Cobra Kai creator on the meaning behind that shirtless showdown
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Cobra Kai season 4.
Is there anything more exciting in the wide world of sports than the phrase "sudden-death overtime"? Actually, yes: The phrase "shirtless sudden-death overtime."
This season on Cobra Kai, it all comes down to the All Valley Karate Championship. Rivals-turned-allies Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) must defeat the malevolent Cobra Kai dojo — run by John Kreese (Martin Kove) and Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith) — or they'll be forced to shut their own dojos down.
With so much at stake, things are already very tense when Cobra Kai's star student, Robby (Tanner Buchanan), faces off against Miyagi-Do's Eli "Hawk" Moskowitz (Jacob Bertrand). Then comes the announcement that their match — currently tied at 1 point apiece — will be settled with a sudden-death overtime round. How could things possibly get any more dramatic? Well...
Yep. In a moment of very telegenic anger, Robby opts not to re-tie his gi, and instead rips it off completely. This prompts Eli to do the same — as a very befuddled referee looks on.
Adding the pectacular flourish was a way to "up the ante," explains Josh Heald, who created Cobra Kai with Hayden Schlossberg and Jon Hurwitz. "Going into that sudden-death moment, it was the idea of, How can you make a fight not [just] about three points? How can you make it different? How can you make it more aggressive?"
But there's more to Robby's decision than just bare-chested bravado. "The idea of a gi getting ripped — it's [Robby] almost saying, 'I don't care about the gi anymore,'" Heald continues. "It's kind of his first moment of shrugging off Cobra Kai in a way, before he even maybe fully realizes it."
Of course, it's also just very funny — especially when Eli flexes the hawk tattoo that covers his back. Says Heald, "Jacob got to rip his gi off, and then [we] throw the hawk sound effect on it — it makes us smile every single time we watch it. It just felt right."