For the most part, fans watch “Hawaii Five-0” for more than just the pretty scenery, shoot-em-up action, and intense drama. Not that viewers don’t enjoy that part of the hit television show, it seems as if they want more than just a typical police procedural.
Earlier this week, I was talking to former principal and personnel director of Hawaii’s public schools, Wendell Staszkow, about “Hawaii Five-0.” Like most Hawaiians, Staszkow watched the original Jack Lord, James MacArthur, and Kam Fong version, which aired from 1968 to 1980. Today, as an “ex-pat” living in Las Vegas where he works as an admissions counselor for UNLV, he watches the reboot to get a weekly dose of his island home– and because his daughter writes this column. While we were talking on the phone last Sunday, he said the best thing in all my years of writing about the show.
“Sometimes I want to watch “Hawaii Five-0” just to see them chase the bad guys, lock ‘em up, and then go have a beer,” he said.
I had to laugh. I’ve had fans around the world tell me what they like and love about the show, but my dad wins the “best fan quote” award in seven seasons. Because while the plot my father presents is simple, easy, with no frills — these are usually the kind of episodes many of us enjoy the most. Sure, we like the car chases, and the gun fights, and the funny subplots with our secondary characters — but all in all, give us the good guys catching the bad guys, add a pau hana beer to the mix, and that is a great show.
So this week’s episode had me a little trepidatious. The episode, written by Rob Hanning and directed by Krishna Rao, was titled “He keʻu na ka ʻalae a Hina” which means “a croaking by Hina’s mudhen.” The title comes from a traditional ʻōlelo noʻeau, or Hawaiian proverb, that means “a warning of trouble, as the cry of a mudhen at night is a warning of distress.” The cry of distress comes from Naser Salaam (Omid Abtahi), an inmate at Gitmo, who McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) once showed great kindness to after he was captured by McG’s SEAL team ten years earlier.
Salaam asks McGarrett to come to Guantanamo Bay, so he can tell him in person about an impending terrorist attack on Oʻahu. He tells McG that if there is anyone who McGarrett loves on Oʻahu, “to get them off the island, and get them off now.” When McGarrett brings the news to his team, they are beyond skeptical. Yet, McGarrett feels that Salaam is paying McG back for the way McG treated him when he was being interrogated for information.
I loved the flashback scenes between McG and Salaam. While they were painful to watch, as Salaam has obviously been beaten and tortured, it is McGarrett’s actions that make the scenes between them so important. McG treats him with dignity. He brings him a prayer rug, allowing him ten minutes to pray. He gives him a meal after he has not been fed for a week, even though he is reprimanded by the CIA Operative (Terrell Clayton), who is in charge of gaining intel from Salaam. He sits with Salaam, speaking to the prisoner like a man and not as his enemy. He brings Salaam water as it is obvious he has not had any in days. It’s implied that McGarrett has brought Salaam clean clothing that also covers him appropriately for his prayer time. All of this tells us that McGarrett has tried very hard to treat Salaam decently, with respect, and kindness.
O’Loughlin is always so good in these intimate scenes. He can tell you so much with his eyes and his face. When he removes his ski mask, so that Salaam will see his face, we know he means to gain the man’s trust. As McG talks to him and spends time with him– man to man– rather than enemy to enemy, we can see how his actions reveal his desire to show Salaam that not all men are cruel.
Likewise, Abtahi is equally as strong in each scene, using his eyes to tell more of his character’s story. His character doesn’t speak much, just watches McGarrett for clues on how he is expected to act. It was intriguing to watch the two men play off each other. Both O’Loughlin and Abtahi make these simple, stripped down, scenes work on a much deeper level.
It is this strong use of these quiet scenes, peppered between the bigger and bolder scenes of action, and the Five-0 team chasing the bad guys, that help to make the episode so strong. It is in these scenes, with no special effects or stunts, where we can see how well “Hawaii Five-0” tells a story.
For me, it’s what saves the story. The impending terrorist attack seems so unlikely. Yet when it is coupled with the flashback scenes, showing the development of Salaam’s admiration of McGarrett, that helped to give the terrorist plotline a much stronger frame of reference.
While the Five-0 team chase down Salaam’s tip — to search for intelligence using the code name or phrase “Cain Allah.” With Jerry’s (Jorge Garcia) outside-the-box thinking they realize that perhaps it was an attempt at pronouncing Hawaiian words. So the closest to the word “cain” would be the word “kane” (pronounced kah-nay) or Hawaiian god of the sky, and instead of “Allah” the phrase “ala” as in “the way of”— which means, as McGarrett translates, “the way of the sky.”
Lou (Chi McBride) and Kono (Grace Park) search a travel agency, Ala O Kane, and find that it is actually a front for a “Hawala” which is a traditional way used in the Muslim world to transfer money. It was a way for families to send money home and is mostly based on trust and honor. Yet the team finds all of the paper records of transactions and quickly send the names to Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) who finds a link to a supposed suspect, Adnan Khalid (Nick Shakoour). Khalid is a naturalized American citizen living and teaching in Hawaiʻi, and as they search for him the show gets to turn on their high-powered action.
Five-0 storms Khalid’s house and find a planted video that announces Jihad and the reason for the terrorist attack. The video is set to be uploaded at 6:20 that evening, but they still do not know where Khalid could be. Lou and McG stake out a mosque in Mānoa and have Chin call his burner phone — as it rings, the two chase the owner of the phone, only to have him try and escape on a motorcycle before he is fatally t-boned by an oncoming car.
Once McG turns him over, they realize it was not Khalid they were chasing, but someone else. Seems as if Khalid is being framed to make it look like he is the one orchestrating the terrorist attack. As Lou and McG continue to search for a possible target, they find a photo on the dead bad guy’s burner phone and make a connection to an empty downtown office building.
They think it’s odd that an empty building is going to be attacked. But as they head toward the building, Lou sees that it is in the flight path of oncoming planes. Chin checks all 6:20 flights and realizes that a Marine, who was killed trying to arrest a high-ranking Al Qaeda leader, along with several members of his unit, are on a flight arriving shortly after 6:20. It is also scheduled to fly right over the empty office building.
I think this is where I start to notice the extreme difference of the stunt work of the show versus what it was just a few episodes ago. Stunt coordinator Eric Norris is obviously a complete professional, but his stunts are far more violent and brutal than they have been in the past. While I don’t normally mention that, I sometimes think perhaps too much violence doesn’t work for this show. We want our team to live and not limp — or have so many black eyes. I’m not trying to be a baby — but really, does McG have to get beat up so bad every week? His shiner at the end was awful. Kudos to the make-up team because it looked so real, I hurt for the guy.
So the team realizes that the terrorist attack is that they are going to shoot down the plane filled with innocent civilians and marines — and race to the roof to stop it from happening. McG ends up crawling up the side of the office building, using little more than the fingerhold ledges, to make it onto the roof. I suppose good shoes and gloves helped. Kono and Lou have a standard shootout with two goons protecting the roof access door, so the real terrorist can shoot down the plane with an over the shoulder rocket launcher.
Once McG gets to the roof, the fight that ensues is not at all pretty. McG stabs a knife into the bad guy’s groin and takes a few good punches before he finally just picks up the rocket launcher. When he blows our unnamed bad guy to dust with a well-aimed rocket, we’re pretty excited/shocked/surprised. Good thing the building was empty because the rocket sure left a mark, as well as a small fiery crater.
I suppose that means that my dad got his way this week. Five-0 did chase some very bad guys; they saved the innocent, the framed Khalid; they stopped the terrorists from killing the Marines who were bringing their hero friend home; they had a couple of high-speech car chases and cool gunfights; there was a motorcycle stunt; McGarrett risked his life crawling up the side of a building and engaged in some slick hand-to-hand combat — before taking someone out with a rocket launcher.
And the team ended up having beers and shrimp fried rice at Kamekona’s, where we also tied up the humorous moment of the episode. Humor is always important for an episode and this week didn’t disappoint with Gerard Hirsch (the beloved Willie Garson) returning to again ask Kono to come to his rescue. This time, Adam (Ian Anthony Dale) helped Hirsch with a business plan to expand his crime scene cleaning business. Adam helps him rewrite the plan and shows it to Kamekona (Taylor Wily). Kamekona gives Hirsch the money to expand, thus becoming his partner in cleaning up crime.
So, Dad, you win. This week’s episode had all the parts you like — but it also had the kind of scenes that reveal so much about the character of Five-0. It is those moments that help to show the deep feeling of justice that McGarrett upholds no matter what he faces or what returns from his past.