Greetings and bienvenue, all.
In this installment of my Telly Talk Today series, I’ll be reviewing Cobra Kai: Season 5, Episode 3, “Playing with Fire.”
First things first, though.
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With that in mind and without further ado, as follows is my review of Cobra Kai: Season 5, Episode 3, “Playing with Fire.”
*BE WARNED: MILD TO MEDIUM SPOILERS FOLLOW*
• SUMMARY •
Upon returning from Mexico, Miguel plans to make amends with Carmen, his grandmother, and Sam for having run off. He starts by making breakfast for Carmen, his grandmother, and Johnny. After breakfast, Carmen tells Johnny that she thinks she may be pregnant. Fearing failing Carmen’s baby like he failed Robby, Johnny grows nervous and gets advice from the internet on how to prepare to take care of a child. He goes through an arduous process of making his apartment baby-friendly and attempting to prove his worthiness to a less-concerned Carmen. And after it all, he learns that Carmen actually is pregnant.
Meanwhile, Miguel thinks that Sam wants to break up with him. He solicits advice from Eli and Demetri regarding how to win her back, eventually buying an expensive necklace to give to her.
Sam, Yasmine, and Moon go on a spa day to help Sam figure out who she really is. Sam enters a sensory deprivation tank in an attempt at self-discovery and finds herself confronted by memories of her past and the many people who have expectations of her.
Miguel and Sam later meet up at Miyagi-Do, where Sam tells Miguel that she needs a break from both karate and him in order to discover who she is outside of the many complications that have arisen for her because of karate and their relationship.
Daniel and Chozen spy on Silver’s old patsy, Mike Barnes, after deducing that Silver will call upon old friends for help with his new plans for Cobra Kai. Daniel and later Chozen instigate fights with Mike and several of Mike’s perceived confederates, only to discover that Mike is a changed and better man who now owns a furniture store and whose perceived confederates are his honest employees. Mike apologizes to Daniel for his mistreatment of him during and before the 1985 All-Valley Tournament and says that Silver once made a contract with him to beat Daniel in the All-Valley and torture him in exchange for an ownership stake in Cobra Kai. Daniel, who believes that public knowledge of this contract would ruin Silver and Cobra Kai, asks Mike for his copy of the contract. Mike explains that he no longer has it but that Silver’s former attorney might, and he gives Daniel the attorney’s number.
Silver, however, learns that Daniel attempted contacting his former attorney and confronts Daniel in a sauna to tell him that he will retaliate.
Mike later returns to his furniture store, only to discover that Silver has arranged to have the place burned down.
• MY THOUGHTS •
o The opening argument between Daniel, Chozen, and Silver (and Silver’s final threat to Daniel in the sauna) was likely meant to be deep but came off instead as downright hilarious. In almost any other show, the prospect of watching middle-aged men argue like first graders over their stakes in a kids’ sport would be an immediate red flag. Of course, this is the Cobra Kai universe, where karate isn’t so much a pastime as a religious way of life. So, in the context, it works—but in a manner that’s more comedic than dramatic.
o Last episode’s hasty resolution to the Mexico storyline left me disappointed. The fact that that storyline was hardly even referenced in this episode (except as a catalyst for Miguel’s attempts to beg forgiveness mainly from Carmen and Sam) only disappointed me more.
o Johnny’s failure to understand anything beyond 80s rock music remains one of Cobra Kai’s most entertaining running jokes. I laughed out loud at his failure to grasp that it actually is a crime to deface property, his failure to understand how a woman’s being “late” is often a symptom of pregnancy, and more.
o The Sam/Miguel tension fueled by their own miscommunications was the most annoying part of this episode because we’ve been there SO many times before. The drama of their overanalyzing their own and each other’s texts with interpretive advice from their friends was just cringey. Also, they’re apparently now broken up again—for, I believe, the billion and first time. I would’ve REALLY preferred avoiding yet another retread of this storyline, but c’est la vie. And hey. At least their breakup was handled with something slightly resembling maturity this time—and happened after Sam had an honest discussion with Miguel about just what she wants from life at this point. Miguel’s understanding of where she was coming from and his straight-up respect for her decision was a satisfying change of pace from previous seasons.
o I have long believed that Daniel himself is in many ways the ultimate villain of Cobra Kai. Right from the start, Daniel has basically been the only one who has militantly refused to simply let the past be past—be that antagonizing Johnny or restarting the feud with Kreese or doing the same with Silver. In this episode, he leads Chozen into tracking down and attacking Mike Barnes due to believing that Barnes is working with Silver. Their fight—which is both highly entertaining and overwhelmingly stupid—is brought on by another of Cobra Kai’s patented miscommunication situations. But Daniel bears most of the blame for, ironically enough, striking first and refusing to assume anything but the worst with regards to Barnes.
o If Daniel is an ultimate villain, then Sam is a close second. Ever since Season 1, she has remained the most annoying, spoiled, whiny, and anal-retentive character in this show. Credit where it’s due: Mary Mouser is a great actress who brings a solid genuineness to Sam’s struggles and feeling of inadequacy for losing to Tory at the All-Valley Tournament. But Sam’s issues themselves reek so badly of First-World-Problems Syndrome that it’s hard to ignore. And her end-of-episode decision to break up with Miguel and quit karate yet again just feels over the top and insensitive on her part.
o Chozen’s portrayal of the domesticated, honorable, yet lethal Japanese assassin remains endearingly hilarious.
o This is nitpicky, but where did Johnny get enough money for the total renovation of his crap apartment in preparation for a baby? Previous episodes have established his ongoing financial troubles, so I’m left wondering how he managed to afford a complete makeover of his living quarters so fast.
o What the HECK possessed Daniel into believing that public knowledge of Silver’s old contract with Mike Barnes from the 80s would be a perfect smoking gun to ruin Silver and Cobra Kai almost forty years later? I’m not following the logic there. It’s not like the contract involved murder-for-hire or any other patently illegal behavior.
o So Silver has apparently burned Mike’s store down in retaliation for Mike’s helping Daniel. While the ending is a clever play on the episode’s theme of playing with fire, it is also a total headscratcher. Arson is an actual CRIME, and it’s hard to understand why Silver would put himself at risk of possible arrest just so that he can essentially mess with Daniel.
• BRASS TACKS •
“Playing With Fire” is another strong episode that is slightly weighed down by its wearying focus on Sam/Miguel drama and the over-the-top misunderstanding and fight involving Daniel, Chozen, and Mike Barnes.
• MY RATING •
I give Cobra Kai: Season 5, Episode 3, “Playing with Fire,” four cronuts out of five.