cobra kai review

Wax On – Cobra Kai 102 ‘Strike First’

Welcome to episode two of Cobra Kai! Just a reminder, please do not discuss anything further than this episode (including actors who will be in the show in the future) without putting it under the spoiler tag. I’m also adding a ‘Shipping’ section at the end, and you can skip that if you like or not.

So! A day in the life of Daniel LaRusso. He wakes up next to his beautiful wife, Amanda (Courtney Henggeler). He gets dressed, and goes downstairs to make a great looking breakfast for his kids. He goes to work at the car dealership, and has a great time (okay clearly he is an alien, who enjoys their work???) He gets in the car to drive home. On the way there, he looks idly out the window.

Sees the words COBRA KAI.

Oh. Dang.

Daniel is no longer having a good day, Daniel is seemingly having a panic attack in traffic. Because the dojo that churned out bullies like dollar stores churn out Simpsons knock-offs has somehow come back from the dead, like the worlds worst phoenix.

I tried googling ‘worst phoenix’ but sadly all I got were kickass phoenix pictures. So this is what it is folks, a burnt chicken. I tried.

The flashbacks remind us of how bad things were for Daniel back in high school, how he seemingly couldn’t get a moments peace while the Cobra Kais were around, even when he was just riding his bike alone he got pushed down a hill!

So while poor Daniels brain is melting, we check in on how Miguel and Johnny are doing.

Well there’s a lot of staring. A lot. In silence.

Snakes don’t have eyelids right? Do they blink? Do cobras blink? Is this a cobra thing?

Johnny is dressed in a impeccable black gi with his trademarked black headband of course, looking sharp.

Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) is standing there with big, wide eyes in an oversized sports shirt, looking like some poor Dickensian orphan boy. Seriously, he looks about twelve right now. Run child, run for your life while you can!

Miguel finally breaks the silence, wanting to know when he gets his own ‘karate pajamas’ but Johnny cuts him off, saying he has to earn them. Um, no no you don’t, you just buy them??

‘Are you ready to begin your training?’ says Johnny. ‘Yes.’ Miguel replies, and is immediately body slammed into the mats! Ow.

Johnny goes into Kreese’s old ‘Here on the street, in competition’ speech, (side note, how many times did Kreese make that speech if Johnny has it memorized?) which Miguel is having a hard time focusing on, because he’s having an asthma attack. Johnny is not having that.

He grabs Miguels inhaler and throws it on the ground. Strike first against…asthma?

‘We do not allow weakness in this dojo! So you can leave your asthma and your peanut allergies and all that other made up bullshit outside!’

After some more back and forth where Miguel tries protest Johnnys sexism and Johnny will either mock it or shoot it down, Johnny tells him to do 50 pushups on his knuckles. Which he…cannot (I’m getting some serious pre-serum Steve Rogers vibes here.) Crunches it is! That’s okay Miguel, I can’t do 50 pushups on my knuckles either.

On top of all this, an insurance dude comes into the dojo to say that Johnny needs to fix the place up so he can get the license for the space. ‘So I have to do all this crap before I can even open?’ ‘No, you need to do all that to get the certificate that’s required to get the insurance you need to open.’ Ah yes, managing your own business is so fulfilling! Being your own boss, setting your own hours, working whenever you want, so much fun! Right.

Daniel is at a nice country club, griping that his kids don’t appreciate the finer things in life, since his son Anthony (Griffin Santopietro) would rather play video games, and his daughter Sam (Mary Mouser) didn’t even come. Amanda has heard it all before, and would rather just enjoy the party.

And we meet Aisha Robinson, played by Nichole Brown! Aww, lookit her sweet face!


Aisha was hoping to see Sam at the party, and Amanda makes excuses for her daughter. Despite the fact that, as Daniel and Amanda discus later, Sam has been avoiding her old friend. Not cool Sam, not cool.

And then when Daniel comes home, Sam is throwing a pool party! Without asking! This will be fine!

It’s not, Daniel kicks them all out (I mean, some of them were wearing his swim suits! Ew!)

Sidenote, Daniel, why do you own so many swimsuits? One for everyday of the week? You spendthrift you.

Miguel is now put to work fixing the dojo, not because of some Miagi-esq muscle memory = karate skills, but because Johnny is cheap ass who realised he could save money by having Miguel do everything for him. He’s still calling it training though, ‘Do not question my methods.’

Also Miguel is lying about going to karate to his mom because she doesn’t approve of violence. ‘Well what does your Dad think?’ says Johnny. ‘I never really knew my dad.’ says Miguel, looking away.

And for once, Johnny has no words. He genuinely feels for this kid for a second, because he knows what it’s like. But because he’s emotionally constipated, he just tells Miguel to get back to ‘training’.

said Johnny

Back at his house, Daniel reminisces about when Sam was a kid and used to do karate with him. Feeling a bit sorry and chagrined, he goes to apologise about embarrassing her in front of her friends, and does pretty well! And Sam apologies too for not asking if she could have friends over! Aww, loving this daddy daughter moment. ‘So these boys..anyone I need to worry about?’ he asks. Sam shyly confesses that there’s this one boy..Kyler (oh right, the kid who was bullying Miguel. Not that she knows that.) Daniel suggests they invite him for Friday dinner, and Sam agrees. ‘You don’t need to worry about me Dad, I can take care of myself.’ she says. ‘That’s my girl! Jersey tough.’ Daniel says with pride. Nicely done…even though I do think he and Amanda are going waay to easy about a bunch of strangers appearing in their pool, but still good parenting Daniel, A+.

Miguel heads into the cafeteria, looking for a seat but unable to find one for the longest time. Finally he does, with two awkward guys called Eli and Demitri (Jacob Bertrand and Gianni DeCenzo). Eli seems unable to say much of anything, but that’s okay, Demitri can talk enough for all of them. Which he does. At length.

Demitri knows I’m talking shit about him.

Meanwhile Sam is sitting at the ‘cool girls’ table with her ‘friends’ Moon and Yasmin (Hannah Kepple and Annalisa Cochrane) as Yasmin makes fun of everyone, but especially poor Eli, who has a large visible scar on his lip

‘Looks like he went down on a lawnmower.’ says the Plastic smugly. Sam is obviously not a fan, but doesn’t speak up either, even when they make fun of Aisha (no! Leave her alone!!) Miguel at the ‘at peace with my depression’ table (as Demitri calls it) sees Sam and is immediately smitten. Standing up, he decides to ‘strike first’ by asking her out…only to get chased off by Kyler. Too bad kiddo, better luck next time I guess.

Back at the dojo, Johnny is trying to teach Miguel when he gets a call. It’s from the principal of his sons school, concerned that his son, Robby Keene (Tanner Buchann) has been found with drugs.

Johnny 2.0 has the look down. Problems with authority check, casual but not too casual look check, obviously way too concerned about his hair regime, check. He’s Johnny’s kid all right, it all checks out. Johnny tries to talk to his son, but since they’re both assholes, it goes about as well as you would expect.

Johnny does make some headway with Miguel though, getting him to punch correctly by having him picture someone who he hates. Once Miguel has Kyler fixed in his mind, he just goes to town on that dummy. It is…alarming, and disturbing to see this sweet kid unleashing his anger like that, even if it’s at an inanimate object.

Fast forwards to Friday night at the LaRussos house. Daniel is trying to bond with Kyler (Joe Seo), but is not making much headway. He made sushi, with his special sushi knife even! but Kyler doesn’t like fish unless it’s fish sticks. So Amanda and Sam leave the table to find him something he can eat. Awkward silence ensues. So to make conversation, Daniel asks the ultimate white guy ‘where are you from’ question which:

As they talk, Daniel sees Kylers bruised cheek and knuckles and questions him about it, leading Kyler to explain he and his friends got beat up by some homeless guy who knew karate (which is true, but does omit a few key facts.)

This immediately leads Daniel to believe that Johnny had a hand in it.

(I mean he’s not wrong though.)

Johnny and Miguel are burning the midnight oil at the dojo, Johnny doing paperwork and Miguel doing the windows and toilets, when Daniel walks in to confront him about the fight with Kyler.

And ooh man. This scene. This scene. I got chills, chills!

Please, if you have the time, just go watch it now! Or the whole episode, whichever, please join me in my hyperfixation!

So. good.

The feeling in the air, like Johnny and Daniel are two gunslingers facing off against each other.

That musical sting when Daniel steps onto the mat, the first time in thirty years that Lawrence and LaRusso have faced each other across the karate mats! (excited scream!)

The way that they’re interrupted by Miguel, and for Johnny to put his hand out, either warning him off or to tell him not to interrupt.

‘You and I? This? We aren’t done.’ says Daniel as he leaves. ‘I’m right here man!” says Johnny with a grin, channeling his inner Amos Burton.

The episode ends with the two of them staring at each other through the window of the dojo. Johnny with a little smile on his face, Daniel with annoyance.

They’re not done. Not by a long shot

Next review is up on Thursday April 1st, by which time I will have thought of a clever joke for this notice.

Cobra Callbacks:

-Johnny reciting Kreese’s ‘Here on the streets’ is of course a callback, but it’s also interrupted almost exactly as it was in TKK, with Johnny saying ‘Is there a problem Mr. Diaz?’ instead of Kreese saying ‘Is there a problem Mr. Lawrence?’

-Miguel asks Johnny ‘Is there any particular way you want me to do these windows?’ (Wax on wax off, right?)

-The song playing over Daniels day is ‘Ain’t That A Kick In The Head’ by Dean Martin, kudos to Lwaxana Troi for that, obviously a reference to Daniels winning crane kick.

Snake Bytes:

Ralph Macchio also really liked that scene on the mat. “[that] scene in Season 1 where [Daniel] walks into [Johnny’s] dojo…it was the first time that [the characters] were looking through each other’s eyes.”

“It was very palatable and we knew as soon as we finished that scene… these guys were back with their baggage, and it felt alive. And we felt when we walked off the set, and we completed that scene. We felt like this is going to work. There’s something really special happening here it was a great, great emotion,” explained the actor. “I mean 35 years ago was the crane kick that I took to the head. It was nice, you know, but here he is again. I mean [Daniel is] walking into Johnny’s dojo.. and it set a great spark for the rest of where we’re going with it. It was awesome.”

Daniel: Remember that guy from my high school whose car I just fixed for free?

Amanda: Yeah, the blond pretty boy that you beat in the tournament?

Daniel: Actually I never remember calling him ‘pretty’.

Amanda: (sure you didn’t face)

The gaze across the mats well well well! There is a fine line between love and hate they say. It would be very very easy to misinterpret that as sexual tension.

‘Ain’t That A Kick In The Head’ is about how love is a kick in the head.