[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Cobra Kai Season 4.]If you follow the Cobra Kai news cycle in between seasons, you’ve likely heard about a Season 4 scene that Martin Kove “had a problem with.” While doing a panel at Planet Comicon Kansas City in August 2021, Kove explained that he and William Zabka had an issue with a Season 4, Episode 10 scene and decided to rewrite that scene themselves. They sent their version to the writers but ultimately, the decision was made to “just keep it the same.”
What scene was it? Now that Season 4 is available to watch on Netflix, Zabka was able to pinpoint the exact moment Kove was referring to during our recent interview. It’s the hallway scene at the All Valley Tournament.
The beat happens just after Samantha (Mary Mouser) scores her place in the girls final for Miyagi-Do and while Johnny is dealing with Miguel’s (Xolo Maridueña) possible tournament-ending injury, an exit that would eliminate Eagle Fang from the competition entirely. Johnny and Kreese bump into each other in the hallway and Kreese tries to convince Johnny that he had nothing to do with Terry Silver’s (Thomas Ian Griffith) attack at the old dojo, a plea that sounds shockingly sincere for Kreese.
As Johnny walks away, Kreese pivots to a fairly on-brand low blow. He says, “It didn’t have to be this way, Johnny. You could have been with me and your real son.” When Johnny insists that Kreese doesn’t care about Robby (Tanner Buchanan) any more than he cared about him back in the day, Kreese snaps back, “Bullshit. I cared more about you than anyone.” When Johnny revisits Kreese’s “funny” and inappropriate ways of showing that, Kreese attempts to excuse his past behavior by explaining, “You were down 2-0, and you were about to be beaten. And I knew that would take you into a downward spiral.” Kreese adds, “And I was right. Because no matter what people say, it does matter whether you win or lose.”
Kreese then suggests that by helping Robby win the All Valley, he’ll give him something that he’ll remember for the rest of his life and possibly even start him down the path of being in charge of Cobra Kai one day. Johnny refuses to accept the possibility and insists, “Tonight, Cobra Kai’s gonna die.”
So what really happened with this scene on set? What wasn’t quite sitting right with Zabka and Kove? Here’s how Zabka explained the situation:
“We were at Comic-Con and Marty he pontificated about it and made it a little bigger than it was. We gave notes all the time on scenes. So this is the scene at the karate tournament where Johnny and Kreese bump into each other and have a moment. And because there’s not so many of those moments for us throughout the season, we just wanted it to be right for both of us. We had so much more we wanted to say to each other. It was kind of our process as actors to get our subtext and to dig deep. You know, sometimes you re-write something or try to do something to purge it and meanwhile, you found these new notes and thoughts in your communicating. So it’s all part of the process. The thing is, in television, in this situation, we’re moving so fast that we don’t have months to prepare for these scenes, or weeks even. It’s days and sometimes the night before. So in this case it was short notice and we were just trying to find if we could massage it differently. It was a great experiment, and at the end it really helped the scene.”
While it does seem like a conversation I could have listened to for an entire episode’s worth of screen time, Zabka, Kove and the writers do end up with a finished product that’s compelling and also serves a number of storylines quite well. That moment is what leads Johnny to push Miguel a bit too hard in the next scene and it offers added insight into Kreese’s thought process. On top of that, the moment likely plays a part in Kreese refusing to encourage Tory to cheat and also might have influenced the tone of the conversation that Johnny has with Robby near the end of the episode.
Ultimately? When you have a show as well-layered as Cobra Kai with decades worth of history between certain characters, yes, you’re going to want longer, meatier conversations about major matters. But in the end, this scene accomplishes what it needs to while maintaining a swift pace in the 45-minute episode. So even on short notice, the massaging the team did paid off.
Griffith also discusses the motivation behind Terry’s Season 4 decisions.
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