If the last episode was this season’s thrilling shit-gets-real moment, “Ouroboros” is all about getting the gang back together. If they want a fighting chance at defeating Terry Silver before he can brainwash every kid in the Valley and beyond, the students who belonged to Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang will need to unite again. By the end of this episode, they’ve done just that.
The biggest obstacle, for once, is Daniel, who’s re-focusing on LaRusso Auto after Silver wiped the floor with him in the last episode. “It’s not our job to fight the monsters of the world,” he says, insistent that all this war has accomplished is putting more kids in danger.
This corner of the story makes for the best parts of the episode; for one, we get to spend a lot of time with Johnny and Chozen, an even better pairing than you’d expect. As they head to Cobra Kai to confront Silver, they can’t stop one-upping each other — first over which one did a better job making Daniel’s life hell in the ’80s, then over which of Daniel’s acts of generosity and/or badassery is most impressive. It’s hilarious to see the teenage villains of The Karate Kid and The Karate Kid Part II owning their past villainy and playfully roasting the franchise’s hero this many decades later, even if they’ve both grown a lot since then.
At Cobra Kai, Johnny and Chozen get a sense of just how much the dojo is expanding. Silver is buying out every other studio in the Valley, including Topanga Karate. (Shalom, Sensei Rosenthal.) And they meet the old friend Silver brought on to help out: no, not Mike Barnes, but Kim Da-Eun, the granddaughter of the legendary sensei Kim Sun-Yung. She brought the most formidable senseis from her dojang in South Korea, and they’re ready to teach Silver’s students the Way of the Fist to secure Kim Sun-Yung’s legacy.
Mr. Miyagi famously avoided fighting whenever possible, and Daniel’s initial refusal to move against Silver is well-intentioned. But Sam, who just went through a similar journey with karate, knows Mr. Miyagi would tell Daniel this is one fight he can’t turn down. So Amanda takes Daniel to the old Miyagi-Do studio, telling him the story of how Mr. Miyagi comforted her when she was terrified the night before their wedding.
Cobra Kai always comes up with new ways to keep the late Mr. Miyagi around, and it’s almost always very moving. “Ouroboros” is no different; Daniel’s reaction to the old dojo is easily the peak of the episode. And it’s all the more satisfying because Amanda is the one getting through to him. Just an episode ago, Daniel was ready to fight back by any means necessary, and Amanda was ready to be done with karate. Now the roles are reversed, with Amanda asking Daniel to fight again. But there’s no wheel-spinning going on here. It makes sense for both characters to flip positions like this, partly in reaction to each other’s needs.
Amanda and Sam get an assist from Robby, who learned so much from Daniel in season one and wants to pass on his teachings to Kenny now. When they open the doors to the dojo, Daniel is faced with his new class: the old Miyagi-Do and Eagle Fang students, including Miguel, Eli, Demetri, and Anthony. “So what do you say, Dad?” Sam asks. “Will you fight?”
While the good guys are assembling, we also get a first look at Kim Da-Eun’s vision for the rapidly expanding Cobra Kai. At first, ex-Eagle Fang (and now ex-Topanga) student Devon Lee is skeptical; she definitely doesn’t want to face Tory, who easily defeated her in the last All Valley (albeit with some help from the ref). But Tory actually teaches Devon a better way of hitting, and despite the rough fight that Kim forces them into, she’s swayed into staying with Cobra Kai to learn more.
It’s a funny time for someone to find real inspiration from Tory, whose place at Cobra Kai is more tenuous than ever. We get more context for her episode-ending conversation with Kreese, learning that at this point she’s really only there as a mole. (So we did get a longer mole story at Cobra Kai; it just wasn’t Chozen.) Kreese assures her that he has a plan to get out of prison.
We see him begin to enact that plan in “Ouroboros,” sucking up to the counselor who could get him out early with a good recommendation. But she sees right through his transparent attempts, encouraging him to sincerely look at his regrets.
We see Kreese and the counselor’s conversation play out through a series of hallucinations of the people who have haunted Kreese for years. First, he sees Betsy, the girlfriend who died while he was deployed. Then he sees Captain Turner, followed by Silver, followed by Tory. But easily the most notable appearance is an unsettlingly de-aged Billy Zabka looking somewhat like the Johnny Lawrence of The Karate Kid. Donning the same red Cobra Kai jacket he once did, this freakishly smooth Johnny tells Kreese that he hurt the same people he tried to create in his own image. “I wanted them all to be better than me,” Kreese admits.
“I know that you can be better than the person you’ve become,” the counselor tells him as he sees his younger self, a man who had such promise before he lost control. But while the episode does humanize Kreese a little, showing that he’s capable of regret underneath all the defensive overcompensating, there’s no real hope of him taking the counselor’s words seriously. Kreese does have a change of attitude at the end of “Ouroboros,” but it’s the realization that he needs to toughen up and stop pretending to be someone he isn’t. Instead of letting himself pretend to be the weak old man who can’t fight off his bigger cellmates, Kreese lays down the law, fighting off a gaggle of prisoners and establishing himself as the new boss. He even has them calling him “sensei.”
Let’s hope Kreese doesn’t start a prison riot. I’m not sure Daniel and the gang could handle another variable right now.
Mr. Miyagi’s Little Trees
• Amanda calls Silver a “walking oil spill.”
• Tory, who takes care of her sick mom, gains some empathy for Devon after she learns that her mom died of cancer.
• The Tory reveal also explains why she was so unwilling to listen to Robby at the water park. (She probably could’ve told her boyfriend the truth, though, right?)
• I understand why they had Barrett Carnahan return as young Kreese for the final fight, but I wish we could’ve seen more of the spry older Kreese fighting.