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The Karate Kid Line That Meant More Than You Think For Cobra Kai

It was a gag 35 years in the making.

During season 2 of Cobra Kai, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) reunites with three former members of the titular dojo, three guys that audiences met during The Karate Kid: Jimmy (Tony O'Dell), Bobby (Ron Thomas), and Tommy (Rob Garrison). The group reminisces about the good old days, wins a bar fight with some goons who won't leave the waitress alone, and eventually head into the mountains to camp.

It's a bittersweet reunion scene. The whole outing is taking place because Tommy has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the group is gathering to say its goodbyes. After a final heart-to-heart with Johnny, Tommy dies in his sleep while the group is camping. Paramedics come, and when the declaration is official, he is taken down the mountain to be buried. The final shot of the episode features Tommy, resting in peace, as he is zipped into a body bag.

It shouldn't be funny. It's a dead body. But for fans of the franchise, that one somber shot was enough to send them into hysterics.

Why Tommy was destined to end up in a body bag

Tommy was the member of Cobra Kai at the 1984 All Valley Karate Championship tournament who prefaces the final point in Johnny and Daniel LaRusso's (Ralph Macchio) bout by screaming the infamous line "Get him a body bag! Yeah!" and maniacally laughing as a limping Daniel makes his way back to his starting place. Tommy's line is heard mostly over shots of Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) and Daniel, but like many throwaway moments from the original film series, it's had a long afterlife, first thanks to the film's iconic status, and second thanks to Cobra Kai. Like so many other fan-favorite moments, Cobra Kai is bringing the body bag line into the 21st century.

As series creator Jon Hurwitz explained to Entertainment Weekly as part of a piece examining the show's Easter eggs, the joke is just about the perfect summation of their show. "When making Cobra Kai, our goal is to deliver a product that is impactful, earnest, and heartfelt like the original Karate Kid," Hurwitz said, "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."

How Tommy helps Johnny along his journey

To Hurwitz, the goal of bringing back the original members of Cobra Kai to the show was the same as revisiting Johnny and Daniel and the rest of the returning cast. The show aimed to round out their characters – to turn them into something more than the former teenage jerks they were in the movie. In so doing, Hurwitz explained, their return could push Johnny further along his path. "Many of us have had a friend who has passed too soon," he said, "making us take stock in the state of our own lives."

Once the show's writers decided to take that approach with the return, they knew who the perfect person would be. "We felt there was something poetic about making the 'get him a body bag guy' that friend for Johnny Lawrence," Hurwitz said, "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."

Unfortunately, now there is another, sadder layer to the shot that extends outside the world of the show. Rob Garrison died in 2019 after a long hospitalization with what Variety described as "kidney and liver issues." His appearance on Cobra Kai was his final acting role.