Way back in 1984, the conflict between Cobra Kai leader Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka) and the eponymous Karate Kid Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) started with a girl: Ali Mills (Elizabeth Shue). The smart, funny teen caught Daniel’s eye as soon as he moved to town, and during the course of the first Karate Kid movie, the pair developed a romance. However, as Ali’s ex-boyfriend, Johnny became jealous of the blossoming relationship, and took out his frustration on Daniel with his fists.
During the famous final battle at the All-Valley Karate Tournament, during which Daniel took out Johnny with his famous crane kick in the movie’s triumphant climax, Ali cheered Daniel on from the sidelines, having clearly chosen which fighter to throw her support behind.
But in the next movie in the franchise, a dejected Daniel explained to his mentor, Mr. Miyagi, that Ali had left him for a college boy. And until Cobra Kai, that was the last the audience ever heard of her.
In the first season of Cobra Kai, we learned that Daniel had long since moved on from his first love, and is now happily married with a couple of kids. Johnny, on the other hand, is stuck in his past, with memories of Ali still making their way into his thoughts. He even tells his first karate student, Miguel Diaz (Xolo Maridueña), about her, painting Daniel as the villain who got in the way of their love.
In the second season, Ali comes up again multiple times, with Johnny referring to her at one point as “the one that got away.” In a rare friendly moment, Daniel shows Johnny how to find Ali on Facebook, and the two note that her name is now “Ali Mills Schwarber” – she’s married, with a successful career as a doctor. In every way, she seems to have a perfect life, with a handsome husband to boot.
Eventually, Johnny, whose technology skills are lacking, ends up accidentally sending her a message on Facebook.
During the season two finale, Johnny throws his phone on the beach in frustration over Miguel’s accident. Because of this, he misses a strong clue for the audience: his phone lights up, with a friend request from Ali.
So, will Ali return in the new season of Cobra Kai? The Cobra Kai cast has remained tight-lipped, but bringing her back could be a great way for Johnny to face his old demons and could possibly even create more tension between him and Daniel. In addition, many fans of the original movies would be thrilled to see Ali back onscreen, to see the kind of woman she became.
Is Tory Ali’s daughter in Cobra Kai?
There’s one more fan theory floating around that could give an interesting angle to a potential Ali appearance. Some fans have speculated that Tory Nichols (Peyton List), another of Johnny’s students, could be Ali’s daughter. Tory has her own version of Ali’s famous “Ali with an I” quip, and relatively little was revealed about her background in the first two seasons.
That said, this theory, while interesting, likely won’t prove true. Tory’s last name doesn’t match either of Ali’s known last names, and we know that Ali still lived in Denver (according to Facebook) during the second season, while Tory is living in California with the rest of the Cobra Kai crew.
Whether there really is a Tory/Ali connection, or whether Ali will show up at all, remains to be seen. But hopefully these answers will be revealed in Cobra Kai season three, premiering on Netflix in January 2021.