“Hawaii Five-0” often makes us wonder how far we would go in order to save the people that we love. In the last seven seasons we’ve watched the Five-0 team basically break all the rules — and several laws — to save their ʻohana from prison, torture chambers, and the imminent clutches of death. Yes, I understand it’s a television show and most of the time, our own family members don’t have to go through such extremes to show the ones they love how much they care. Still, I think the reason why we continue to watch the show is that we can relate to this level of commitment to our loved ones — even if the circumstances are as fantastical as the ones Five-0 experience.
Yet, when the team saved McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) from spending the rest of his life in prison for murdering Governor Jameson; from being tortured to death by Wo Fat (twice!); and rescued him from being beheaded by the Taliban — we were right there with them. When they worked together to release Danno (Scott Caan) from a Colombian Prison; flew in just in time to free Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) from a prison riot in Halawa; and helped stop the Yakuza assassins from chasing Kono (Grace Park) and Adam (Ian Anthony Dale) all through Asia — we cheered them on and shed a few tears at the proof of their love of ʻohana.
Sure, there are many other times the team has come together to save their friends. Danno even gave up part of his liver to save Steve; Adam sacrificed himself to the Yakuza to save Kono (twice!); and Chin lost his beloved wife in part to save his cousin. While many of the situations have brought the team members back together, this week’s episode titled, “Kāʻili aku,” causes the team to put it all on the line to save Chin’s little niece Sara (Londyn Silzer), who has been kidnapped in Mexico.
Before I go into the details of the super tense, action packed episode — written by
Matt Wheeler and directed by Jennifer Lynch — I have to deconstruct the Hawaiian title. Granted, I understand where the title comes from, but the Hawaiian is a little misleading.
This week’s title is supposed to mean “snatchback” which relates to the story of Chin and the Five-0 team traveling to Mexico to rescue Sara. She has been kidnapped, or snatched, so the title connotes the team’s efforts to “snatch” her back from the kidnappers.
In Hawaiian, “kāʻili” means “to snatch, grab, take by force, seize, or abduct” which works with part of the title’s translation, but the word “aku” is a word that is meant to express “direction away from the speaker” — meaning something going away from someone. So the second part of the title doesn’t work. “Aku” is distinct in meaning something going away — not coming back.
A snatch back — especially in this episode — means something coming back to someone. The better word would have been “kū” meaning “to stand, stop, halt” — which in essence means you have “stopped” the snatch. The term “kāʻili kū” means “to snatch away ruthlessly” which would be exactly what the team means to do when they head out to save Sara. To snatch her away from the kidnappers, and bring her back to the people who love her.
Still the idea of the “snatchback” worked perfectly for the episode, despite the Hawaiian language misnomer. From the moment Chin finds out that Sara has been kidnapped away from her Aunt Maria (Diana Chavez) and Uncle Jorge Morales (Felix Solis), he and the team race to Mexico to negotiate with the kidnappers, as well as the local drug boss Raphael Ramirez (Manny Perez), and dirty cop Detective Quintanilla (Ernie Lopez).
I really appreciated all the twist and turns as the episode. As the storyline was already tension filled, it was still fun to watch the episode move from what you think is going to happen to another intricate plot point. Each time I thought I knew what was going to happen, the plot made a 180 and headed in a completely new way.
The idea that Sara is a pawn for the Diego Cartel to capture Five-0 was pretty slick, as so many times before — I did not see that one coming. In the last few episodes, the setup has been that Sara’s Uncle Jorge is working with the cartels, but when the team arrives in Mexico, hours after Maria calls Chin to break the news to him that Sara has been kidnapped, they find that Sara’s new parents are hardly the drug cartel henchmen Chin suspected they could be.
Maria calls Chin during a big party the team and his friends have thrown for his birthday, and Chin tears out intent on getting on a plane headed for Mexico to save the little girl. McG stops him and tells him they are behind him “1000 percent” but they have to be smart about their next move.
I loved McG’s line, this commitment to their friendship and their ʻohana. It speaks volumes that they will drop everything to support Chin. Of course, this is nothing new. They’ve taken off to North Korea, Hong Kong, Canada, Colombia — to name a few places — to save their each other.
Yet when they arrive in Juarez, where Sara lives with Maria and Jorge, the team has to not only figure out who has kidnapped Sara, but who is on their side. Luckily, they do have a US DEA Agent to help them, Agent Navarro (Maximiliano Hernandez) who guides them through the way to do police work in Mexico. And no surprise, it’s not like working in Hawaiʻi.
McGarrett uses his SEAL bravery to demand the help of Raphael Ramirez, the de facto Don of Juarez, to help him figure out who took Sara. We all love when McGarrett bucks every piece of advice, and sometimes even the rules of common sense, to get what he wants.
O’Loughlin often plays this role with a mix of bravado and humility — as if he knows he needs to be bold, but that he cannot be arrogant. He realizes that there is a fine line between confidence and condescension and if he doesn’t stay balanced — it could get very dangerous. It’s a smart way to play McGarrett, and another reason why O’Loughlin makes way-out-there unrealistic scenes work for the character. When McGarrett walks into Ramirez’s hacienda, sits down to breakfast with him, gathers his intel, and walks out alive — if you know the Spanish word for a man with large stones, well, that would describe McG perfectly.
Kim also does another stellar job at channelling a strong father figure when it comes to little Sara. Chin is so heartbroken to find out that Sara has been taken, and then when he faces hurdle after hurdle to get her back, the look on his face is devastating. Yet, when he turns and uses his own method of determination to get the answers he wants — he is fierce and frightening. The chemistry between Kim and Londyn Silzer is terrific. She’s a little darling, but more than that, she really plays well off of Kim, and likewise, Kim shines in scenes with her as well.
Really, the entire episode was about friends taking the bull by the horns, and shaking every ounce of strength, will, tenacity, and courage out, in order to get Sara back. It made the plot twist make even more sense, as it is a former enemy that wants revenge against Five-0, who has taken Sara in order to get payback. The head of the Diego Cartel, Carlos, wants the team to pay for killing his brother, Juan (Victor Ortiz) — the drug dealer who Kono shot after popping out of a duffle bag in “He Moho Hou” (“New Player”).
Sara is a pawn — and Uncle Chin wants to pay the price. The conversation Chin has with Kono, about always putting the ones they love in harm’s way — was both touching and frightening. And it made the ending come full circle. The fact that Chin will sacrifice himself for his niece — Malia’s last remaining descendant, makes perfect sense. He’s tired of losing people he loves to the demands and evil that taints his job, and that means he will free Sara and take her place.
At this time of year, it is telling when a man sacrifices himself for his friends. The metaphor is one that should be a reminder that when you are surrounded by love and family, the sacrifice is easy. Chin has set this up so that the team knows he understands he is not coming back. He says goodbye to Sara and Kono, and he says goodbye to McGarrett and the team by leaving his badge behind. The only thing left is for the team to come through and save him — and that I have no doubt will happen — just not until the new year. Thank you, “Hawaii Five-0” for leaving us hanging until January.
But there is no doubt we’ll all be back to see how Chin fares and how the team comes to rescue him. They won’t let Chin take one for the team by himself. Not by a longshot.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
The episode starts off on a happy note with Chin’s birthday celebration, complete with the entire Five-0 ʻohana attending — Sgt. Duke (Dennis Chun), Max (Masi Oka), Pua Kai (Shawn Thomsen), Cousin Flippa (Shawn Mokuahi Garnett), and Danno’s kids, Grace (Teilor Grubbs) and Charlie (Zach Sulzbach) are all there to celebrate Chin’s birth.
I loved the video slide show of Chin Ho Kelly baby pics and video messages from friends who could not attend the bash. Sang Min (Will Yun Lee) made us laugh by getting in an aloha to “Cousin Spicy,” and Uncle Choi (George Takei) and the Dog (Duane “Dog” Chapman, playing himself) also send him their birthday wishes. Thankfully, Kamekona (Taylor Wily) pronounced “Hauʻoli lā hānau” correctly for everyone after the video was shown. “Hauʻoli lā hānau” means “Happy Birthday” in Hawaiian, and is pronounced “How-oh-lee LAH Hah-now.”
“Hauʻoli” means “happy, glad, gay, joyful”, “hānau” means “to give birth or born”, and “lā” means “day.” Put it all together and it means exactly what Uncle Choi and the Dog tried to say to the much loved Chin during his birthday video.
If you didn’t already figure this out while you watched the opening five minutes of the episode — the pictures of Chin in his birthday vid were actual pictures of Daniel Dae Kim, who confirmed this via his Twitter account on Dec. 14. Kim definitely was a darling baby, an adorable toddler, and a great looking teenager. The picture of him in the football uniform are from stills created for the season four episode “Hoʻi Hou” (“Reunited”) in which Chin and Jerry attend their Kukui High School reunion and revisit old yearbook photos from their football, band, and mathlete days.