I love when “Hawaii Five-0” takes us back in time. To a time when the rich and the very powerful used Honolulu as their personal playground, without fear of notoriety or major scandal. When Don Ho sang at Duke’s nightclub on Kalākaua Avenue and The Royal Hawaiian Hotel continued her reign as “The Pink Palace of the Pacific.” An idyllic time just a few short years before the Jack Lord version of the police procedural ruled the airwaves and Hawaiʻi became the vacation destination of anyone who owned a television. That change started to happen after people saw the beauty of our islands broadcast into their living rooms week after week.
Still, this week’s episode, “ʻElua Lā Ma Nowemapa” (“Two Days in November”), written by Sean Farina and directed by Maja Vrvilo, was not only a glimpse into the Hawaiʻi of the 1960s, but it was also a clever nod to the “mother” of all Conspiracy Theories — “Who Really Killed JFK?”
Of course, this was a perfect episode to bring our resident Five-0 Consultant, and still-practicing Conspiracy Theorist, Jerry Ortega (Jorge Garcia), on board to help McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) solve the murder of his friend Susie Freeling (Katie Malia). Susie is a fellow CT who has come to Hawaiʻi to continue her search for the truth behind JFK’s November 22, 1963 Assassination in Dallas, Texas.
For those of you who may not be maʻa (knowledgeable) about the JFK Conspiracy Theories — these are the ones I know off the top of my head — and a couple that Jerry references during the Five-0 team’s investigation.
LGT (Lone Gunman Theory): This is the theory that Jerry said that Susie did not believe — the idea that Lee Harvey Oswald, who is officially credited for killing JFK, shot the president from the Texas School Book Depository. We will never know if he actually acted alone because he was subsequently killed by nightclub owner Jack Ruby before he was brought to trial — thus creating a big black hole over the motive and rationale behind his actions.
The Grassy Knoll: This theory is that there was a second shooter standing on a grassy area in Dealey Plaza, a city park in Dallas, along the route of Kennedy’s motorcade. This is probably one of the more common or popular theories, but was not really discussed in the episode.
FBI, CIA or Mafia Hit: Other theories are that Kennedy was killed by J. Edgar Hoover because Hoover hated JFK because of his wealthy upbringing, as well as Kennedy’s desire to support the civil rights movement and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The other theory is that the CIA was upset about the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, as they wanted to kill Castro and invade Cuba. The last theory is that he was killed by the Mafia because they had helped to fund his presidential campaign and then he basically stopped returning their calls.
I know there are more theories, but remember — these were the ones I knew a little bit about because I loved watching “The X-Files” and the Mel Gibson/Julia Roberts movie “Conspiracy Theory.” I’m in no way like Jerry and his friend Susie who was investigating a new theory, one I had not heard of. This theory had to do with Kennedy’s own cabinet and members of his inner circle conspiring to have him assassinated. Jerry tells the Five-0 team that “most (of Kennedy’s cabinet) thought he was too soft on Communism. But Kennedy wanted diplomacy over force.”
Jerry’s friend Susie is sniper shot and killed while she and Jerry were walking outside the Honolulu Zoo, discussing her progress on her investigation. Ironically, her shooter set himself across the street from the Honolulu Zoo and stood in front of Teddy’s Bigger Burgers on Kapahulu Avenue (the show took down the signage that fronts the restaurant to give it a more nondescript look). It’s interesting because it reminded me of the “Grassy Knoll” theory.
McGarrett and Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) are a little unsettled at how freaked out Jerry is about Susie’s murder, and Jerry explains it off because he knows his reaction has to do with the fact that “Susie was going to crack the big one” and reveal to the world the truth of her theory.
Her theory involves the story that several members of Kennedy’s Cabinet, the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other high ranking officials (most unnamed in the credits of the episode except for Secretary of State Dean Rusk, played by Marty Ryan, and Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., played by Buz Tennent) convened at Camp Smith for a conference on Vietnam on November 20 and 21, 1963 — and during this time conspired to arrange the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
The team works the case as they would any other — perhaps a little harder than most, because they see how hurt and upset Jerry is, and want to help him. McGarrett goes as far as arresting FBI Agent Ward (Matt Battaglia) who is tasked in taking over Five-0’s investigation. Mainly because Ward messed up and let Susie be killed because of her investigation into — not the JFK theory, but a chemical company and their underhanded and potentially hazardous work ethic.
Actually, I’m not really sure what Ward did besides not intervening when Susie was killed in order to make his case against the chemical company, and making McGarrett mad enough to slug him. We got the reason Susie was killed via third party — which was probably an easy way to wrap up the case. All the time in the episode was spent replaying the 1960s — complete with Don Ho (Kahu Watters) singing at Duke’s, picturesque scenes of beach boys surfing in front of the classic Royal Hawaiian Hotel, as well as 60s suits, hula girls, fedoras, and people smoking in a restaurant.
Not that I am complaining. I loved the intrigue and the setup of the theory. I loved watching Jerry and Chin go around interviewing different locals who worked at the Royal Hawaiian and perhaps were privy to some of what happened those two days in November.
Fifty-three years is a long time. But for shoe shine boy Mauli Hoku (played by Hawaiʻi actor Kimo Hugho, who also acted in the classic “Hawaii Five-O”) he remembered the day Ambassador Lodge tasked him (a Young Mauli played by Hawaiʻi actor Kamehu Nihipali) to answer the payphone in the lobby of the hotel. And cabana boy George Sellers (Young George played by Hawaiʻi actor Benen Weir, with the older George played by Hawaiʻi actor Wayne Ward) who could recall the exact wording on the telegram Rusk received at the Mai Tai Bar. Both men helped Jerry begin to fill in the pieces of the mystery that Susie had been trying to solve.
I liken this to a mystery, because it really was set up like one. The pacing was well done, and I loved all the intrigue and the super secret spy details added — Rusk setting the telegram to burn, the hidden tape recorder in a cigarette case and lighter that Duke’s night club’s resident hula girl, Kamele Hale (Catherine Davis), uses to tape record the assassination conspirators, and the archival footage Jerry and Chin find at Camp Smith, a Marine Corps Base at the top of Halawa Heights. The footage is cared for by Shimura (played by Hawaiʻi actor Dann Seki) and after showing it to Jerry on an ancient film projector, they realize they need a lip reader.
Luckily, plucky nephew Eric Russo (Andrew Lawrence) can make his computer read lips, which helps Jerry realize that Susie really was onto something — until he and Chin find Kamele’s lost tape recording of Rusk and the cabinet members (Larry Wegger, Tom Holowach, and Don Pierce) discussing “Operation Mongoose.”
And his heart sinks. Because Jerry realizes that the “operation” they were organizing was not to assassinate Kennedy, but to kill Castro and end Communism in Cuba. I don’t think Jerry was upset that they actually solved Susie’s mystery, but that they solved the wrong one. He did not prove that Susie’s theory was correct. Perhaps he thought she died in vain, but really it was the chemical company who she was trying to get the FBI to investigate — who had her killed.
It was a bittersweet wrap up of the case, and one that ended rather abruptly for me. The episode really focused on Jerry this time around, and I really liked that, especially as it used a Conspiracy Theory that I think means more to people than UFO’s or government contaminated water or if we landed on the moon.
I also liked how everyone worked to help Jerry. Max (Masi Oka) figured out the trajectory of the bullet that killed Susie and the type of gun the sniper used, which gave Jerry’s theory that the government had shot her to keep her quiet, some weight. Lou (Chi McBride) and Kono (Grace Park) helped with evidence and Danno (Scott Caan) was particularly snarky as he supported McGarrett in his battle with the FBI. I also loved his talk with Lou about their children dating, which is a carryover from last week’s episode “Hana Komo Pae” (“Right of Passage”). Danno has grown a lot regarding his protectiveness of Grace, and I love the fact that he’s okay with Will dating his daughter. I didn’t really get why Lou was all happy about it last week, and now has “reservations.” Really? It just seems like the creation of this drama is forced. Lou is chill and Danno is usually not so relaxed about his children. So now Lou is not cool with the situation and Danno is? Let’s think of some other way to create tension and conflict.
As for the wrap up of this episode, I thought it was so perfectly poignant. To frame the theme of the two days in November, which changed the history and trajectory of our country, with the speech that President Kennedy gave on June 8, 1963 at the Honolulu Airport was a strong touch. Kennedy had come to Honolulu to speak to mayors from many U.S. cities about how black Americans deserved equal rights. He also, as McGarrett said, was the first president to pay his respects at the Arizona Memorial.
So when Jerry and McGarrett watch the video of Kennedy’s speech, and the line “this island represents all that we are and all that we hope to be,” he meant that he hoped that here in Hawaiʻi with it’s many ethnicities and diverse culture, that he could convince those mayors to support Civil Rights. I did not know that Kennedy had said this, nor that he had come to Hawaiʻi for this purpose.
As we all remember how his life ended and how much he fought for all of our freedoms — regardless of our differences. Sometimes all that we are, and all that we hope to be, is sparked by tragedy. It’s how we choose to react and change that makes all the difference.