Well, that was quick. Daniel warned Chozen that Terry Silver would eventually get wise to their deception, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. “Long, Long Way From Home” set up an irresistible storyline with Chozen helping defeat Cobra Kai from the inside, but by the end of the aptly named “Molé,” everything is out in the open.
But let’s talk about how we got there. The episode begins with a flashback to Okinawa in 1972, as a young Chozen gets schooled about honor by his uncle Sato (last played by the late Danny Kamekona in The Karate Kid Part II). It’s basically a warning that the word “honor” is going to pop up 50 times in this episode. It comes up soon after when Chozen trains Tory as part of his job interview to become a Cobra Kai sensei. Still guilty about her illegitimate All Valley win, Tory hasn’t brought in her trophy, and Chozen can tell she’s troubled. When she asks him why he’s a sensei, he simply answers, “Honor.” Reflecting on the time he thought he lost his honor but found it again, he wisely says, “No one can take honor from you. Only you can take honor from yourself.”
Impressed by Chozen’s quick progress with Tory, Silver asks him about himself, and Chozen smoothly lays out his fake identity: his name is Jokichi Tatsuya, but people call him Joe, and he’s from Kyoto. Silver invites him to dinner and drinks at his house, prompting the third honor-focused conversation of the episode as he again reflects on his old predilection for lying and cheating. (The fourth is the dinner itself.) Terry may be a man without honor, but Chozen is an ex-man without honor, so he’s uniquely equipped to anticipate his tricks.
If there was any ambiguity about how well Chozen would fit in this ensemble, “Molé” should set minds at ease. Yuji Okumoto nails both the comedic beats and Chozen’s moments of wisdom, almost channeling Mr. Miyagi with a deep warmth beneath his impassive exterior. It’s promising that the show is already establishing other relationships for Chozen independent of Daniel, naturally connecting his experience in The Karate Kid Part II to the mistakes of the next generation (Tory). And it’s fun, as a fan of the franchise, to see the villains of two Karate Kid sequels connecting over dinner, relating over their rivalries with the same man. (Of course, Silver doesn’t realize they both mean Daniel.)
Unfortunately, just as Chozen seals the deal with Silver to learn his master plan, agreeing to be his right-hand man, he gives himself away: “Karii” is an Okinawan toast, exposing that Chozen isn’t actually from Kyoto. So Silver promises a job to whichever sensei takes Chozen down the next day. Unfortunately for them, Chozen effortlessly kicks all of their asses, going out with a badass threat: “No more expansion. No more senseis. No challenge Miyagi-do. Do not come near LaRusso family. You cross line, you will beg for mercy.”
It’s a little disappointing that season five cut this storyline so short, especially so soon after establishing these new relationships. But I have to think there’s a bigger plan for Chozen, and his large role in this episode is reassuring. Much of “Molé,” like the premiere, feels like clearing the deck for the real story of this season to get started: By the end of the episode, three of our remaining main characters are headed back from Mexico, bringing Miguel’s trip to an abrupt close.
It goes a familiar route: People keep warning Miguel about his dad being bad news, but he wants to believe the kindness and intelligence he sees are genuine. It’s hard not to be swayed by Hector as he sadly tells Miguel about the woman who left him before they could have kids — especially because it exposes Carmen’s lie that Hector knew about Miguel. “All of these things I missed out on because of you,” Miguel tells her on the phone.
But the real Hector starts creeping to the surface when he takes Miguel to an MMA fight, where he vaguely mentions the shady business dealings from his past. And he gets paranoid when Johnny and Robby come to find Miguel, setting off alarm bells with their FBI shirts (if only Hector’s crony had noticed the “Female Body Inspector” logo on the back!). It makes Hector suspicious of Miguel, and he interrogates him with a roughness we haven’t seen from him yet. He even demands to see Miguel’s phone, though he stops and apologizes just before he can notice a photo of Carmen.
Hector takes Miguel somewhere to lay low, nervous about the feds. (Johnny is keeping busy in a karate vs. MMA fight, which he almost loses — until Robby comes in with an assist, tossing him his leftover super-hot pepper to rub in the Wolf’s eye. Ouch!) And here, his true colors really come out. He claims that Maria is only after his money, and that people (women) are always after what’s yours. He angrily reflects on how Carmen and her mother didn’t let him do his job, insisting that he regrets nothing. That’s all Miguel needs to hear; outside, he calls his mom and apologizes, crying as he sees Johnny rolling up. “I’m okay, Ma,” he says. “I’m coming home.” His embrace with Johnny is easily the most emotional moment of the season so far, a long-delayed catharsis after the unresolved rockiness in their relationship late last season.
Perhaps Hector will make a surprising return later in the season or even in a later season; it’s a little unclear how complete Miguel’s storyline with his father is at this point. It does feel a bit abrupt how quickly it ends, with Miguel realizing his dad is exactly the man Carmen said he was — and presumably forgiving her for lying to him. But it’s a satisfying endpoint for now, and I’m glad Miguel will soon be back in the show’s main orbit again.
“Molé” feels like the second half of a two-part premiere, completing the Mexico mini-arc and integrating Chozen more comfortably into the cast. But despite the slight messiness, I remain optimistic about this season and the war it’s setting up.
Mr. Miyagi’s Little Trees
• Still no Demetri, Eli, Kreese, or Kenny.
• How about that cobra decanter in Silver’s house?
• Possibly the funniest moment of the episode comes after Johnny suggests they “shake the tree to get the apples.” “Or we could climb the tree ourselves,” Robby suggests. But Johnny immediately forgets the metaphor he just used, asking, “What does that mean? What tree?”
• The hot chili comes from a pepper-eating contest Robby entered to make enough money to get Johnny’s van back from the impound lot. I was about to call bullshit on his win until he revealed that he’d switched the chili with a piece of Mexican candy. It makes for a heartwarming moment of deep respect from Johnny, who says, “That’s about the most badass thing I’ve ever seen.”
• When Tory confronts Silver about his cheating in the All Valley, he freely admits to it. “It was an insurance policy,” he says, comparing what he did to stealing food for survival. He tells Tory that he’ll make her the future of the dojo if she stays, and sure enough, she shows up for class the next day. I have to think this isn’t the end of Tory’s crisis of conscience, of course.
• Farewell, for now, orange-y filter.