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

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