Cobra Kai Season 3 Honors Original Karate Kid Cast Member Rob Garrison, Who Died in 2019
The first episode of the new season of Cobra Kai on Netflix concludes with a heartbreaking kick in the gut: a tribute to Rob Garrison, along with the years "1960-2019" and a note that reads, "Cobra Kai never dies."
Garrison, who played Cobra Kai student Tommy in the original 1984 Karate Kid movie and reprised the role in season 2 of the spinoff series, died on Sept. 27, 2019, after a month-long hospitalization due to kidney and liver failure. He was 59.
"Yesterday the world lost a beautiful soul and an incredibly gifted actor, and I lost one of my dearest friends," William Zabka, who portrays Johnny Lawrence, wrote on Instagram at the time. "Rob and I met when we were auditioning for Karate Kid. We instantly connected and became friends while filming the movie. Our friendship grew stronger over the many years since then."
"Rob was a true thespian — an 'actors actor,'" Zabka continued. "Working with him was always natural and effortless. He elevated every scene and moment inside of them. Outside of acting, he was one of the most selfless and wonderful human beings I’ve ever known and I will miss him immensely."
As Tommy, Garrison had one of the most memorable lines of the iconic '80s film: "Get him a body bag, yeah!" he famously shouted during the climactic fight between Johnny Lawrence (Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio).
When the actor returned to the role on season 2 of Cobra Kai in April 2019, Johnny and the rest of the original Cobras learned that Tommy had a terminal illness and broke him out of the hospital to give him one last good day — complete with a bar fight where the middle-aged former dojo-mates took on some twenty-somethings (and won, of course).
"Thanks everyone for your wonderful comments on my appearance in COBRA KAI," Garrison wrote on Twitter after the episode aired. "Makes me feel great. Had a wonderful time doing it."
Zabka remembered Garrison on Instagram on the one-year anniversary of his death. "Yesterday marked one year since we lost our brother & OG #CobraKai Rob (“Tommy”) Garrison," he said. "So grateful we had the chance to reunite the characters that brought us together so many years ago. He was extremely proud of this episode — and like a true Cobra he put his heart into it & left it all on the mat! His legacy will live forever... 'Cobra Kai Never Dies.'"
“This is a sad day for the Karate Kid / Cobra Kai family,” Macchio said in a statement at the time of Garrison's death. “Rob Garrison was a kind gentleman from the first day I met him to the last day we spoke. I am so glad he had the opportunity to show his range and genuine heart with his performance last season on Cobra Kai. His campfire scene in Ep 206 was truly one of my favorites of Season 2. My thoughts are with his friends and family.”
Garrison got his start as a child actor in the 1977 movie Starship Invasions. After booking Karate Kid, the actor went on to act on-and-off, appearing in series like The Munsters Today, Columbo, Coach, MacGyver and Homefront.
Cobra Kai is now streaming on Netflix.