For all the balls the show has in the air right now, one of Cobra Kai’s most important relationships, if not it’s single most important, is the bond between Johnny and Miguel. While they’ve gotten along well this season, there’s something about their dynamic that feels fragile. During his time at the combined dojo, Miguel really connected with Daniel, and that posed a threat to Johnny. With Johnny breaking away from Miyagi-Do and refusing to listen to Miguel’s protests, I’ve expected the tension between them to fester. It’s not the best time for Johnny to break the news to Miguel that he’s dating his mom.
But “Minefields” is a lovely, necessary summation of Johnny and Miguel’s relationship up to this point, clearing the air by putting everything out in the open. Before Johnny and Carmen can even tell him, Miguel finds the truth out early by finding Johnny’s headband in his mom’s room. And when they sit him down to explain, he seems really understanding. Sure, he feels a little awkward, but he just wants them to be happy.
Of course, that could never last. Miguel’s support of the relationship was contingent on everything staying the same, but quickly Johnny makes it weird. He makes Miguel exempt from Eagle Fang’s latest brutal lesson on dirty tricks. He even ruffles the kid’s hair. The special treatment earns Miguel some ire from the other kids, and when Johnny mumbles his way through a forced dad moment that night, Miguel snaps. “Everything has changed,” he says. “It’s weird at class; it’s weird here. I’m over it.” It’s hard not to see what he means.
The next day, Johnny pulls Miguel out of school for an honest conversation. He admits he just doesn’t know exactly how to do “this,” the new-parent thing. When Johnny’s dad left while he was still in kindergarten, his new stepdad only made him miss his dad more. And Johnny never tried to find him and get closure because finding out why he left would be terrifying, even now. Instead, he projected all his baggage — the lack of male role models, the trauma of trusting a sensei and getting nothing but abuse in return — onto his own son.
The emotional high point of the episode comes next when Miguel acknowledges some things will inevitably change between them since Johnny’s dating his mom. “It feels kinda weird to say it out loud, but I don’t know, there’s also a lot of things that I want to stay the same,” he says. “Like you being my sensei.” “Yeah?” Johnny says, his relief palpable. “Yeah!” Miguel says with a tearful laugh. I may have teared up myself a little bit.
While Johnny has a good week connecting with students, Daniel’s struggling with his newest one. When he finds a Cobra Kai gi Anthony brought home, he decides it’s time to train him himself, believing the lie that it belonged to a kid bullying Anthony. The truth, of course, is that Anthony is the bully, though he continues to torment Kenny out of peer pressure and jealousy more than genuine malice.
As usual, Daniel’s first lesson involves cleaning the cars, with the added twist that these ones are covered in bird shit because he forgot to cover them overnight. (“Soap on, crap off,” he instructs.) But when Daniel comes home later that day, he realizes Anthony hired someone to come over and clean the cars. He angrily invokes Mr. Miyagi to guilt Anthony, but the kid is bold enough to say he doesn’t care what Mr. Miyagi would say. That’s basically sacrilege in this show, especially at that dojo, and Daniel walks away disappointed in his immature kid.
Anthony does eventually wander over to take a peek at Mr. Miyagi’s shrine, and he opens up to Daniel about his Miyagi-specific FOMO. He was too young to know the most important mentor in Daniel’s life very well before he died. Daniel tells a cute anecdote about Anthony kicking Mr. Miyagi in the face as a baby, and the two reach a mutual understanding.
Anthony seems newly inspired to start over with Kenny. But with some time at Cobra Kai under his belt, Kenny picks now to really fight back, taunting Anthony by calling him “LaPusso” twice. Anthony and his goonies chase Kenny through the halls, but Kenny leads them into a darkened library, then beats up both goonies. He would’ve kicked Anthony’s ass, too, if a teacher didn’t walk in.
When the LaRusso parents come in, they get the most disturbing news they could receive: Most of the time, Anthony has been the aggressor with Kenny. It’ll be interesting to see Daniel grapple with the revelation that someone from his own family could be picking on a smaller kid. But the stakes seem even higher with Kenny. It’s disturbing to see him lean into his aggression more and more; there was nothing fun about that library beatdown. He’s following a similar trajectory that Hawk did early in the show, and it’s thanks to Kreese and Silver’s instruction.
The two sensei of Cobra Kai have their own power struggles. Kreese conceives of a little competition in class: They’ll pit students against each other and bet on them, with a six-pack as the prize. In the end, Silver wins when his last pick, Kenny, knocks Robby on his ass by feigning injury to make Robby let his guard down. The lesson is that “what your opponent is thinking is key.” But Silver doesn’t get the last laugh of the episode; when Kreese comes to hold up his end of the deal, he brings up Vietnam and menacingly reminds Silver that he’s the boss, that Silver probably wouldn’t even be alive without him.
Silver’s latest lesson at Cobra Kai was about recognizing your opponent’s weakness; everyone has one, he says, even Kreese. But one weakness common to almost all the characters of Cobra Kai is an obsession with the past and paranoia over how they’re perceived. Johnny doesn’t want to be like the annoying stepdad who reminded him of the dad who left; Robby doesn’t want to follow the trajectory his dad’s life took; Anthony doesn’t want to look like a pussy; Silver doesn’t want to look like the cowardly “puddle of piss” from his war days. If there’s any hope of Daniel and Johnny defeating Cobra Kai, it lies in moving past those fears and seeing the present clearly, with a full understanding of what’s at stake.
Mr. Miyagi’s Little Trees
• New student Devon Lee gets a promising first day at Eagle Fang, kicking a row of boys in the balls one by one.
• At the end of the episode, Sam also shows up at Eagle Fang, wanting to learn both styles to take down Tory in the tournament.
• Xolo Maridueña has really grown as an actor, and he’s more believable than ever. His performance in that final conversation with Johnny really touched me!