12 Karate Kid Easter eggs in Cobra Kai and the stories behind them
If you're one of the countless viewers who are just discovering Cobra Kai — the Karate Kid sequel series that recently moved from YouTube to Netflix — welcome! Created by self-described Karate Kid "superfans" Jon Hurwitz, Josh Heald, and Hayden Schlossberg, Cobra Kai is both its own ridiculously entertaining entity and a loving homage to the original films. The writers packed the first two seasons with a passel of Easter eggs, and now EW has the stories behind 12 of the most notable callbacks to Daniel-san's big-screen journey. Read on. (Read off.)
"Ace Degenerate" (Season 1, episode 1)
Easter egg no. 1: This episode includes footage of the original Karate Kid film fight scene between Daniel (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny (William Zabka) — plus never-before-seen footage shot for the 1984 film.
Exec producer Jon Hurwitz explains: One of the very first things we did when we sold Cobra Kai was ask Sony if they had access to unused footage shot for the original movies. They said they did, but the negatives were buried in salt mines far away and they had no idea what kind of condition they’d be in. Fast forward a few months later and it was like Christmas morning when we suddenly got an email with all sorts of unused goodies. This was especially helpful for us when putting together the very first scene of the show. We wanted to open with the iconic final fight from the original film, but show it more from Johnny’s perspective to help get the audience on board for his journey. Incorporating unused camera angles of Johnny and especially a close-up of him getting kicked in the face by Daniel’s famous crane kick really helped us achieve our vision.
Easter egg no. 2: The episode title is a reference to dialogue in the original Karate Kid movie.
Exec producer Josh Heald explains: Even though 99 percent of the audience never sees (or cares about) the title of an episode these days, we fall into that segment that really cares. The Sopranos and Breaking Bad immediately come to mind as two shows for which you’d see the title about a week out from air, without any context as to the story. It led to water cooler conversations — "What do you think 'Members Only' means? What is 'Ozymandias'?" When launching Cobra Kai, we decided our titles should be not only thematically linked to episode content, but sometimes nods to the original movies (or occasionally just snake verbiage). "Ace Degenerate" was a very easy title for us to settle on. The line of dialogue was used in The Karate Kid to describe Johnny during his introduction. Even though he wanted to change that opinion, the movie took him down a path that further cemented his status. Picking up with Johnny 30-something years later, the phrase haunts him — and highlights another tipping point in his life, where he has a second chance to change it.
"Strike First" (Season 1, episode 2)
Easter egg no. 3: Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) asks Johnny, "Hey Sensei, is there any particular way you want me to wash these windows?" Johnny replies, “I don’t give a s---."
Exec producer Hayden Schlossberg explains: It’s a callback to the particular way Daniel was told to "wax on/wax off." Johnny’s "I don’t give a s---" response to Miguel clearly distinguishes his teaching style from Mr. Miyagi’s.
"All Valley" (Season 1, episode 7)
Easter egg no. 4: The Golf N' Stuff date montage scene is almost a shot for shot duplication of the original scene from The Karate Kid.
Hurwitz explains: One of our favorite sequences in the original Karate Kid was Daniel and Ali’s (Elisabeth Shue) first date at Golf N' Stuff. It was during this date that the world really fell in love with them as a couple and we wanted to achieve the same for Samantha (Mary Mouser) and Miguel while paying homage to the movie. Since we mostly shoot in Atlanta, we had to get creative. To start, we used VFX to comp the spinning Golf N' Stuff sign from the original film into our exterior footage from our Fun Zone location in Atlanta. They have mini-golf at Fun Zone, so we filmed some Sam and Miguel mini-golf bits, like Daniel and Ali had in the movie. But our Production Designer, Ryan Berg, really stepped up his game by getting the same Super Chexx Hockey arcade game they used in the movie, as well as an '80s era photo booth for our young couple to take photos in. To top it all off and really hit the nostalgia bone, we used the song "Young Hearts" by Commuter, which actually didn't play in the Karate Kid date montage, but was heard later at Golf N' Stuff in the movie. Even though we swapped the songs, it still had the same effect. Whenever I watch that sequence in Cobra Kai, you can’t wipe the smile off my face.
"Mercy" (Season 1, episode 10)
Easter egg no. 5: When Daniel and Robby (Tanner Buchanan) go to Miagi’s house for the first time, we see a hint of Daniel’s yellow vintage car underneath the tarp.
Hurwitz explains: Without being able to write new lines for Pat Morita, we’re always reaching into the past for some Miyagi magic. The 1947 Ford is a big one. When we first saw The Karate Kid, we fell in love with that car, just like Daniel-san. A gift from teacher to student, that car symbolized Daniel’s transformation and was a character unto itself. At the conclusion of filming The Karate Kid, the producers gifted the car to Ralph Macchio, who has lovingly kept it all these years. When we mentioned that we’d like to use it for filming (as we did with his original headband and trophy), Ralph was very generous in sharing an iconic piece of movie history. I still get goosebumps every time I walk by the car on our stages. It feels like we stole something from a museum.
"Back in Black" (Season 2, episode 2)
Easter egg no. 6: Daniel asks Kreese (Martin Kove) how his knuckles are doing.
Schlossberg explains: This refers to an incident between Kreese and Mr. Miyagi in the parking lot after the All Valley Tournament in Karate Kid Part II. Kreese took a swing at Mr. Miyagi and missed. In the process, Kreese’s fists crashed through multiple car windows, leaving him with bloody knuckles. Knuckles are referred to often from Cobra Kai members — because when you screw up, you have to do pushups on your knuckles.
"Fire and Ice" (Season 2, episode 3)
Easter egg no. 7: Johnny describes the Cobra Kai snake the show uses at the end of each episode when talking about how he wants the end of his video to look.
Hurwitz explains: This moment is the ultimate inside joke for us. When we were originally making the show for YouTube, our initial instinct was to end each episode with a kickass needle drop that would play over the end credits like on The Sopranos, giving it a truly premium feel. But at the very last minute, we were told by YouTube that their viewers tend to click away immediately if given any dead space, so we needed to fill our credits with “Next On” Cobra Kai footage. To bridge the gap, we wanted to have something impactful that felt in the spirit of the show. We were on a deadline, so we all stayed late and were scrambling to figure something out. Luckily, our editor, Nick Monsour, quickly threw together that badass chrome end-snake and we all looked at each other and said, “I guess that works.” As time went on, the Johnny Lawrence in each of us absolutely fell in love with it, so when we had Johnny making his Cobra Kai dojo commercial, we knew he’d want to slap the same thing on at the end.
"The Moment of Truth" (Season 2, episode 4)
Easter egg no. 8: Kreese says, "One of my war buddies offered me a job..." It's a coy reference to a character fans met in The Karate Kid Part III.
Schlossberg explains: Kreese is most likely referring to Terry Silver, his fellow Vietnam soldier and toxic waste tycoon who financed Cobra Kai and played a co-antagonist with Kreese in The Karate Kid III. Fun Fact: Terry Silver got revenge for Kreese by making Daniel’s knuckles bleed. Once again, knuckles.
"All In" (Season 2, episode 5)
Easter egg no. 9: Kreese demonstrates a reverse chokehold on Johnny, a move he used on him for real in Karate Kid Part II.
Heald explains: In crafting the karate choreography, we try to stay as close as possible to the specific Cobra Kai or Miyagi-Do styles and personalize it for each character. Knowing that Kreese is capable of fighting dirty, as he did in the parking lot at the top of The Karate Kid Part II, it made sense that he would use that move to demonstrate a way to immobilize an opponent and give him very few options for recovery. We love when callbacks reach beyond props or dialogue, and actually extend into a character’s physicality.
"Take a Right" (Season 2, episode 6)
Easter egg no. 10: Johnny gets a call from Bobby, his Cobra Kai friend from the original Karate Kid. They visit Tommy, and meet up with Jimmy, all original Cobra Kais.
Heald explains: Sixteen episodes into Cobra Kai, we hadn’t seen evidence that Johnny Lawrence had any friends. His pre-Miguel "winning" personality didn’t help, of course. But why did he have no one with whom he could relate. Looking into the past to explore the shared trauma of Kreese’s 1980s Cobra Kai gave us an opportunity to reintroduce some legacy characters from The Karate Kid, while also continuing to peel back the onion for Johnny. As superfans, it was a trip to bring Ron Thomas, Rob Garrison, and Tony O’Dell back into the Cobra Kai world. Since the group has stayed close through the years, everyone brought an actual shared history to their performance. As we settled in behind the camera and watched the OG Cobras drink pitchers of beer and reminisce about the past, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between the dialogue we had written and their actual personal connections. Rob Garrison, in particular, hit an emotional home run as the dying Tommy, sharing his wisdom to help get Johnny back on his path. It was devastating to us when Rob passed away less than a year after filming. He was so thrilled for the chance to inhabit this character once again. In his last email to me, he wrote, "I’m so grateful and feel alive again." His performance made us all feel more alive.
Easter egg no. 11: The last shot of the episode is Tommy getting zipped up in a body bag, which is a nod to his character's famous line in the film.
Hurwitz explains: This "joke" perfectly encapsulates the spirit of our show. When making Cobra Kai, our goal is to deliver a product that is impactful, earnest, and heartfelt like the original Karate Kid, but also has a second humorous layer for anyone who both loves the franchise and enjoys the comedic sensibility we’ve shown throughout our careers. We’re firmly connected to the heart and emotion of the series, but we also think it’s kind of hilarious that we’re giving the Better Called Saul treatment to one of the most iconic bullies of the 80s.
Tommy’s "Get him a body bag!" is one of the most quoted lines from the original Karate Kid. It’s also a messed up thing for a teenager to yell from the sidelines of an under-18 karate tournament about a fellow competitor. When writing season 2, we knew we wanted to bring Johnny’s original Cobra Kai buddies back, but in an unexpectedly poignant way – giving depth to this two-dimensional former karate gang as Johnny Lawrence wrestled with serious life issues. Many of us have had a friend who has passed too soon, making us take stock in the state of our own lives. We felt there was something poetic about making the "get him a body bag guy" that friend for Johnny Lawrence, playing it all out in a genuinely emotional way, and then zipping him up in a body bag for the final shot, thus completing one of the darkest meta jokes of all time.
"Lull" (Season 2, episode 7)
Easter egg no. 12: This is perhaps the most deep-cut Easter egg of all. When Daniel takes the kids to a meat locker for training, the boxes are all labeled with "Fernandez Meats" stickers.
Schlossberg explains: The stickers suggest that the factory is owned by Freddy Fernandez, the kid with the "Makin' Bacon" shirt that Daniel LaRusso first meets when he moves into his Reseda apartment in The Karate Kid. So it would appear that Freddy ended up in the bacon business after all.
Cobra Kai seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Netflix.
Sign up for Entertainment Weekly's free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.