The best part of this episode is definitely at the beginning. It starts with Daniel giving his kids a lecture about the inspiring nature of karate. “The reason we learn karate—” he starts, and just as we’re all about to roll our eyes as Daniel starts talking about fortitude, the perspective switches mid-sentence to Johnny in the park, “is to show the world you’re not a bunch of pussy-ass nerds,” he says. “The goal isn’t to hurt other kids, it is to—” and the perspective switches again to Kreese at Cobra Kai, “win at all costs.”
This round-robin is a great way to show the philosophical differences between the three schools of karate. Of course, we already know that Miyagi-Do stands for the high-minded ideals of integrity, strength, and self-defense. Cobra Kai stands for kicking the shit out of people no matter what. But what does Johnny stand for? This scene also solidifies his new philosophy. “Being a badass doesn’t mean being an asshole,” he says, adding that eagles aren’t the ones that get shit on, they are the ones that do the shitting. It’s a little bit contradictory, but he clears it up later: “I don’t ever want you to be the ones to start the fight, but I want you to finish it.” So it seems like being part of Eagle Fang is not about being the bullies, like it was in Cobra Kai; it’s about standing up to bullies and besting them if they are stupid enough to come for you. Naturally, I am a Johnny Lawrence partisan (and that only has a little to do with my crush on him).
Oh wait, maybe that isn’t the best part of the episode. Maybe the best part of the episode is when Sam and Miguel are having a minute to get reacquainted in the school hallway and reignite their feelings and they happen upon Dimitri and Yasmine sucking face in the hallway. We all knew this was inevitable, and I love to see Big D finally getting some of that hot, beret-wearing tail that he has long deserved. But there is no way Yas would have done this so publicly. When she’s caught by Sam and Miguel, she totally denies their relationship. We all know her well enough to know that if she was going to mack with him, it was going to be beneath the bleachers, in a broom closet, or somewhere no one in the school would see them. Considering all of these kids spend more time fighting than studying, they should have tried the library. I’m sure it’s abandoned.
No, no, wait. Maybe the best part of the episode is when Johnny is in the park and tells the kids to “take five. Get some water. But not from the fountain, I saw a meth head wipe his ass in it.” Or wait, maybe it’s when Johnny changes Ass Face’s nickname from Ass Face to Penis Breath. Oh, never mind, the best part of the episode is when Miguel’s mother Carmen comes over and is so inspired by how much Johnny has helped her son that she grabs his face and kisses it. Yes, Johnny Lawrence, after all of these years, is finally getting laid again. Of course when she kisses him, they bang into the wall and his TV falls off and smashes. That’s the thing with our man Johnny, every time something good happens, something bad happens too.
This episode has lots of fun moments like all of these, but as a whole, it’s like a package of ready-made ramen with a bit too much water in it. The substance was just all a little bit too gummy. The central conflict of the episode is that the City Council somehow canceled the All Valley Karate Tournament, even though I’m not sure a City Council has the jurisdiction to do so, nor would they really be interested in it when they have more important matters to handle, like changing the name of “manhole covers” to “maintenance hatches.” The argument is that after the big karate mêlée at the school, the city doesn’t want to cultivate the culture of rivalry and violence that they think karate symbolizes.
Daniel, Johnny, and Kreese all show up at the public hearing about the tournament, and you’d think it would be another way to highlight their different philosophical approaches to the same fight. Kreese is the only one who shows any savvy. He gets up and introduces himself as a retired Army captain and addresses the female head of the council as “councilperson.” He makes himself out to sound good and sane, because if there is one thing Kreese knows, it is how to speak to authority. It doesn’t matter if what he’s saying is a lie, as long as it looks good and leaves him in a position of power, that’s all that matters. Strike first and all that.
As soon as Kreese starts talking, Daniel challenges his authority and tells the council that Kreese is the one who is inciting violence and having his students break other kids’ arms. Then Amanda gets in on it and starts screaming that he’s a “piece of shit” from the gallery. Um, guys, all you’re doing is making Kreese look better and yourselves look like lunatics. Then Johnny tells the council that Kreese is poisoning his students’ minds and he should know because not only is he the president of the Hair Club for Men, he’s also a member.
This all makes me want to bury my head in the couch cushions and not come up until dinnertime, because we’re having tacos tonight, and I am never going to not show up for tacos. But what are these people even carrying on about? If they want the council to think that karate isn’t about fighting and righting stupid squabbles, couldn’t they at least agree not to fight to get their precious tournament reinstated?
Just when all hope is lost, Miguel shows up to tell the council that he’s the kid that was momentarily paralyzed by the school fight and he wants the tournament to continue. Sam comes down and is like, “Yeah. Samesies!” Miguel adds that there will always be bullies in the world, but karate will prepare them for taking them on. It will also give them confidence and a good work ethic and all that nonsense that Mr. Miyagi taught us was more important than doing spinning windmill kicks. (I mean, it is, but also being able to do a flying windmill kick would be pretty fucking cool.)
The tournament is back on and Miguel and Sam go to Miyagi-Do to celebrate the way all teenagers do: with cans of RC Cola. Seriously? They wouldn’t at least be vaping and listening to “WAP” or something? Just as their sparring leads to staring into each other’s eyes, Robbie shows up and ruins their moment. “Did you get together as soon as I went away or did you wait a week to make it look good?” he asks them. Um, no, Robbie. They had to wait at least several months while Miguel was, you know, in the coma you put him in by throwing him off a school balcony. Or did you forget that part?
The other big part of the episode is about Robbie’s rage. When he gets out of juvie, both Daniel and Johnny show up to take him home, and he leaves them both there because he thinks they’re both jerks. Okay, that’s cool and all, but Robbie isn’t 18 yet. Are they really just going to let him leave without an adult’s supervision? Where is he going to live? What is he even going to do with himself? He has to show up to see his probation officer, but where is he sleeping?
Speaking of probation, he runs into Tory there and she looks out for him but puts a seed in his brain that Sam isn’t as good to him as he thinks she is. Once he discovers her and Miguel getting frisky next to a koi pond, he’s officially mad at everyone in his life. That’s when he makes the big decision and shows up at Cobra Kai in the middle of the night to join up with Kreese. It makes sense that he could move in there, since Kreese is definitely sleeping in the back room as well. It’s like a shelter for karate masters experiencing homelessness. Kreese’s philosophy might fit in well with Robbie’s life right now, but hopefully he’ll see that it’s the Miyagis or the Eagles that will be better for him in the long run.