Cobra Kai Recap: Lean On Me


Cobra Kai Recap: Lean On Me

Up to this point, season five of Cobra Kai has featured the least karate yet — or, at least, the fewest karate lessons yet. “Bad Eggs” remedies that, devoting most of its time to two different class sessions: one with Cobra Kai and one with the new Miyagi-Do/Eagle Fang hybrid.

The buzz words today at Cobra Kai are “leader” and “follower”; both types of fighter are necessary for any army. Kim Da-Eun, disappointed by Tory’s leadership skills so far, wants to determine which of her new students make the best leaders. So Terry Silver pairs the students up, a leader and a follower in each team, to fight a sensei together: Odell for the guys, Kim for the girls.

When it comes to Kenny and Kyler, it seems obvious who fits each role; Kyler always assumes he’s the leader, and Kenny is probably the biggest follower in the show. But Kyler’s leadership is incompetent in every match-up, and Kenny grows increasingly frustrated. Eventually, Silver calls him to his office and muses on all the different people Kenny has spent his life following: his father, his brother, Robby, and now Kyler. But maybe it’s time for a change. Maybe Kenny should stop assuming he’ll be the follower in any given dynamic. After all, Silver only reached his full potential when he moved out of Kreese’s shadow and listened to his own instincts.

As far as lessons from Terry Silver go, it’s not bad advice at all, and it helps remind us why he has so much success as both a teacher and a manipulator. When Kenny goes back out there and asserts himself as a leader, throwing Kyler at Odell to disarm him and literally jumping off his back to reach a higher level, he finally lands a solid kick on the new sensei. It’s satisfying to see Kenny reach his potential, especially when it’s at Kyler’s expense, but I dread how this newfound confidence will manifest outside the dojo.

The other match-up is Tory and Devon against Kim Da-Eun, which goes about how you’d expect. It’s only on their third attempt that Devon is fully onboard and Tory more confident as a leader. They still lose, because Tory didn’t “sacrifice her pawn” by letting her opponent strike Devon. But as she points out to Devon afterward, she wouldn’t be a leader if she had let Kim hit her. Leadership means something different to everyone: In the Way of the Fist, it means using your soldiers as weapons that can be disposed of if necessary. To Tory, it means looking out for your friends and teammates (a much more Miyagi-Do-adjacent ideology).

While Daniel and Johnny are on their own mission — more on that later — Chozen is left to teach today’s lesson to LaRusso’s Army (my temporary name for this new class). Basically, all the students are given eggs representing endangered Okinawa rail birds, which they have to protect from the “poison snake” (Chozen, in this case, but the Cobra Kai parallel is obvious).

There are little character dramas around the margins here, like the brief suggestion that Sam and Robby might be flirting again (they’re just catching up) and Eli’s continual suspicion of Robby. But mostly it’s just Chozen smashing each of their eggs, one by one, no matter how clever they think their strategies are. Miguel and Sam are the final two, but even they’re no match for Chozen.

During the second go-around, Anthony LaRusso has a surprising moment of leadership, suggesting the radical idea that they all work together. They literally put all their eggs in one basket and protect it together, forming a thick barrier and holding off Chozen long enough for him to give up. As in many of the most effective fights in Cobra Kai, again, there are small moments of significance in the fighting itself: Miguel and Sam teaming up against Chozen shows how aligned they still are, and Eli and Robby teaming up shows they’ve finally moved past any lingering resentment.

The LaRusso’s Army class lessons are much lighter and more fun than the Cobra Kai class lessons, which veer closer to Full Metal Jacket every episode. But they’re also another sign of how well Chozen has been integrated into the main cast. As Demetri remarks, he has the cryptic wisdom of Daniel, but the aggressiveness of Johnny. He brings an energy to the dojo, and to the show, that’s different from anyone else.

Elsewhere, Daniel and Johnny are finally starting to play dirty, with a push from Amanda. They take a trip to the prison to visit Kreese, who reveals that he is behind the Stingray tip. Still, Daniel is his mortal enemy, and there’s no way he’s giving out information for free. It’s not until Daniel offers to put Kreese in touch with a good lawyer that he agrees to tell Daniel and Johnny about Silver’s plan.

It involves the Sekai Taikai, the top karate tournament in the world. Back in 1980, Silver flew Kreese and himself out to South Korea to train with Kim Sun-Yung. While they were there, Silver had ambitions to take Cobra Kai to the tournament, hoping a win there would secure their international legacy for all time. At the time, Kreese turned him down, focused more on building up his promising young psychopaths like Johnny Lawrence. We see Silver tell Kreese that he bought him the whole dojo, assuring him that he’ll be there if Kreese ever needs help. It nicely sets up Kreese’s request at the beginning of The Karate Kid Part III.

Once Terry Silver has an idea, it never really leaves his mind. So it’s safe for Daniel and Johnny to assume that Kreese is right on the money: This many years later, Silver is still angling for the Sekai Taikai. Maybe the best moment of this subplot, though, is how it ends. As agreed, Daniel passes Kreese the folded piece of paper with the lawyer’s phone number — only to reveal the actual message, which says “No Mercy Mother Fucker!”

It’s great to see Daniel playing a bit more ruthlessly without actually moving toward the dark side. He certainly doesn’t owe Kreese anything. And if this week’s look at Cobra Kai tells us anything, they won’t be pulling any punches.

Mr. Miyagi’s Little Trees

• We only get a distant glimpse of the toilet, but I was pretty mortified by Kenny giving Anthony a swirly in shit water. That’s so much worse than being stuffed into inner tubes and kicked into a lazy river.

• Kreese still wants Johnny to carry on the Cobra Kai legacy, so the sight of the CGI de-aging last episode must’ve been terrifying enough to stick with him. But Johnny still wants to erase everything Kreese ever did, so he’s not super open to emotional appeals at the moment.

• Finally, a verbal acknowledgment that Johnny Lawrence and John Kreese share the same first name.

• Also, it’s funny to see Barrett Carnahan playing Kreese still in 1980, considering it’s only four years before the events of The Karate Kid. I get why they have to do it, but he just looks and speaks nothing like the Kreese from that movie. (This is not a request for a de-aged Martin Kove.)