FOR BETTER OR WORSE, MR & MRS SMITH-STYLE
The owner of a renown, boutique kimchi company, Chinjung Kimchi, tries to marry off her four daughters by having them live in her boarding house with eligible bachelors.
Meanwhile, Yoo Gun Hee (Kang Hye Jung) and Lee Kang Jae (Lee Kyu Han) try to figure out a way to either merge Gun Hee’s mom’s kimchi company with Kang Jae’s dad’s banchan company or make their own brand of kimchi that’s equally as great as Chinjung’s. The problem is Gun Hee and Kang Jae can’t stand each other.
The drama is made up of 3 basic elements. There’s the romance between Gun Hee and Kang Jae, the secret family history that stands in the way of the business and the love lives of Gun Hee’s 3 sisters. The best thing about this drama is the casting of our main OTP. I just love Gun Hee and Kang Jae’s explosive relationship with each other. Lee Kyu Han and Kang Hye Jung’s chemistry is what makes this drama so much fun. (Plus, I can’t stop staring at Lee Kyu Han’s unbelievably long eyelashes.)
There’ll always be that person at work, at one time or another, whom you can’t stand. Unfortunately in real life, they are never as good looking as they are in dramaland. In the beginning, I couldn’t really see how these two lovebirds would come to love each other because they seemed to be at such odds. But their knockdown, drag out fighting and bickering was delightfully childish.
It lead to many side-splitting moments. There’s the scene where Gun Hee carries a drunk Kang Jae on her back only to have him throw up all over her head and the subsequent “why me” look from Gun Hee. That scene still makes me shudder. Can you imagine the prop person that’s in charge of making it? Just looking at it makes me nauseous.
Then there’s that time when Gun Hee gets her payback by putting Kang Jae’s hand on her boob to make it seem like he’s a pervert. It was all in attempt to shoo him away from her mother’s company. I just can’t help but laugh at how low they’d both stoop to outdo each other. Priceless, priceless moments and this was only in Episode 2!
Some other hilarious moments include but are NOT limited to:
explosive baby poo,
and the almost-kiss tasing incident.
The only issue is when to tone down the hilarity to allow the romance to bloom. Surprisingly, The Marriage Plot starts it pretty early on. Kang Jae begins to see a different side of Gun Hee when she takes him to a family friend’s house that’s also Chinjung’s cabbage source. As they both inspect the kimchi, Kang Jae tastes it while Gun Hee jots down notes, he sneaks a couple of glances Gun Hee’s way. I’d like to say that this scene meant more to me but it felt contrived.
They do make up for it with a scene in the rain when Gun Hee discovers that her crush, Park Soo Ho (Kim Won Jun), is getting married.
As soon as Kang Jae hears the news, he runs over to comfort her. He tells her it’s okay to cry in the rain since people won’t be able to tell if it’s rainwater or tears.
The other elements of the drama become more conventional outside of that pairing. Particularly, I found the feud between Chinjung’s So Doo Ryun (Cha Hwa Yeon) and Sangcharim’s Lee Hak Goon (Yoon Joo Sang) to be problematic.
It was because I didn’t care about their secret history because it just seemed too obvious to me. So Doo Ryun doesn’t have a husband and she was angrier with Lee Hak Goon than he is with her. So it must mean that he did something to her husband which turns out to be an accident.
How many times have we seen this same meager storyline driving our OTP apart? Too many.
Despite that, I really love the mother’s cancer storyline. Throughout the drama, she had secretly been dealing with her pancreatic cancer but had refused to get treatment for it. Treating it would mean her taste buds would be affected and her ability to season the kimchi would be compromised. However, her taste buds were affected anyways due to the cancer.
In the final episode, we get a beautiful scene at her eldest daughter’s wedding. At Sun Hee’s (Lee Young Eun) wedding, she smiles at her daughter and her new son-in-law, Seo Jang Won (Lee Min Woo).
Then she turns to her other 3 daughters and smiles at them, knowing that she’s done all she could as a mother.
Later, she goes to bed and Gun Hee discovers her body. While I’m sad that Gun Hee had lost her mom, I’m also happy that her mom was able to move on peacefully.
People who have loved Chinjung Kimchi over the years show up at the funeral procession to pay their respects.
Afterwards, all the children take a trip together with their mom’s spirit watching over them.
It was a nice, calm ending in contrast with the Lara Croft-esque beginning.
Lastly, we’ve got the other sisters and their love lives. There’s the eldest Sun Hee, there’s the princess Min Jung (Kim Se Jung), and the youngest Min Ji (Park Min Ji).
I felt that Sun Hee was the only sister that was given a thorough backstory so I found myself interested in what happened between her and Jang Won.
Min Ji also had a crush on Jang Won, but he only thought of her as the younger sister.
Despite the various obstacles on the way to the altar which mostly involves an ex-wife, I liked that Sun Hee was drama-free.
It wouldn’t have worked if they were the main OTP but it was a change of pace to see that she trusted Jang Won and that Jang Won didn’t let her down.
Min Jung’s storyline was a little all over the place. First Min Jung goes after a fellow boarder, Park Se Won (Kim Jae Deuk) because he’s a chaebol. His parents kicked him out of his home in an attempt to mature him and learn the meaning of hard work. However, he was unable to keep up with Min Jung’s superficial demands and hated laboring at a construction site so he disappears from the drama. Completely.
I don’t mind him leaving but we were forced to deal with it with a passing comment. Umm, did the actor get fired or something? You want Min Jung to change but I didn’t think we needed to spend so much time with Se Won in order to know that she can be a high-maintenance princess.
I did like seeing her paired up with her mom’s chauffeur, Kim Dol Soon (Seo Jae Kyung). Just the visual of those two actors together makes me smile. The ridiculous “Destiny” music was icing on the cake.
The drama is made up of a lot of those traditional K-Drama elements that make it just okay. The standout of this drama is really Kang Hye Jung and Lee Kyu Han’s chemistry. So if you’re looking for a drama that’s easy to watch, not too deep and hilariously funny, it’s a good drama to watch. Just like a summer romance novel.