May 21, 2018

Cobra Kai 1.2: Strike First

This episode recap contains spoilers.

Written by | Josh Heald & Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg

Directed by | Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg

Summary | Thirty-four years after beating Johnny Lawrence in the All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships, Daniel LaRusso just keeps crane kicking life in the face. A chain of successful car dealerships. Beautiful wife, two kids, stunning home. But Daniel’s son is a chubby gamer, and his daughter hosts a pool party — full of mean girls and bullies — without permission. Even worse: He discovers Cobra Kai is back. Meanwhile, Johnny begins training Miguel, with interruptions from the city health department and the vice principal at his estranged son’s school. Finally, Daniel confronts Johnny at Cobra Kai in a Western-style staredown.

Flashbacks | Three. When Daniel sees that Cobra Kai signage, it feels like Johnny and his Cobra Kai gang beating him up all over again. Later, when Daniel laments his daughter growing up and further away from him, he remembers teaching her karate as Miyagi taught him: “Always remember our first lesson. This is for self-defense only.” As Miguel punches the dummy at Cobra Kai, he pretends that it’s Kyler.

Karate callbacks | Many. Miguel asks Johnny about his karate trophies: “I won a couple All-Valley tournaments. Didn’t lose a single point my junior year.”

Daniel on bullying: “I know a thing or two about cruel. I was pushed off a cliff on my bike.”

Daniel looks at photos of Miyagi and himself: “Wish you were here to give some of that Miyagi wisdom right now.”

As Miguel washes windows at the dojo, he asks Johnny if there any particular way he wants him to do it, Johnny says: “Nah, I don’t give a shit. Whatever’s easiest.”

The redemption of Johnny Lawrence | Johnny is a new business owner, trying to put his life back together.

Soundtrack | 1. “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head?” by Dean Martin

Politically Incorrect with Johnny Lawrence | When Miguel says, “I have asthma,” Johnny throws his inhaler against the wall and says, “Not anymore. “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.”

Also: “If you’re not aggressive, then you’re being a pussy, and you don’t want to be a pussy. You want to have balls.”

And many more: “Stop yapping like a little girl” and “He’s just an illegal I picked up this morning.”

Cobra Kai philosophy | “Lesson 1: Strike first. Never wait for the enemy to attack. We do not train to be merciful here. Mercy is for the weak. Here, on the street, in competition, a man confronts you, he is the enemy. An enemy deserves no mercy.” — Johnny Lawrence

“Cobra Kai isn’t just about karate. It’s about a way of life. Take that first lesson. Striking first is the initial step toward victory.” — Johnny Lawrence

Best line | “Get your house in order, LaRusso.” — Johnny to Daniel in the final scene

Best moment | The episode-ending staredown between Johnny and Daniel. Two men forever connected, their history Shakespearean.

Coors counter | One, in the dojo. That’s an even six-pack for the series. Daniel drinks an “ice, ice cold” dirty martini.

Cobra Kai business score | 2 / 10. Cobra Kai is open, but with just one student and a visit from the health department

Daniel LaRusso threat level | 3 / 10. Daniel confronts Johnny at Cobra Kai: “Stay away from my daughter’s friends.”

Fight scorecard | No fights.

Analysis | This is the (updated) Daniel LaRusso story. He’s a clean-living family man, but by the end of the episode, it’s clear he can’t let go of his high school rivalry with Johnny. He isn’t all good, Johnny isn’t all bad, and their rivalry is renewed.
— Kevin Brewer

May 14, 2018

Cobra Kai 1.1: Ace Degenerate

This episode recap contains spoilers.

Written by | Josh Heald & Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg

Directed by | Jon Hurwitz & Hayden Schlossberg

Summary | Thirty-four years after losing to Daniel LaRusso in the All Valley Under-18 Karate Championships, Johnny Lawrence still tastes defeat in every banquet bottle of Coors. Meanwhile, Daniel owns LaRusso Auto Group, an omnipresent chain of successful car dealerships. In three days in the San Fernando Valley, Johnny is fired from his handyman job, arrested for assault and disowned by his evil stepfather — with a buyout check — and his Pontiac Firebird is totaled in a hit-and-run. Adding insult to collision, Johnny’s car is towed to one of Daniel’s dealerships, where he endures a one-sided reminiscence of their championship match.

Flashbacks | Three. The series opens with the Lawrence-LaRusso championship match from The Karate Kid, using some previously unseen footage, particularly of the crane kick, from Johnny’s POV. When Johnny watches Iron Eagle and Louis Gossett Jr. narrates — “It’s a power you have inside you, down there where you keep your guts.” — he remembers his kick-ass high school glory days. But when he drives through the valley under the influence, Johnny can’t shake the memories of his championship loss and his fight with sensei Kreese at the beginning of The Karate Kid Part II.

The redemption of Johnny Lawrence | Johnny defends Miguel Diaz — the new kid in school, this generation’s Daniel — when he is being bullied by four high school assholes and later becomes his sensei. The ex-degenerate turns hero, the student now a teacher.

Soundtrack | 1. “Nothin’ but a Good Time” by Poison

2. “Head Games” by Foreigner

3. “Sirius” by The Alan Parsons Project

Politically Incorrect with Johnny Lawrence | When Miguel tells Johnny he has just moved into his apartment complex, he says, “great, more immigrants” and calls him “Menudo.”

Cobra Kai philosophy | “I’m going to teach you the style of karate that was taught to me, a method of fighting your pussy generation desperately needs. I’m not just going to teach you how to conquer your fears. I’m going to teach you how to awaken the snake within you and once you do that, you’ll be the one who is feared. You’ll build strength. You’ll learn discipline. And when the time is right, you’ll strike back.” — Johnny Lawrence




Best line | “It was an illegal kick.” — Johnny to Daniel, on his crane kick in their championship match

Best moment | When Miguel asks Johnny if he is going to be his karate teacher, Johnny says: “No … I’m going to be your sensei.” Cue the Alan Parsons Project and re-opening Cobra Kai dojo montage …

Coors counter | Five — Johnny finishes one when he wakes up before work, and there are four empties on the table as he watches Iron Eagle. He also mixes Jim Beam with RC Cola.

Cobra Kai business score | 1 / 10. Johnny re-opens the Cobra Kai karate dojo at the end of the episode.

Daniel LaRusso threat level | 0 / 10. Daniel is happy to see Johnny at the car dealership.

Scorecard | Johnny Lawrence 1, high school bullies 0

Analysis | Among my favorite television pilots of all time. It’s all exposition and backstory, but none of it feels like exposition and backstory. Telling the story from the supposed villain’s point of view is an ingenious approach to a sequel / reboot.
— Kevin Brewer

May 5, 2018

Tina Fey’s Saturday Night Live All-Star team

On this month’s episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman (Netflix), Tina Fey selected her Saturday Night Live All-Star team.

DAVE | If you were going to start your own group right now, with the people who have made names for themselves at Saturday Night Live, and you had to pick eight people, who would they be?

TINA | Oh, like an All-Star band to do a sketch show with … wow, let’s see … eight of them I get … living, dead, anybody …

Fey — the head writer on SNL for seven seasons and a cast member for six in the 2000s — picked:

MAYA RUDOLPH | 2000-07

Tina | She can do anything.

BILL MURRAY | 1977-80

Tina | I don’t know Bill Murray. Sometimes I’ve tried to meet Bill Murray, and I just get scared. I feel like he looks at me, and he can just smell how uncool I am.

AMY POEHLER | 2002-08

GILDA RADNER | 1975-80

JAN HOOKS | 1986-91

Tina | I guess we need a couple more dudes. …

WILL FERRELL | 1995-2002

PHIL HARTMAN | 1986-94

EDDIE MURPHY | 1980-84

May 2, 2018

Don Nelson’s All-Star team

Don Nelson is enjoying retirement. In Maui, Hawaii. Playing poker and smoking marijuana, with Willie Nelson and Woody Harrelson.

In an interview with the New York Times on Monday, the NBA’s all-time wins leader talks about finding out that he fathered a child on a road trip with the Celtics, visiting soldiers during the Vietnam war and growing his own marijuana. It’s called Nellie Kush.

In honor of Nelson, basketball’s mad scientist, the inventor of small ball, the master of the mismatch, this is his All-Star team:

STARTERS | Two players from the 1980s Bucks, two players from the 2000s Mavericks and Chris Mullin. No center, just lots of mismatches.

Forward | Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks [2002-03] 16.1 win shares

Forward | Marques Johnson, Bucks [1978-79] 12.2 win shares

Forward | Chris Mullin, Warriors [1990-91] 12.2 win shares

Guard | Sidney Moncrief, Bucks [1982-83] 13.2 win shares

Guard | Steve Nash, Mavericks [2002-03] 11.6 win shares

BENCH | Five perimeter players, including the league’s first point forward, plus Terry Cummings and the 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley. The Run TMC and “We Believe” Warriors are both here.

Guard | Michael Finley, Mavericks [1999-00] 8.3 win shares

Guard | Tim Hardaway, Warriors [1990-91] 9.9 win shares

Point forward | Paul Pressey, Bucks [1985-86] 9.8 win shares

Forward | Terry Cummings, Bucks [1984-85] 10.7 win shares

Guard | Baron Davis, Warriors [2006-07] 6.4 win shares

Guard | Mitch Richmond, Warriors [1990-91] 7.1 win shares

Center | Shawn Bradley, Mavericks [1998-99] 4.2 win shares

Rookie of the Year | Mitch Richmond (1989), Chris Webber (1994)

Sixth Man Award | Ricky Pierce (1987), Antawn Jamison (2004)

Most Improved Player | Monta Ellis (2007)
— Kevin Brewer