If this was the week to show the strength of women, then “Hawaii Five-0” wins hands down.
This Friday’s episode, “Pukaʻana” (one word, not two) which means “Exodus” in Hawaiian, put Kono (Grace Park) in the driver seat and allowed her to show incredible courage and empathy. Not to mention how to throw an effective punch, and deliver a well-deserved — and well-placed kick — on a sorry excuse for a human being.
The episode focused on the tough topic of sex trafficking — which sounds like a crime that happens “somewhere else” — not in our own backyard and especially not in our beautiful Hawaiʻi nei.
Sadly, the episode is way too close to reality — as evidenced by the part the group Ho‘ōla Nā Pua played in the storyline. I very much appreciated that the “Hawaii Five-0” stars helped to bring attention to this issue by creating a public service announcement to support the organization. In the PSA, which aired directly after the episode, actors Grace Park, Alex OʻLoughlin, Daniel Dae Kim, and Chi McBride, help to publicize the very real issue of sex trafficking.
The episode was written by Eric Guggenheim, who also wrote this season’s opener “Mākaukau ʻoe e Pāʻani” (“Ready to Play?”) with executive producer Peter Lenkov, as well as the 150th episode with David Wolkove. Guggenheim wrote a powerful and emotional story about two young girls who are victims of a local sex trafficking ring and are saved by Kono and McGarrett (O’Loughlin). Bronwen Hughes directed the episode and deftly handled the topic with an even and sympathetic hand.
Sometimes when television shows have to deliver a message of importance — like when “Hawaii Five-0” tackled gun violence and 2nd Amendment laws in “Ke Kū Ana” (“The Stand”) — an episode can become overly preachy. Yet Hughes did an excellent job focusing her actors on their natural reaction to such a harrowing situation.
Yet it was Park who really shined in this episode. She played Kono with strong empathetic sorrow and anger. It was obvious that what happened to Kelsey (Madalyn Horcher) and Moani (MacKenzie Aladjem) moved her in a way that was far more personal than professional. What I liked best about how Kono dealt with the situation was that she reacted exactly how I wanted to handle the situation — to beat the bloody snot out of the Emilio (Brandon Keener) for what he did to all the girls he had forced into sexual slavery.
The metaphor of the title did not escape me, as the “exodus” that Kono helps the girls with is to leave their horrific life of slavery and abuse. And it is slavery — in all meaning and manner of the word. I was glad they didn’t downplay the truth behind what happened to the girls, but I really appreciated how they did not feel the need to create graphic and sexualized scenes to show what happened to them. They used more subtle details as evidence of the abuse the girls suffered. Their matching tattoos — brands that the traffickers used to identify them; the bruises and scratches represented the punishments they received if they did not comply; and the control both Emilio and Tori (Christina Souza) used on the girls — all helped us to draw our own conclusions. Of course, every detail is incredibly awful, but I was glad that there wasn’t more than was necessary.
Still, the episode made it clear that even though we might find it hard to believe that it happens where we live — it does. Even McGarrett was a little shocked when he and Kono started putting the case together. His face was covered in disbelief, and it was Kono who understood what was happening. Perhaps this issue has come to the forefront because Hollywood has started to fight sex trafficking by backing charities like Ho‘ōla Nā Pua, making documentaries, and speaking out against the issue. Sex trafficking is no longer happening just in foreign countries and on the continent — it’s everywhere and happening to girls from all walks of life.
In Hawaiian, “pukaʻana” means “exit” and “Exodus (in the Bible).” Both perfect definitions for this episode. The fact that the girls need to be lead out of slavery, and still have to find their way to survive and live, was perfectly done. While Kono berates the scummy swim coach for needing to get a “date” with a 15 year-old girl, she also tells him exactly what he is contributing to by paying someone like Emilio. Kono’s story is awful — but painfully true.
Thankfully, there are some sweeter and lighter moments in the episode. And certainly there is a happy ending. The team not only frees Kelsey, who they found locked in a closet at one of the spots the traffickers were using to sell the girls; but they also free Moani, the young girl who had gotten the case started. The scene when Kono takes Moani to Pearl Haven, the (fictional) Ho‘ōla Nā Pua residential home, so that she can heal — was incredibly uplifting. Kono needs to heal as well, and it seems as if her support of Moani is necessary for both of them.
I also loved the scenes with Sara (Londyn Silzer) and Kamekona (Taylor Wily) selling McGarrett a baker’s dozen of Aloha Girls Cookies — like Kamekona, she could probably sell lava to Pele. McG is darling with little Sara — we just need more kid time with our heroes — it just makes all the darkness in the episode a little more palatable.
The secondary case was fine — nothing too explosive, considering the main case had a lot to deal with for the team. I did love Lou (McBride) and Chin’s (Kim) scene at the Clear Path Sober Living Home with Sgt. Duke (Dennis Chun) and two Hawai’i actresses, Kristian Lei, who played Sanoe, the HPD crime scene tech; and Cheyenne Rae Hernandez, who played Stacy Holden. Stacey turns out to be the bad girl who had her boyfriend kill her other boyfriend in order to steal a big stash of drugs. Who knew that the girl who showed up with coffee and donuts could be so cold hearted.
Really, after the Kono/McG case any other investigation would pale in comparison. Still it was fun to watch Lou introduce himself politely to a local drug dealer and instill the Cone of Silence in Five-0 Headquarters. It always helps to have a bit of levity when the team is dealing with a heavier than normal issue. The only really bad part was that I really wanted some Aloha Girls Cookies while I watched. Hawaiian Shortbread would be my favorite as well, McG.
Overall the episode really spoke to me on so many levels. It made me think about how we cannot continue to allow what happened to Kelsey and Moani — albeit fictional characters in a television show — to happen to any other child in Hawaiʻi and anywhere else in the world. As we can stand up for ourselves, we need to also do the same for those who cannot speak and who continued to be enslaved. We all need to be like the Five-0 team — the ones who rise up and lead those who desperately need our help to their freedom.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
I think we can all agree that the “MacGyver” crossover episode with Chin, Kono, and Kamekona getting some much needed help from the Phoenix Foundation, was a fun way to bond the two shows together. Mac (Lucas Till), Jack (George Eads), Riley (Tristin Mays), and Bozer (Justin Hires) all head to Hawaiʻi to help with earthquake clean-up and rescue in Hilo.
“Flashlight,” written by Lindsey Allen and directed by Jonathan Brown, paired the two teams in the search and rescue efforts of a group of government scientists trapped in a building. If you’ve never watched the “Hawaii Five-0” lead in before, I hope it gave you a glimpse into their team dynamic. While Chin and Kono noticed the similarities between Mac and Jack and McG and Danno, I do like how the two teams share a few similarities but have a much different vibe from the other. It’s not bad — it’s just different — which I enjoyed seeing as they were together in this episode.
I also enjoyed how as both teams worked well together and tried to get to know each other. I loved that Kono and Mac got to be friends, and that she and Chin were super impressed by Mac’s ability to make something out of what seems like nothing. Because who doesn’t want to try that defibrillator trick at home when the lights go out?
Be sure to check back next week for my full review of “Flashlight” in the Five-0 Redux.