to find money or jewels or something. he ends up breaking one of the huge ceramic containers outside and finds something that might be of value. He throws it to his troupe and they all take off running.
They are able to somehow escape to the river where they all pitifully collapse by the stream to relax. Then they unwrap what ha Sun stole. it looks like it is dried fish? They are all so happy to eat it and think that this must be the dried fish that is served to the King? They all start eating it like it is some kind of gold.
But one of the men asks if he broke the soy pot to get it? How many? Ha Sun tries to say that he just broke them to find it. The older man thinks this noble man will try to kill them! He will be so angry. Ha Sun is not all that worried and says that if he kills them then he kills them.
But Kabsoo is extra worried and thinks that word will spread. Maybe they need to leave this area and go to the major leagues. The major leagues are Hanyang (old name for Seoul). Ha Sun tells them that they can just go! They don’t even have a house or anything so they can leave!
he hops up and starts walking right away, everyone starts following. SOme reluctantly but they mostly seem together on this trip.
Montage of them walking and walking and walking and complaining about Ha Sun breaking the pot and walking and walking. They walk so much. Dalrae sits and tells Ha Sun that she cannot walk anymore so Ha Sun gives her a piggyback ride like a big brother would. She might actually be the only girl in this troupe?
Then they finally get to the top of a hill overlooking Hanyang (Seoul) and smile at the sight.
However, the palace is a bit tense. We cut in on Lee hun sitting in a hot bath and a court woman preparing an opioid for him. He smokes it and she tells him that he will be able to sleep well tonight. He pulls the opioid pipe closer to him and takes another puff. Then his eyes start to fall as it takes effect.
Cut to him in bed sleeping. But he wakes up with a start as if he had a bad dream. However, he is able to gain sense of himself quickly and sits up in bed as he sighs the dream away. But then his little brother comes in in his white clothing and all bloody. he tells him that his stomach hurts so much…save me brother…save me.
The little brother crawls to the bed and grabs Lee Hun. he screams and then wakes up again! He takes several deep breathes and whimpers in his bed. But then there are shadows running outside, assassins? Yes, so many assassins are about.
The assassins all walk to the King’s room, Moo-young is there, he is the head of security. A huge sword fight breaks out, but Moo-young is able to defeat them and the other guards come out to help. The palace security guards are able to stop the assassins, there are only a few still alive.
Lee Hun comes out to interrogate him. The man tells him that he killed the last Kings lawful crowned son and you became the King, so how dare you say that I am the rebel, you are the rebel. You killed your father and your brother and you are wasting your time with women and giving all the politics to Chisoo. how dare you call me a rebel! Aren’t you afraid of our citizens!
Lee Hun stabs the man right in the gut and starts slicing him to bits until he falls over.
Everyone is all like, WTF.
The last assassin is still there looking like he made a huge mistake coming to the palace. Lee Hun tells his guard to take him and torture him until he confesses. Then he stumbles inside with blood all on his white robes. He tells Lee Kyu that everyone thinks he is crazy, and he looks crazy. He still has the sword and is pacing around his room and talking about how everyone thinks he killed his own brother and became crazy. See! people tried to kill me!
Lee Kyu tells him to please put his sword away. Lee Hun wants Lee Kyu to promise him that he will kill all those people. Kyu tells him that he wants to comfort him with empty promises. Lee Han tells him that empty promises are okay can you just say it? Kyu tells him that he will protect him until he dies. But Han says that is not enough, find out a way to kill them all and protect me. Can you find a way?
Kyu tells him that he will find a way, he will definitely find a way. Lee Hun collapses on the ground and almost begs Kyu to hurry, please hurry, before I really go crazy.
In a quieter scene, we see HoJoon and Kee Kyu talking. They talk about how it is all Hojoon’s fault. He needed a hunting dog like Chisoo, but now this hunting dog has gone too far. They need to stop it. Hojoon wants to talk to the King and asks Lee Kyu to find a good time.
The next day there is a long Kingly parade through the streets of Seoul as the King leaves the palace.
Two men watch this and think. One thinks, maybe it failed? The other one apologizes. One of these men might be Jinpyung, Lee Hun’s stepbrother.
Meanwhile, the clown troupe happily walks the streets of Hanyang in awe. They get the gates of the gisaeng house and think that it is so big! Wow! How can we get inside? Ha Sun thinks that he has a way.
Cut to Ha Sun talking to one of the Gisaengs about the performance, but he is basically turned away. He tries to say that he is good! But it is of no use. One of the gisaeng laughs and says it is funny, how can you make fun of the King? No one will watch that.
HS – What? I put my life in danger and you say those things?
Woonsun – Let me give you advice, it is more popular to make fun of the Queen and Sunhwadang.
HS – Why is it more popular?
WS – You don’t know the story? You must really be from the countryside. I heard that the queens jealously to the second wives and court ladies are not comparable to any other woman.
HS – Is she that bad of a woman?
Cut to the queen sitting. Another woman visits her in her quarters. The queen gives her something. The queen gives Sunhwahadang (HD) and accessory jewelry.
Queen – Don’t’ be pressured, I am just giving this to you because you serve the King instead of me
HD – I don’t know why we have these rumors, you take care of us so well.
Queen – The rumor that I was jealous of you so you could not sleep with the King
HD – You knew that?
Queen – Half of the rumor is wrong so I don’t care too much about it. You also should not care.
HD – Okay, please excuse me
HD takes the gift and leaves. The Queen sits solemnly.
HD goes back to her uncle and tells him all about her meeting.
HD – You should have seen this uncle, she is queen on paper and brags about it.
HD – Take this away, I don’t want to see it.
Another woman comes up and gives her something. HD asks who it is. The woman says the minister brought it (basically that Chisoo brought it). HD asks her uncle what it is.
CS – A talisman that you will be pregnant with a son. When you serve him tonight, keep it on your body and it will work.
HD – *happy* I will serve the King with all my effort to meet your expectations. Don’t worry.
CS – Your best is not good enough, you should serve until you die. If this fails, you should die. I did not send you to the palace to have a power play with the queen. Your job is as a royal concubine, you have to have the prince, that is the only way you can survive.
HD – *serious* Okay uncle, I will make sure.
Outside, Queen Sowoon walks around the garden with her father, Hojoon. he asks her what she worries about. She asks him to talk to her comfortable like before, otherwise, she is suffocated.
He starts to talk to her like a father and asks if it is still uncomfortable to live in the palace? She says that since she has lived in the palace, she has a habit of missing the outside life. He tells her that the King has potential to be a good King, he will continue serving him, so please withstand it a little bit longer. Sowoon smiles and tells her father that she will.
Inside, the King is getting his clothing put on. A person calls in the distance and says that his father in law and Lee Kyu want to see him. The King says to let them in. They both come in, the scene is pretty intense as the mysterious maid leave.
The King reads what the two brought. Chisoo has a lot of bribery and even sells the government positions so people complain a lot. The King says he understands Father in law, but now Chisoo is first-degree honor; unless he commits a cue, I cannot prosecute him.
One man says that the government is filled with his people, he decides everything. No one can stop him. People say that the sky has two sons. If you don’t punish him then it could affect the future of you ruling Joseon.
The King tells his father in law to not make this situation too big! I don’t want to hear it! Do you think that anyone is clean here! Just stop! I don’t want to hear any excuses.
Lee Hun looks like he is about to blow, but is holding it all inside. Lee Kyu looks like this was a mistake to come to him. Cut to Kee Hyun being carried back to his chambers and then sitting with HD and drinking tea or alcohol.
LH – What is that thing on your chest?
HD – Jewelry the Queen gave me to serve you well. The Queen also prepared this drink
LH – *chuckles*
He gives HD the cup and tells her to drink. Then he gives her something to eat. She happily does both.
LH – how does it taste?
HD – it tastes good, anything you give me tastes good.
LH – Then you should drink some more
he hops up and starts shoving the wine in her mouth and tells her to drink a lot, drink as much as your greed! She tries to get away, but then he pulls something off of her clothing, which is the talisman. He asks her what it is!
HD denies it. But LH tells her that he knows it is to get pregnant with a boy! The Queen would not give this to you! HD tries to apologize but the King tells her, even if you have a boy, it is still not legitimate! I only need a legitimate son!
She tries to beg and grabs his foot, but he kicks his foot away and leaves. SHe is left crying on the ground.
Lee Hun walks out with a purpose and storms to the Queens room. Her maid tries to tell him that the Queen is~. But he pushes her out of the way and goes inside. He yells for everyone to leave. This is so intense.
The Queen goes up to him and bows as she tries not to breathe too hard.
King – SOmeone jumped on me with a talisman to have a boy, why don’t you do anything? You should write a talisman or have a shamanic ceremony or give rice tot he temple. that is a human. You are not Confuscious, how are you so relaxed like this?
Queen – What you want is for me to go against the rules and do whatever? if it is your order then I will follow whatever. But I want you to be an example for everyone and do the right thing. Then the sky will be impressed and give you the next King.
King – Just stop, you are just nitpicking
Queen – I know that whatever I say does not reach you anymore. But if you don’t like what I say, just listen to the people. Meet them yourself.
He pulls her close to him, they are is heated between them. He tries to kiss her but she avoids it.
LH – People who don’t know anything will think that I am not sleeping with you. Who will know that you are refusing me?
He storms out.
The clown troupe is performing again, it looks like they are in the gisaeng house? They are giving the show about the Queen and the palace. Several nobles are watching with the giseangs.
It looks like they are doing a performance with The Queen and Sun HwaDang as love rivals to the King. It is a pretty big hit. But one of the nobles looks over at Dalrae in an uncomfortable way. She leaves.
In the palace, CHisoo and the court lady drink tobacco (or something) together. They talk about how the King only wants a legitimate son with the Queen, why is he just like the past King that he hated? The court woman says that it is big trouble if the Queen becomes pregnant, they need to prevent that from happening. he only wants a son from the Queen, so we need to change the queen. The court lady does not think that would be easy, but Chisoo tells her to just wait, she will see the new Queen soon.
Cut to Chi-soo having to explain himself for collecting money from the people. He says he did it to make Lee Hun another building. It was all for him. He needs his own space. If you don’t want it then…
LH – *incredulous* So you got all the money for me?
Chisoo bows and tells him that he did everything for him.
LH _-Okay….I trust you.
CS – Thank you for your mercy.
But the situation does not look like Lee Hun trusts Chisoo at all. Lee Kyu and Hojoon look at CHisoo walking away and think that there is no way to stop him at all? But then they get word that the assassin they captured is going to confess. They go to him.
The assassin is all beaten and hanging by his arms in the dungeon. They ask him if he tried to kill the king himself? He says it was ordered by CHisoo. They ask him if he can say that in front of the King? The man says yes, he can say that many many times.
Hojoon and Lee Kyu talk about this alone. They think that they should be careful to double check that what he says is true. But they also think that they can’t let this chance go.
The next morning, Hojoon talks to the politicians and the King about CHisoo becoming Prime Minister. But Hojoon tells them to pause this a little bit, I want to confess a cue.
LH – Who is that person!
HJ – You should hear it from the assassin that confessed, let him in!
the assassin is brought in all bloody and limping. he falls to the feet of the court. Ho-joon walks to him and tells him to say everything truthfully, who gave the order to kill the King?
Everyone looks around in anticipation.
LH – If you tell me the truth, then I will save you, who is behind you?
Lee Kyu kind of feels that something is going bad.
Assassin – Your father in law
Everyone is stunned.
A Flashback shows Chisoo looking at the assassin in the jail.
In the present Hojoon tells him, how dare you say lies! You said it was Chisoo!
Assassin – You said you would save my life if I said that.
HJ – What he says is not the truth your highness! I only saw him yesterday!
LH – Give me evidence that he is saying a lie
HJ – ….there is no evidence, the only evidence is my loyalty to you.
LH – *stews for a moment* PUT HIM IN JAIL RIGHT NOW
They drag Hojoon away as Hojoon yells that this is the wrong accusation. The King leaves in a storm. he walks outside and is met by the Queen in the garden. She tries to beg for her father’s life and says that it is the wrong accusation. He is wrongly accused.
LH – How should I trust someone who tried to kill me? But it is true that father in law set a trap to remove Shin Chisoo. Rebels are bad, but lying to me is also unforgivable. So just leave.
She drops to his feet.
SW – You don’t trust my father’s loyalty so I cannot be the Queen anymore. If you want to punish him then you need to punish me as well.
LH – Are you threatening me?
SW – Just give me a chance to prove that he was wrongly accused.
LH – SO you are putting your Queen position as the price of the deal?
SW – Yes.
LH – We have a confession for what my father in law did, so I have to treat it as a cue. If you threaten me with this one more time, I will not forgive you anymore. SO LEAVE!
He storms off with all his people. She stays on her knees with all her people behind her.
Lee Kyu talks to Hojoon in the jail. His only concern is to keep the Queen safe. Lee Kyu says that he will try his best to keep her safe.
Cut to Daebi, the mother of the little king that was killed. She tells Jinpyung that the King was betrayed by the person he trusted the most. It was all your plan. He says that it became better than expected.
Flashback to JP talking about the assassin attempt failing. If he captures you then tell him that the father in law is behind this. But when I become the King, I will think about you and your descendants. The assassin bows and thanks him for the honor.
In the present, Daebi says that her decision to put JP as the next King was the right one. She is looking forward to it.
Elsewhere, Lee Kyu drinks alone at the Gisaeng house. Woonsim comes in and tells him that he already drank too much. Did something big happen? You are behaving in a way that even street bars will not accept. What happened? Lee Kyu begs her for more.
But then he overhears the troupes street performance and grows angry. He storms outside and pushes one of the performers. The performer asks why he is doing this to him? He did not do anything. he starts tot ell the man that he does not know what he did? But in doing so the mask comes off and he sees that this man looks just like the King. He is very taken aback.
HS – It was just a fun performance!
Friend – Sorry, sorry! Just beg him!
HS – Please forgive me.
Lee Kyu – Put him in storage
Woonsim – He was just playing, here, sir.
Lee Kyu – Give him to the royal guard!
They start to drag him away. Ha SUn says that everyone does this on the street! Dalrae runs after him. Lee Kyu asks if this guys name is really Ha Sun? She says yes and asks if he is really going to take him to the Royal police? He tells her it is none of her business, but don’t take him out until I come back. She agrees.
Lee Kyu makes it back to the palace in the morning but is confo=ronted by a servant and says that there is big trouble, the King is having a crazy episode again.
Cut to the King’s chambers, food is all around and a maid is bowing in front of him. She is terrified. He asks for his juk (porridge) and tells her to try it just in case it has poison. She tries some but it is so hot so she recoils. He tells her to eat it! And forces it down her mouth and then starts to throw things all around. The other maids have to bow and cower but he kicks them and starts shaking them all. he is deranged.
Lee Kyu comes in and gets his attention. This causes the King to stop and stand as Lee Kyu tells him that he has something to tell him. Please order for everyone to leave. I have that way that I promised you.
Lee Hun looks at him deeply and then tells all the servants to leave.
LH – You found a way?
LK – Your Highness, do you remember the journey to the west book that you read when you were young?
LH – What about that?
LK – I think I found Sohn Oh Gong’s hair (the Monkey King’s hair where he can duplicate himself). You know, the monkey’s hair that duplicates himself. That hair.
Lee Hun gasps.
Cut to ha Sun sleeping in the storage area of the Gisaeng house. he sits up when some men come in and ask if they are letting him go now? They cover his head and pull him to the palace, but they have to sneak him inside in a wagon.
Inside, ha Sun kneels with the sack still over him at the King’s throne. Lee Hun motions for the sack to be removed. Lee Kyu removes the sack and Ha Sun looks around in astonishment at where he is.
Lee Hun is stunned as well and pulls a lantern to him to inspect how Ha Sun looks. No one can believe what is happening. The king is stunned and Ha Sun is stunned. Lee Kyu looks equally amazed.
The King looks closes at ha Sun and inspects all of his features, we see a visual comparison between their lips and nose and eyes.
LK – He is the King, show your manners.
Ha Sun bows.
The King takes off his hat and puts it on Ha Sun. Then he looks at him more. he stands up and takes off his robe and throws it to the feet of Ha Sun.
LH – Put this on.
Ha Sun is all kinds of nervous. He says yes and stands to put on the robes. Though he is nervous and shakes as he does it. Lee Kyu is amazed at the resemblance. Lee Sun walks around Ha Sun.
LH – Say I-nom…
HS – i-nom…
LH – I-NOM! CAN’T YOU SAY IT PROPERLY
HS – I-NOM!
LH is taken back in a happy way and starts laughing.
Ha Sun looks like, WTF did I just get myself into.
Loooooooved this first episode. The trailers and teasers for this show were great, they were so well done that I thought this was a movie instead of a drama. This first episode lived up to that and the second episode eclipsed it. Some things that I loved are the production value, the acting, the clothing, and the clowns!
The production value is just outstanding. I love the moody tone they are setting and all the camera angles that make it look like we are in the movie instead of watching it like a play. The acting is stellar. The lead actor who plays the King is amazing in his depiction of a King who has lost his mind and a playful happy go lucky troupe performer who realizes he is in over his head (in the next episode!). The clothing is love. Usually, I am pulled out of sageuks because the clothing looks fake, like something that was created for a fantasy instead of a past reality, but this show does not have that problem. And y’all, the clown troupe performances. They are so good. I love the masks and the costumes and everything about them. I hope they are in the show more.
This drama is a TV adaptation of the movie called masquerade that I did not watch. It looks like people who did watch the movie are also are enjoying the show right now, so that is great. The next episodes recap is coming up next!