A warrior in Hawaiian culture is often seen as a frightening figure, one who has been trained in deadly weapons, and in kapu ku‘i a lua — the ancient Hawaiian martial art more commonly known as lua.
Kapu means forbidden or sacred, so lua is often kept secret to those who are not involved in a pa lua, or school of lua.
This week’s episode, “Ke Koa” (two words, not one), translates as “The Warrior” and was about the death of a lua master, or ‘ōlohe, Thomas Hoapili, and the secret fight club that he was forced to participate in before he was murdered.
I always appreciate “Hawaii Five-0” for taking risks to accurately portray our Hawaiian culture and customs, and it’s always very interesting how the show takes something that is very traditional and sacred to our people, and wraps it around a modern storyline.
According to the Hawaiian Dictionary, lua is “a type of dangerous hand-to-hand fighting in which the fighters broke bones, dislocated bones at the joints, and inflicted severe pain by pressing on nerve centers. Many of the techniques were secret.”
Secret. Much like the “Fight Club” that was portrayed in the episode. Yes, yes, “the first rule of fight club is that we do not talk about fight club.” I get it. Yet Hawai‘i is not known for any secret fight clubs, or empty indoor pools for that matter. There are several lua groups active in Hawai‘i, as well as on the continent, so even if the moves and training may be secretive, the existence of lua is not. The secrecy only seemed to hinder the investigation, becoming a secondary theme in this week’s episode.
While we were introduced to several different types of warriors, it was the secrecy that kept the story moving. Kamekona not being “completely forthcoming” about his suspicion of Eddie Thorne (Jason Tam); Maggie Hoapili’s (Summer Glau) reluctance to tell McG and Danno about her father’s lua training center; and of course, the secret fight club, all helped keep the tension and conflict within the episode.
Kamekona finally got his chance to shine, as he was central to the storyline. Taylor Wily downplayed the humor and upped the emotion in this episode, and I thought he did a very nice job reminding us that taking care of ‘ohana is still one of the central tenets of the show.
Even the sub-plot around former warrior, Mama McG (Christine Lahti) and private investigator Mick Logan (Treat Williams) was another ‘ohana reminder; most notably, son Steven is worried about Mom. Or maybe it’s not worry as much as it is suspicion. I did like the idea that Williams will return as Logan, as it seems as if Mama has taken a shine to the charming private eye — much to McG’s chagrin.
I love that “Hawaii Five-0” mixes action and drama with just enough humor to keep us entertained. Danno and McG had enough snarky sniping moments; although I don’t think calling McG “goofy” was exactly called for, Danno. Kamekona had some nice funny lines, enough to keep their characters from diving right into a sappy hug-a-thon.
I did enjoy that Danno relaxed his rulebook, to put Kamekona on “Shrimp Truck Lockdown” instead of breaking his handcuffs on the massive teddy bear. Paired with the tender scenes between Kamekona and Maggie, and his lovely moment with Kono, the episode was skillfully handled by director Larry Teng.
Teng is known for directing great action sequences, and his expertise really came into play in the fight club scenes. The MMA fight with the lua-trained Maggie was hard-hitting and brutal. While I’m not sure what Maggie was doing could actually be called “lua” per se, she sure looked like she could fight.
When she won — with a broken arm no less — I thought, “Well, she is a Terminator, right?” Sorry, wrong show. (Glau is well-known for playing the re-programmed terminator Cameron in the television show “Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles.”)
The climax of the episode was the fight club scene and while it was pretty raw watching Maggie and Miss MMA fight, I did love when McG jumped into the fight club ring to stop Shane Kawano (Joel de la Fuente) from killing her. It was very Indiana Jones of him to have brought a gun to a knife fight. Yet knowing that Maggie and Thomas’s trusted friend Kawano was the real mastermind behind wanting to exploit the sport of lua, was ironically refreshing to me. I was glad the secret of lua and the honor and tradition behind the sport wasn’t going to be slandered and turned into a fight club cliché.
Overall, the episode was solid. It wasn’t a showstopper like “Hookman” was last week, but it was a strong representation of all the elements we enjoy. And that is no secret.
Redux Side Note:
If you have not caught up with your DVR, you may have missed the handiwork of Jason Koger, in last week’s “Hookman.” Koger, a double upper amputee, was Peter Weller’s stand-in for the Hookman’s hands, and he also played the customer in the Chinatown mailbox rental shop.
After the episode aired, Koger shared some great pictures of his time on the “Hawaii Five-0” set, showing how he “became” Weller’s hands for the scenes.
In this week’s episode, two Hawai‘i actors had some nice screen time, Jason Tam, the lawn-gnome loving, Eddie Thorne, is a Punahou and NYU Tisch School of the Arts Graduate, and is most notable for playing Markko Rivera on “One Life To Live” as well as Paul in the 2006 Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line.”
The opening male stripper Brad Steel was played by Christopher DiPrete, a Castle High School graduate, who is a dancer and model from Kāne‘ohe. Way to start off the show, Christopher.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.