The story thus far…

Daughter-in-law no.1 (In-young) + Mother-in-law (Mdm Yang):

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Despite In-young’s many failings, her extraordinary sense of taste impresses even finicky Mdm Yang. Cos on at least 2 occasions, In-young is able to differentiate between the Cha family’s kimchi vs. some mock-up brands. Her ability also comes in handy during food prep: In-young easily susses out what else needs to be added into the dish to complete it.

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The turning point of their relationship is in ep5, when In-young manages to identify correctly the Cha family’s kimchi in a row of cheap store-bought kimchi, the latter of which has been served to a restaurant’s customers under the “Cha brand”. The customers had complained about the “inferior” Cha kimchi and nearly ruined Cha family business with their negative online feedback. In-young saves the day, by bringing her camera crew to the restaurant and verifying that the restaurant has been serving cheap kimchi under the Cha family name.

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However, the goodwill gained is threatened when Mdm Yang detects that In-young may be in love with Myeong-seok. In her eyes, In-young is “too inferior” to be Myeong-seok’s wife.

Daughter-in-law no.2 (Se-mi) + Mother-in-law (Mdm Yang):

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Things are going downhill for these 2. Mdm Yang agreed to Se-mi taking up a teaching job, but is unhappy when Se-mi ends up neglecting her family. Partly Se-mi’s fault, as she is giddy with pride and happiness over having students and parents praise her…but also, if her in-laws are juz THAT little bit more supportive, she’d have been able to juggle work-family life better.

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Her slump comes about when her son, Shan, goes missing — she forgets to pick him up from his elementary school. And yes, Daddy also forgets. Mdm Yang doles out a scolding on both of them (fair enough), but blames Se-mi’s job for causing the incident. Se-mi, being the hotheaded one, refuses to back down…and agrees to move out.

Daughter-in-law no.3 (Young-ah) + Mother-in-law (Mdm Jang):

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This pair remains status quo — but likely Young-ah has had enough of Mdm Jang’s bitchy wiles. Mdm Jang is eyeing the empty mayoral seat, but Young-ah gets voted in by the residents as a contender, much to Mdm Jang’s annoyance.

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Young-ah is ready to back down — on condition that Mdm Jang retracts her project to rezone the Cha family traditional home to build a new resort. Mdm Jang, being the bitch as she is, wants her cake and eats it too. She refuses to back down on that, and works through her son (Joon-soo) to make Young-ah obey. And ironically, she nags Young-ah to become a mother (and quit her job and stop competing with her for promotion), but hogs Joon-soo’s time every night. (so erm…how does she expect babies to come? from storks?)

Love line 1: Myeong-seok & In-young

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As predicted, the couple is bonding closer despite their different backgrounds and personalities. Myeong-seok at first starts to pity In-young when he realises that she is doing the variety show because of her current unpopularity. And he becomes happy for her when the show becomes a hit. But at the same time, he also is indignant over the PD’s use of cheap tricks — like making In-young bare more skin, making her look like an idiot on screen — to increase viewer ratings.

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But I suppose what really brings him to like In-young is he recognises that beneath that vanity, she does have a good heart and sincerely cares about her fake family. But of course, the biggest impediment is his mum, Mdm Yang, who has issued the ultimatum that In-young cannot be within his sight the moment the cams are off, if not, In-young has to stop the shoot. I think the idea of having to run after a fleeing In-young probably piques his male interest?

Love line 2: Grandpa Cha and Ahjumma Choi

Ahjumma Choi is Mdm Yang’s single, long time friend, and about the same age as her…and who should she fall in love with, but Mdm Yang’s father-in-law?! It’s funny…but their relationship is meant to tickle, and also creates the interesting situation where Mdm Yang has to “serve” a new mother-in-law, who is not only the same age as her, but someone whom she kinda looks down on due to her “spinster” status.

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And Grandpa Cha + Ahjumma Choi’s scenes — they are all parodies of Do Min-joon and Cheon Song-yi’s love scenes in My Love from the Star…right down to Cheong Song-yi’s khaki green trench coat, the flowery scarf, and the bg soundtrack. (snorts)

Review:

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Strictly speaking, there’s nothing very deviant from Strange‘s plotline. The tensions between mother/daughter-in-laws’ pairs are typical — you have the stereotypical traditional mother-in-laws who decide that women’s roles are best good for only child bearing + taking care of the household and family. And they pour their souls into this role, and expect the successive series of daughter-in-laws to do the same.

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And as we know, the women from the younger generation are better educated and have more opportunities. So staying locked up in the home only to clean, cook and bear sons (sorry, daughters are only considered children to the mothers, never to the clan) do not appeal to them.

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At the same time though, we are not expected to hate these mother-in-laws — in fact, they are more pitiful than scary. Since they had limited options, they were the ones who bore the worst treatments from their own mother-in-laws (who probably also had limited options). And Mdm Yang is the representation — she is stubbornly traditional, but she isn’t without her reasons. And she can be persuaded, if the daughter-in-law is persistent enough.

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The mother-in-law I absolutely detest is Mdm Jang (and I ffwd all her scenes). Even though she is a career woman mother-in-law (supposedly to be more “open minded” and less finicky), she ironically harbours all the worst traits we “deem” a mother-in-law to have. Mdm Jang is vindictive, she doesn’t like “sharing” her son with her daughter-in-law, she mentally (and physically) abuses her daughter-in-law and uses her “superiority” of her status as mother-in-law to quash any arguments/protests from her daughter-in-law. She is the foil to Mdm Yang, who appears totally angelic next to her.

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The loveline between Myeong-seok and In-young — nothing new there too. We already know that the geeky Prince Charming will fall for the kind hearted airhead. The skinship between them is also super predictable. There’s the expected accidental physical contact, the embarrassing meeting of gazes, the entirely unplanned lip lock, and also the impromptu snuggle under the bedspread. And mainly cos of Mdm Yang — the more she tries to break them apart, the two somehow end up having to snuck closer to each other to avoid her detection and “misunderstanding”.

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If there’s anything strange in Strange, it’d be the unexpected romance between Grandpa Cha and Ahjumma Choi. Not only is their age difference quite large (prob 20-30 years?), but the idea of your bff (who is a die-hard traditional) having to serve you as a daughter-in-law, is a little bit brain-twisty. This couple totally screw tradition and common expectations of romantic relationships. But they may be the answer to release poor Mdm Yang from her self-imposed fetters of household chores borne from her expectations of daughter-in-law/mother-in-law’s roles.

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