Why Was Tommy Killed Off in Cobra Kai?

Tommy The Karate Kid

YouTube Rob Garrison plays Tommy in 'The Karate Kid.'

In the 1984 martial arts film The Karate Kid, the late actor Rob Garrison portrayed  Cobra Kai team member Tommy. While Johnny Lawrence (William “Billy” Zabka) and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) face off during the 1984 All-Valley Tournament, the character excitedly shouts “get him a body bag.”

During a 2018 Sports Illustrated interview with the cast and crew of The Karate Kid, Garrison revealed that he had come up with the line. He told the publication:

My famous line, I never said that while filming. I looped that in two months later. I was in the recording booth with John [Avildsen the director of The Karate Kid] and he said he needed two seconds of something. I said, ‘Get him a body bag!’ on the first try. John said, ‘That’s going to be a classic. You’ll never be forgotten because of that line.’

Tommy Died During the Second Season of ‘Cobra Kai’

Johnny and Tommy Cobra Kai.

YouTubeTommy (Rob Garrison) and Johnny (William Zabka) share a moment in “Cobra Kai” Season 2, Episode 6.

Garrison returned to the Karate Kid franchise for the second season of the acclaimed series Cobra Kai. In Season 2, Episode 6, titled “Take a Right,” his former Cobra Kai teammates Johnny, Jimmy (Tony O’Dell), and Bobby (Ron Thomas) visit him while he is in hospice.

The friends go to Big Bear and reminisce over their high school experience while at a bar and eventually go camping. While sitting by the fire, Johnny discloses that he still longs for his ex-girlfriend Ali Mills (Elisabeth Shue). Tommy responds to his confession by saying, “you’ve still got one thing that is more important than anything, Johnny… time … [to] meet someone new, change your life.”

In the morning, Tommy passes away, and an ambulance arrives. A paramedic checks his vitals and shakes his head. The former Cobra Kai student is “last seen being zipped up in a body bag,” as reported by Yahoo! Entertainment.

The Show’s Co-Creator Explained Why Tommy Died on ‘Cobra Kai’

While speaking to Entertainment Weekly in September 2020, Cobra Kai‘s co-creator Jon Hurwitz explained why the writers decided to kill off Tommy.

“Tommy’s ‘Get him a body bag!’ is one of the most quoted lines from the original Karate Kid… We felt there was something poetic about making the ‘get him a body bag guy’ that friend for Johnny Lawrence, 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,” said Hurwitz.

Like his character, Rob Garrison passed away. According to TMZ, he died in September 2019 after he was hospitalized for “for over a month dealing with kidney and liver issues.”

In January 2021, Garrison’s friend and co-star William Zabka clarified to Yahoo! Entertainment the actor was in good health during the production of “Take a Right.”

“He was not sick when we were filming that episode. He was such a supporter of the first season. He was just thrilled that he was invited to come back and play Tommy in the condition that Tommy was in, to put him in a body bag. I thought he might have a hard time with that but he did it with his whole heart and he loved every second of that,” explained the actor. 

He went on to say that Garrison “got sick later.” 

“It was in a way some kind of serendipity. But he had a chance to put his last Tommy out there and lay Tommy down the way he would’ve wanted to as an artist. And he was beautiful in that, so it’s a tribute to him,” said the 55-year-old. 

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