Good drama always starts off with a great conflict, and “Hawaii Five-0” often creates a strong story based on real moments of historic tragedy. Their last season seven episode, “Ka laina ma ke one” (“Line in the Sand”), was a fine example of their ability to mix the history of Hawaiʻi with more contemporary issues. They have worked very hard to incorporate a strong focus on Hawaiian history into every season, and this seems to have made viewers around the world even more interested in Hawaiʻi and all that is Five-0.
Perhaps after seven seasons their writing and production team are comfortable enough with using the history of their unique setting, without offending or showing an incorrect or incomplete story. They may run out of time to give us all the nitty gritty about a topic– it’s just an hour long show, folks– but they usually succeed in presenting Hawaiʻi as accurately as possible within their allotted time.
I really think that it is this mix of history with the issues of today, that helps to make this week’s episode, “Ka Pāʻani Nui” (pronounced Kah Pah-ah-knee New-ee), written by Helen Shang and directed by Bryan Spicer, another exceptional representation of how “Hawaii Five-0” continues to produce episodes that inform as well as entertain.
I suppose “inform” is kind of a weak way of putting it. I personally love how the Five-0 production team tries to tell more than just a story about McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and his team of merry crime fighters. Sure, the show is about McGarrett’s journey as our hero; his relationship with his brothers Danno (Scott Caan), Chin (Daniel Dae Kim), and Lou (Chi McBride); as well as his mentoring and care of Kono (Grace Park). But the show seems to seek an even deeper message by revealing the story of Hawaiʻi through several of their plotlines. And McGarrett often is the one to deliver the real story of Hawaiʻi– which makes him an even stronger representation of great hero.
This week’s episode focused on telling the tragic story of Kalaupapa, as well as the devastating effects of the Holocaust on two families. I found the case that brought the two topics together pretty fascinating for a police procedural.
Not that I am surprised. “Hawaii Five-0” often takes on topics that critics would never give the show and its production crew credit for. And I think I understand why this sometimes happens. It doesn’t really have to do with the storyline that propels the episode, but perhaps the secondary plotlines that are sometimes a little too silly for the overarching theme.
For this week’s episode, “Ka Pāʻani Nui” translates into “Big Game,” a theme that is a strong thread throughout the show. The team finds themselves investigating two deaths– infamous big game hunter, Sam Harrison; and Leia Rozen (Angela Galvan), a woman from New York who came to Hawaiʻi to volunteer at Kalaupapa.
Both victims were “fished” out of the ocean. Sgt. Duke (Dennis Chun) tells Lou and Kono that the Harbormaster found Harrison hanging like a prize marlin, and Lou informs them that he found Harrison via Will (Chosen Jacobs) and Grace’s (Teilor Grubbs) social media feeds. Seems as if Harrison’s death could possibly be a message from an animal rights group– especially those who work to protect sharks– which is Harrison’s current hunting obsession.
Danno, Kono, and Lou head the investigation into the murder of the big game shark hunter, and really– the plot of that secondary storyline was only helpful in strengthening the “big game” theme. Other than that, it was a just fluff around the far more interesting investigation headed by McGarrett and Chin.
So the team is split in this episode, with McGarrett and Chin working the Leia Rozen case. Medical Examiner Dr. Cunha (Kimee Balmilero) confirms that Leia was in the water for several days and shows them a tattoo on Leia’s inner bicep which is reminiscent of a concentration camp number. While many Holocaust survivors often kept the tattoos which identified them in the death camps, Dr. Cunha brings up the fact that Leia was only 30 years old, so her tattoo could not have been authentic.
At this point, I was all in and ready to watch this interesting mystery unfold. Nothing fascinates people more than unraveling a Holocaust survivor story. And when the team investigates Leia’s tattoo– they find that it is indeed a memorial tattoo of her grandfather’s concentration camp number.
Jerry (Jorge Garcia) looks into the details of Leia’s life, and finds that the last place anyone saw her was on Kalaupapa– which is where the remote peninsula on the island of Molokaʻi comes into the story. Kalaupapa is mostly known to the world as a former leper colony, where Hansen’s Disease patients were ministered to by the sainted Father Damien.
To Native Hawaiians, the mere mention of Kalaupapa is a reminder of a time of immense sorrow. Along with the physical suffering Hansen’s disease caused, those affected were forced to leave their homes and families to be quarantined for the rest of their lives. The emotional pain was often more dramatic than having the disease alone.
Often those who were diagnosed with Hansen’s disease were hidden by their families, not only because they did not want to be separated from their loved ones, but because life on Kalaupapa was ruled by depravity and other horrors. When I say that our people were ripped away from their unaffected family members and sent to die on Kalaupapa, I am not being melodramatic. The first village site on the peninsula, Kalawao, was called “ka luakupapau kanu ola” or “the grave where one is buried alive.”
Before Father Damien arrived in 1873, ships basically dropped off victims a few miles from the coast and made them swim to shore because of the fear of contagion. For years the lack of housing, medicine, food, and water, caused some residents to lose hope and fall into despair. Add in the geographical isolation of Kalaupapa– steep pali (cliffs) separates the peninsula from the rest of the island of Molokaʻi– making the colony a natural prison. In the episode, when Kalaupapa resident, Bill Walker (Max Gail) talks about people moving “topside” he actually means the main body of the island of Molokaʻi. Considering their sea cliff rise three thousand feet above sea level, living on the other side of those cliffs could literally be seen as living “topside.”
The story of Kalaupapa is rich and deep, and many know what happened to the patients, especially once Father Damien and Mother Marianne Cope arrived to help the colony organize and create a more sustainable lifestyle for the residents. Today, Kalaupapa is a National Historical Park and all of the details Sheriff Alana (Musetta Vander) shared was based on the reality of the former colony. Residents who live there are free to come and go, and yes, you have to be invited by a resident, or be a volunteer, to be allowed access to the island. Volunteers often go there and help the residents care for their homes and yards, and to hear the stories of the fascinating history of Kalaupapa from the patients, those who live with them, and continue to care for them.
So Leia “volunteering” in order to find out information about someone who lived there, is also a realistic occurrence. I did appreciate how the Holocaust story connected with the Kalaupapa story– Leia came to Molokaʻi to find the Nazi who terrorized her grandfather Itzhak Rozen (Bernie Kopell), in the Nazi death camp, Auschwitz. While both stories are steeped in pain and sadness, the fact that a former Nazi guard used the isolation of Kalaupapa to hide his evil past, was clever plot twist.
Bill Walker identifies the former Nazi guard, as his friend Allen Smith, who came to Kalaupapa after World War II as a missionary. Walker tells McG that Smith worked in the orphanage where he lived when he came to the colony at age eight. He says Smith married a local girl, and had a daughter– Sheriff Alana. I think it was then that the case comes together for Chin and McGarrett. When they find Smith’s home, and the bleach stain which marked the crime scene where Leia died– they know they have to find the father and daughter– both murderers in their eyes. I did love how the theme of hunting the big game plays out all the way to the end, when McGarrett and Chin, chase down the culprits all the way from Molokaʻi to Arizona.
There were many sweet moments in the episode, but for the most part, I very much appreciated how they paired a horrible time in world history, with an incredibly painful time in Hawaiian history– and seemed to honor both groups who suffered during those events. When McGarrett and Chin help Arizona state troopers and Israeli Mossad agents capture Sheriff Alana for Leia’s murder, and McG charges her father, Tomas Sauer, with war crimes– well, that made for a very satisfactory conclusion.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
It’s true folks– Five-0 stars Daniel Dae Kim, Grace Park, and Taylor Wily, will join the “MacGyver” cast for a March 10 episode. According to CBS, MacGyver and his team will travel to the Hawaiʻi island to aid in earthquake-relief efforts. In Hawaiʻi, Mac (Lucas Till) and Jack (George Eads) will team up with Chin and Kono to rescue a group of government scientists trapped in a building on the verge of collapse. But, in true Five-0 and MacGyver fashion, as they work together on the complicated rescue, a dangerous group using the earthquake chaos as a distraction, will try to steal the top-secret weaponry the scientists were working on.
Sounds like it will be fun episode. I’m looking forward to seeing how the tech gurus of the Five-0 team work with Mac to save the day.