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."