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Cobra Kai Season 3 Confirmed Something We Suspected All Along

Ali Mills finally returned to the Valley in the final two episodes of season 3 of Cobra Kai after looming large over the show since the very first season. It's a moment that should be one of the series' most paused, because actress Elisabeth Shue's debut debunked some popular fan theories.

In The Karate Kid, "Ali with an I" essentially brings Johnny and Daniel together — as teenage rivals in karate ... and love. She had recently broken up with Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) in the 1984 film, and took a liking to new kid Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio). That put the Jersey boy in the crosshairs of Johnny and the entire Cobra Kai dojo, and helped Daniel land Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) as a sensei. So how was she expected to enter the conflict between the two dueling dojo masters in Cobra Kai?

Fan theories suggested Ali might join the action via a small-world coincidence that has become a pattern on the show. Thankfully, this time it wasn't the case.

Is Ali connected to Tory?

Peyton List's character debuted on the series as the badass fighter Tory, and introduced herself as "Tory with a Y" — which is remarkably similar to Ali Mills introducing herself as "Ali with an I" to Daniel in The Karate Kid. However, rather than being a hint as to Tory's parentage, Cobra Kai creator Jon Hurwitz revealed in a DVD set her name was an inside joke for Karate Kid writer Robert Mark Kamen. Kamen named Ali Mills after his daughter Ali (with an I), but he also has another daughter named Tory (with a Y), so the show writers decided to give her a little nod as well.

Meanwhile, The other popular theory surrounding Ali was that she would swoop in to save the paralyzed Miguel. It was established in season 1 that she is a successful pediatric surgeon, so she was theorized to be the perfect person called in for the job of patching up Johnny Lawrence's star student. For a moment in season 3, Johnny seems to even buy this theory as he lingers on the back of a mysterious blonde doctor about to operate on Miguel. As it turns out, Johnny is just as faked out as the rest of us, and we never get to see Dr. Mills' handiwork in the operating room.

Instead, Ali Mills' return is relatively mundane by Cobra Kai standards; she's simply home visiting family during the holidays. Yet, Ali's appearance still has a big impact on Daniel and Johnny.

Why is Ali's return so important?

In the first season of Cobra Kai, she brings the two men together as they bond over their memories of her. Daniel's revelation that he did a bit of Facebook stalking of her later inspires Johnny to send her a drunken message, and Ali eventually responds with a friend request at the end of the season 2. That sets the stage for her return in the third season (answering one of the series biggest unanswered questions) where she reunites with Johnny, and again brings him and Daniel together — this time as allied sensei.

She attends the country club Christmas party with Johnny as her guest, and she runs into Daniel ("with an L"). She delivers some tough-love advice to the squabbling men that they are more alike than they realize, and encourages them to do better. Her final word of advice is for Johnny to pursue a new future for himself. Ali's arc in Cobra Kai is especially powerful because, though she has likewise endured life challenges and is in the midst of a divorce, she represents a maturity often lacking with our Karate Kid legacy characters. She also provides another perspective on past events that differs from both Johnny and Daniel's skewed memories.

Rather than her being connected to another character, she has lived her own life, and evolved independently from the karate action that briefly dominated her high school existence. Good for Ali Mills, and good for Cobra Kai for zigging when everyone assumed it would zag.