Welcome to episode 106 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.
Okay okay, this is one of my favorite episodes from season one. There’s so much great Johnny Lawrence stuff in here, as well as introducing plotlines that would reverberate throughout the rest of the series.
Here’s something interesting: they put the title of the episode, Quiver, up on the screen.
Onto the screen appears young Johnny Lawrence, wonderfully played by Owen D. Stone. I’m seriously glad they didn’t do some deep fake nonsense with this episode, it would have been too distracting. I’ve seen more good than bad ones in tv and movies, and I much much prefer it when you just cast a look alike. Stone is great casting. He looks like he could be Zabka’s son, with big soulful eyes, a soft smile, and long blonde hair.
We get the obligatory 80s scene of a kid riding a bike (sidenote: when the fuck is season four of Stranger Things getting here??? anyway) as young Johnny rides through his neighborhood listening to his walkman, only to get stars in his eyes the moment his sees the Cobra Kai dojo. Seriously, look at this face. He looks like all his birthdays have come at once. I have never in my life seen a kid more excited about something that wasn’t a video game or free candy.
Cut to present day. We focus in on Johnny Lawrences eyes as he looks around his now crowded dojo, kids talking animatedly to each other as they wait for class to begin.
Frankly, he looks terrified, which I can understand. Teenagers are terrifying, with their strange rituals, loud music, their dark sarcasm in the classroom. Hey! Teacher! Snap out of it!
He overcomes this insecurity by (you’ll never guess, never) by being an asshole, that’s right!
After he’s proved he’s absolutely not insecure, he asks them to line up, but get frustrated when the kids get in one long line. Because he didn’t explain things clearly.
‘You mean rows?’ says Demetri, who is there with Eli.
Johnny facepalms, clearly not knowing how to handle this.
Meanwhile, Daniel is having the opposite problem in his dojo.
He’s getting back into the swing of things, but without anyone to practice with, it’s going a little slowly. He goes to all the members of his family, but each of them turn him down.
Although Amanda turns him down because she like karate a little too much, because whups, the last time they sparred, Anthony was the result.
I’m trying to make a ‘sex does not exist in this dojo’ joke, but it’s not coming to me.
Heh ‘coming to me’.
Sam is chilling and doing some light cyber stalking of Miguel on facebook, smiling at his goofy photos, when something pops up on her feed: Ex-bestie Yasmin has put up a photoshoped picture of Sam with her mouth stuffed with sausages. As Sam watches, the smile falling from her face, it gets like after like after like. Fuckin’ awful
Robby is getting ready for work at LaRusso Autos when his loser friends knock on the door, giving him a hard time about his new work khakis and shirt. He assures them he’s only in it to get under his dad’s skin, since his dad hates Daniel LaRusso. Okay but. If you want your plan to work, your dad has to find out, and how’s he going to do that? Are you going to walk up and tell him (unlikely)? Text him a photo? A letter? Singing frog? (Probably not the last one)
Johnny is working on whipping his new class into shape, and his teaching technique is still terrible. I mean, he knows the moves and what the proper form is, but he does not know how to talk to these kids. This is brought painfully into perspective when he calls poor Eli ‘Lip’. The kid looks like a deer caught in headlights, but Demetri stands up for him, saying that Johnny shouldn’t make fun of someones physical appearance.
‘In the real world, you can’t expect people to do what they’re supposed to do.’ counters Johnny. Yeah yeah, ‘here on the streets, in competition’ etc etc. You notice it’s only ever assholes who say things like ‘in the real world people won’t coddle you’? As if there were parts of the world that aren’t real. This ain’t the Matrix dude, every part of the world is real.
Well not maybe Iceland. That place is weird*
Unable, or uninterested in taking a hint, Johnny just keeps on Eli. Also in the same vein is Demetri, standing up to Johnny again. While it’s admirable, it’s apparent to everyone but him that he’s putting his head in the lions mouth. Especially when he says ‘It’s not like he can hurt us.’
Oh dang. Or as Miguel puts it ‘Oh shit’.
Johnnys face hardens, and he walks up to the boy, ‘Hit me’ he says. Demetri tries to, and fails. He does this twice more, at Johnnys insistence, only to end up thrown to the mat. Ow ow ow, that hurt to look at, good editing!
‘Let that be a lesson to you.’ Johnny tells everyone.
And so Demetri quits, no interested in paying someone to ‘get his ass kicked. I could just get a hooker for that.’
I think you mean ‘dominatrix’ Demetri, and that’s a different Netflix show, although Vanessa Rubio is in that one too.
At LaRusso Auto, Robby is doing an amazing job.
Like, so good that everyone’s impressed by him, though that doesn’t stop both Anosh and Louie from giving him a hard time the minute Daniels back is turned. You know, like true professionals. Louie tells Robby he has to rotate out the cars, and convinces him to moved drive one of them out. Which Robby does, which of course, he should not have. After being yelled at by Daniel for endangering the customers, he storms off. Feeling guilty for lashing out at the kid, Daniel runs after him to make peace, nearly getting punched in the face by the aggravated teen. But instead of doubling down on the yelling, Daniel’s impressed.
He gives Robby some tips on making the perfect fist, and gets him to calm down and talk about himself, getting him to change his mind about quitting. Oh how Johnny would hate all this.
In biology class at school, Sam is being bullied in person as well as virtually, with people sticking blow pops to her shirt and sneaking bananas into her backpack. Seriously, teenagers. Again, I wouldn’t go back to that time if you paid me.
Because of her lost status, no-one will partner with her, except for Miguel and Demetri. Sam’s grateful, brushing past Demetri, inadvertently touching his arm (who looks at his arm as if it’s been blessed by God, great bit of acting from Gianni Decenzo) to sit next to Miguel. They bond over dissecting a fetal pig (stranger things have happened) and his karate fight, which Sam says was awesome, but he was telegraphing his moves. Miguel is impressed that Sam knows her stuff, and they share a smile. There are definitely sparks flying between these two.
Johnny gets a rude awakening in his next class. Turns out calling people names and saying they’re losers doesn’t win friends and influence people All hurt pride, but trying to hide it, Johnny says at least ‘Lip’ is still here, pointing at Eli.
Not gonna lie, this is a scene that really made me really angry with Johnny. I know he’s parroting what he’s been taught, but he’s an adult, and these are kids, he should do better by them. ‘Flip the script’ says Johnny, suggesting that the kid gouge his eye out to distract people from his scar. Embarrassed, and practically in tears, Eli leaves by the back door.
Miguel confronts Johnny after class, saying that Johnny has to go easier on them, but his sensei shrugs, not seeing the point of going easy on losers. ‘You wanted a full dojo, right?’ says Miguel.
‘Not full like that.’ says Johnny dismissively, and Miguel is unable to get through to him. ‘You don’t know what it’s like to be us.’ says Miguel, frustrated, and leaves.
At LaRusso Auto, Amanda tells Robby that he doesn’t have to do any chores for the rest of the day, Louie will be doing them. And Robby is getting an official shirt with his name on it too!
Then Louie tells Robby how he’s making amends by letting the kid deliver a hardcopy of the days reports to Daniel. Robby is understandably wary, but says he’ll do it.
Home in his cluttered apartment, Johnny sits down to enjoy a beer after a long day, when he knocks over a box of his old stuff.
As he picks up his walkman, a half smile on his face, he remembers his younger self telling his mom over dinner about how amazing Cobra Kai was, and how he can’t wait to join.
His mother, Laura (Candace Moon), is as excited as he is, supporting his interests. But as soon as Sid, Johnnys step-father, comes to the table, the mood changes. You can see Johnny’s face drop, his body language become rigid, closed off.
Trying to keep the peace, his mom tells Sid about Johnny’s new interest, but Sid laughs it off, his comments mirroring those of Johnnys in the dojo present day. ‘Don’t you get in enough fights already at school? The kids a social reject, he doesn’t have a single friend!’
So young Johnny wasn’t always the red jacketed badass we came to know in TKK, but someone who was as awkward and lonely as Miguels friends, loosing himself in music when his step-fathers emotional and verbal abuse became too much.
Robby delivers the ‘important’ hardcopy to Daniel in his dojo, and if you guessed it was porn, you were right. Louie strikes again! He is fascinated by Daniels katas though, and wants to know where the punching is.
‘Well karate isn’t all punching and kicking. It’s actually more about balance’ says Daniel. To Robby, a kata doesn’t look much like karate, but Daniel points out that blueprints don’t look much like cars. The kid nods, intrigued. ‘Wanna stick around, learn a few things?’ says Daniel. Robby agrees, and now Daniel has a student!
The attendance at the dojo has shrunk even more when Johnny returns the next day.
‘Bunch of pussies.’ Aisha says contemptuously.
‘Nah, it’s my fault.’ Johnny answers. What’s this? Johnny Lawrence admits to being wrong??
‘Right now you’re all weak. But I know that. Because I used to be you.’
He smiles a little at this, glancing at Miguel.
‘I had to shed my loser skin to find my true power, and you guys will too.’
Just then a new kid walks into the dojo.
Wait, record scratch.
That’s not a new kid, it’s Eli!
Johnny is ecstatic! His methods actually work! (well kinda)
‘You see that? It doesn’t matter if you’re a loser, or a freak or a nerd. All that matters is that you become badass!’
‘Hawk,’ he says to Eli/Hawk, who grins. ‘Fall in’.
Then, as the theme plays on electric guitar, Johnny repeats a very familiar mantra.
*Apologies to all Icelanders, please do not sacrifice me to your volcano god.
-The original Cobra Kai dojo
-The Fear Does Not Exist in This Dojo mantra
From an interview with the new york post.
nyp: What’s it been like to revist Johnny years down the line?
William Zabka: It’s been an amazing reconnection. “The Karate Kid” has been a huge part of my life for all this time, and to give him more dimension and humanity has been thrilling. Johnny is the polar opposite of who I really am. But in the ending scene of ‘The Karate Kid’ film when he hands Danny the trophy…I thought he’s actually got a really good core. You’re a product of your upbringing, your environment and mentors. He’s had a rough go at life. He’s trying to figure things out and sort through his past and change and grow. That’s what’s so amazing to me about what the writers have done with the character. Johnny is on his path to his own version of redemption and recovery. The “Cobra Kai” series is really providing that long arc. It’s so satisfying as an actor to play someone who isn’t all good or bad.
From MSN Entertainments interview with Tanner Buchanan/Robby Keene.
MSN: Growing up in the ’90s, Karate Kid was essential. The show is so clever about calling back to those movies. What’s your relationship to them?
Tanner Buchanan: I had seen the original movie when I was probably five years old. My mom was actually a black belt in karate in the ‘80s. When I went out for Cobra Kai, I didn’t want to watch the movies. I wanted to bring my own spin. After I got the role, I talked to the creators and they were like, ‘Have you seen it? There are a lot of references. Why don’t you watch the three movies before you get here to actually start shooting?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.’
Was it intimidating to occupy that world?
Tanner Buchanan: Well, that’s the great thing. [The older actors] also adapted. First off [Ralph Macchio and William Zabka] are two of the nicest guys ever. Ralph is extremely nice. He’s too nice sometimes. I’m like, “Can you just say one bad thing?” They’re super respectful and stuff in terms of treating us like peers. We’re there to do the same job and be actors as well and they understand that and we understand our characters just as well they understand their characters. They let us do our own thing.
Miguel and Sam defineltly have feelings for each other, and I’m sure we’ll see them exploring that in the near future!