Dr. Max Bergman is definitely an unusual character for anyone to play. As a child, Bergman is abandoned by his mother on the steps of a church, raised by a family of different ethinicity than himself, and grows up to be a talented pianist — as well as a man seemingly obsessed, as well as perhaps haunted, by the dead.
For the actor who plays Dr. Bergman, Masi Oka, perhaps he’s not such a “simple” character to play. While Oka garners laughs and much fan appreciation for his character’s cool geekiness, “Star Trek” fanboy love and intense knowledge of comic books and World War II heroes, Bergman also has the knowledge and deep understanding of the Five-0 team and has helped them on more than one occassion to solve the almost unsolvable case.
In this week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0,” we see again that Bergman holds the key to tracking down a serial killer. Not only does he seem to understand the case the best, he seems to be a target for the “Trashman” — as if the killer is leaving little clues just for the doctor to find and solve, or perhaps to taunt him into abandoning all his hope of ever solving the mystery of his biological mother’s death.
No, Bergman is not a simple character, nor is he an easy man to understand. Who knew all of this backstory existed for a Chief Medical Examiner? I mean, aren’t they usually just cranky, craggy-voiced men who always wrap the case up with just the right clue/hair sample/blood spatter marks/fingerprint found in the most unlikely place?
Max seems to use more than just evidence to aid the Five-0 team — he also uses his extreme curiosity to help find the most unlikely clues, like a piece of wood from a baseball bat, or the skin of a hand to find a fingerprint, or his insider-knowledge from his work with fellow ME’s in their online cold case club.
I know, not a simple egg. Max is more like an onion, with so many interesting layers. It was fascinating to peel them away in this episode.
In Hawaiian, “Haʻalele” means “to leave, desert, or abandon,” and we definitely see the theme of abandonment played out within this week’s episode. From the start, we have McGarrett leaving the team to find Joe White and hopefully solve the Shelburne mystery. I think he is also trying to come to terms with father figure Joe abandoning him and leaving him with more questions than answers. And within all of this emotional confusion, Steve leaves the team and Danno without answers as well.
Hopefully, we’ll get the answers to these questions before the season ends — which means we’ll be left hanging until May sweeps.
The good news is, Alex O’Loughlin did rejoin the cast and crew this week, and after reading all the leaked episode spoilers online, I have a feeling the Shelburne/Joe White mystery may be put to bed soon. No one knows the whereabouts of Wo Fat, the other character with daddy issues. His fate still seems tied to McGarrett’s, no matter the differences between the two men, although there is no word yet as to what will happen to both of them.
There was more good news this week with the return of two great characters, Kamekona (Taylor Wily) and Charlie Fong (Brian Yang). Kamekona’s quest for his missing shrimp truck added a nice bit of levity for the dramatic episode. It also gave us the great beach-gument between Danno and Chin “Don” Ho about the possibility of Danno turning into a kama‘āina, a local resident, because he seems to like garlic shrimp plate lunches a la Kamekona.
While Fong was only on screen for a short time, I do like seeing him — I only hope that perhaps he will be more involved with the cases soon. I’m not giving up on that idea. We’re not planning to abandon the Fongster anytime soon.
It was during the procedural case that the Five-0 team also dealt with major issues of abandonment. While investigating the deaths of several young women apparently targeted by a serial killer for abandoning their newborn babies (the killer was called “Trashman” because he left victims in trash bags), they shockingly learn that Bergman had been left on the same steps of the church the killer used as his dumping ground.
Of course, the doctor’s sad past becomes a clue to the unsolved cases and helps push the theme forward on several levels. An innocent man left to rot in jail, the killer punishing women who discarded their children, and Bergman left to try and sort it all out in order to find out what happened to his biological mother, who was one of the victims.
In the end, Bergman definitely comes to realize the truth of his birth mother’s death — and her desire to right her wrong — and stops the killing spree. The emotional ending of the case, with Bergman avenging his mother’s murder and then being able to free an innocent man, really brings home the psychological reason why he is so interested in solving cold cases. The doctor is not one to leave anything unfinished.
And as for McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), he’s off to get answers in Tokyo about his parents’ murders. I, for one, hope he understands that he’s not alone and that he has not been — nor will he be — abandoned.
Redux Side Note:
We face the next two weeks with rebroadcasts of several episodes. But don’t fret, folks, the exciting “NCIS: LA” crossover episode will air Monday, April 30, on CBS. Until then, you can watch two great episodes from earlier in the season. The spooky Halloween episode, “Ka Iwi Kapu,” repeats April 16, followed by the rebroadcast of “Lapa‘au” on April 23. I interviewed Hawaii actor Scott Ok, who played Brody Campbell, about his role in this episode; click here to read it.
Saturday, April 21, is a replay of a favorite from season one, “Ko‘olauloa,” yet many Hawaii fans will probably miss this repeat, as we will be attending Taylor Wily’s “Wrap’um Party of the Year” at Aloha Tower Marketplace. Fiji will entertain, as well as Cradle 2 Grave, the beach party band from “Ka Ho‘oponopono.” Come and walk the red carpet and enjoy a great night with Taylor and other exclusive guests.
For more information, check out Wily’s website.
Wendie Burbridge is a published writer, playwright and a teacher of literature and fiction writing at Kamehameha Schools-Kapālama. Reach her on Facebook and on Twitter.