“Nature Vs. Nurture” begins to dole out Kreese’s backstory as Daniel and Johnny put their differences aside — but for how long?
This recap of Cobra Kai season 3, episode 2, “Nature Vs Nurture”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“Nature Vs Nurture” opens with a flashback to 1965 in the Valley, as we’re introduced to a pretty girl, Betsy, who is flanked by a couple of tough-guy jocks who aren’t so tough when the Army recruiter comes around to push them into enlisting to fight in Vietnam. But they’re tough enough to torment the dorky guy bussing tables, who we quickly learn is a young Kreese. Yes, we’re getting his origin story in Cobra Kai Season 3, as in the present day he gives a speech to the assembled Cobra Kai students, promising them they’ll strike back for what happened to Miguel.
Miguel, you’ll recall, is now awake, and the first thing he wants to know is where Johnny is. As it happens, he’s with Daniel looking for Robby. They go to visit a “mutual friend” at a hip New Age rehab facility, the staff of which think Johnny is checking in (“I’m no quitter.”) The mutual friend is Robby’s mother, Shannon, who is doing a lot better than the last time we saw her, and actually has some actionable information regarding her son. She says whenever he gets in trouble, “those dimwits” aren’t far behind — one looks like Chris Brown, the other looks “vaguely Latin”, and Daniel knows where to find them.
Meanwhile, at the Cobra Kai dojo, Kreese introduces the students to Clarence, a cute little mouse, and then insists that the timidest and most animal-loving student feed it to a snake. Naturally, this kid and several others object to this obviously sadistic form of training, and Kreese ejects them all, dropping poor Clarence into the tank himself. After, Hawk questions him about his plan, wondering if now is the right time to lose students. Here we see the beginnings of Hawk’s arc, which is a gradual disillusionment with Kreese’s barbaric methods, but for now, he goes along with the idea that they need to “strengthen their core” and determine a new champion in Miguel’s absence, someone with no fear and no mercy — he obviously fancies himself for the job.
Cobra Kai season 3, episode 2 has an on-going objective to humanize some of its more rough-around-the-edges characters, and among them is Tory, who we see struggling to keep the lights on while caring for her sick mother and being exploited by her landlord. This, we learn, is similar to Kreese’s upbringing. His mother was ill too once, with “a different kind of sickness” from which she never recovered. While he speaks to Tory at her apartment, we’re treated to another flashback in which he intervenes in the jocks slapping Betsy around. They fight and he wins, already being accustomed to fighting. This pattern repeats in the present day, with Kreese bullying another fake tough guy in the form of Tory’s landlord, threatening to cut his finger off with a cigar cutter. (This makes for a neat transition to Miguel cutting a sausage at the hospital.)
Daniel and Johnny go to see Robby’s former associates in prison, which makes for a hilarious good-cop-bad-cop routine that pairs nicely with their odd-couple banter in the car when Amanda calls and is faintly horrified to hear what they’ve been up to. At a gas station, they fortuitously run into the stolen Dodge Caravan and give chase, eventually pursuing the driver on-foot into a garage where they get into a fight with him and several of his friends. I hate to say it, but Ralph Macchio does not look good in the fight scenes, or at least not in this one. Afterward, he and Johnny get into it when Daniel thinks Johnny is going too far, and of course, their fight is dead even. They part ways less than amicably.
Meanwhile, Miguel’s recovery is on-going. The doctor talks to Carmen outside and the news doesn’t look good — Miguel sees her break down through the window. When Johnny arrives, having snuck in again, Miguel reveals that the doctor said he might never walk again. He’s angry that this is the consequence of showing mercy, as Johnny told him to.
When Daniel finally catches up with Robby, it’s back at the rehab clinic with Shannon. He’s looking rough and feeling bad, and he only feels worse when the police turn up to arrest him — Daniel has told them he’ll turn himself in. Robby obviously feels betrayed.
Back at the Cobra Kai dojo, Tory arrives for training — the issue she was having got worked out, as we saw. After another brief flashback shows Kreese kissing Betsy goodbye as he leaves for Vietnam, in the present day he lays out how there is no good or bad; your enemies think what they’re doing is right, after all, which is what the show has always been about on some level. He tells his students it’s time to strike back.
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