We all know the impact the death of a loved one has on our lives. Unlike traditional literature and poetry, where the loss of a loved one leaves an ache in our hearts, Hawaiians believe that kind of pain is felt in our naʻau, or the intestines (or guts). But it also refers to the mind and heart, as well as affections, mood, temper and feelings.
If you think about it, when we have an emotional problem of any kind, all our physical reactions manifest in our belly — butterflies when we are nervous or falling in love, or loss of hunger when we are sad or stressed, for example. Hawaiians believe the naʻau holds all our emotion; the puʻu koko, or the heart, is simply the organ that pumps blood through our systems.
This week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0” revolved around an issue that resides deep within the naʻau of Steve McGarrett (Alex OʻLoughlin) — the hoʻoilina, or legacy, left behind by his father John McGarrett (William Sadler). Steve continued to wrestle with the guilt of his father’s death, as well as the mysteries he left behind. So the Poppa McG ulcer has burst again, this time bringing with it a clues to a case John McGarrett never had the chance to solve before his untimely death.
Hawaiians believe we cannot bury anything in our naʻau, for it will fester and ache until our issue is resolved. So on the fourth anniversary of his father’s death, we find McGarrett visiting his father’s grave and updating him on the lives of those they love: John’s sister, Deb, and her chemotherapy treatments; Mary Ann and her daughter Joanie.
The visit was bittersweet.
“I wish you were here for all of this, I think you would have liked being a grandfather,” McGarrett said.
Oh, there it is — the twist in our gut as we feel Steve’s sadness. When he kissed a quarter and left it on his father’s grave, I was reminded of the custom of leaving coins on veterans’ tombstones.
Soldiers tend to leave coins as a way to pay their respects to fallen comrades. A quarter left on a grave sends a message that someone who was with the soldier when they died paid a visit. When the camera focused on the quarter in this week’s episode, I was reminded that Steve was with his father when he was killed. Sure, it was over the phone while thousands of miles away, but he was still with him at the end.
The episode kept coming back to John, telling more of his back story — which of course is also tied up with the story of his son.
It’s always a treat to see William Sadler return to the show. For a dead guy, we sure get to see a lot of him! But I’m glad for that, as Sadler is not only an amazing actor, but we learn more about Steve every time his father shows up.
This week’s flashback revolved around a 19-year-old case John McGarrett was investigating up until his death. Steve met Ellie Clayton (Mirrah Foulkes) after seeing her leave flowers on his father’s grave, just minutes after he had paid his own respects.
I thought it was sweet how Steve wanted to help Ellie. He was immediately intrigued by who she was and her connection to his father. They both lost their fathers to violence and are both on the same side of the law. And McG told John’s former partner, Chin (Daniel Dae Kim), when he decided to reopen Paul Clayton’s (Martin Copping) murder case: “This obviously this meant a lot to my dad. I owe it to him.”
Chin and the team rally around the case, with Kono (Grace Park) and Grover (Chi McBride) working the evidence, Max (Masi Oka) and Dr. Shaw (Amanda Setton) exhuming Clayton’s body to gather bullet fragments, and Chin helping McG run down leads. Noticeably absent is Danno, who was in New Jersey dealing with his family and the repercussions of last week’s journey to retrieve his brother Matt in Columbia.
McG is quiet and quite introspective for most of the episode. The sweetest scene was a flashback to 6-year-old Stevie helping John work on his Mercury. Yes, the famous Mercury Marquis only seen in a few episodes of the reboot. If you didn’t already know, this is the same car that Jack Lord’s Steve McGarrett drove in the original “Hawaii Five-O.”
Along with the Mercury, we got to see Sgt. Lukela (Dennis Chun) in a mustache, a rookie Chin, and a young Stevie (Nicolai Makana Perez).
The flashbacks were my favorite part of the episode, as they were very telling of what really happened with John McGarrett and his true feelings for his family. The elder McGarrett felt for Ellie because when she lost her father, she was the same age as his own daughter, who he sent away to live with his sister. He cared for her because she was an orphan, but also because he missed his own children.
As Chin told Steve, “Your dad had some regrets — the biggest one was sending you and Mary away when you thought your mother had been killed. But I think he thought it would have been better if he hadn’t, if he had kept you close and been in your life every day.”
That regret was so evident on John’s face. It was nice to see, and even better that Steve learned about it. I think much of what sits deep in Steve’s naʻau is the fact he was so angry and a little bitter about his father sending him and his sister away when they were younger. That came through when we first met Steve in season one. Now in season five, that bitterness seems to be almost gone.
I think that anger has been replaced by guilt, and Steve is still dealing with that four seasons later. This episode brought a little more closure and definitely better understanding.
While the episode wrapped up in an interesting way when McG and Chin had former corner boy Jordan Lewis (JR Lemon) confront Clayton’s killer, Jimmy Sykes (Steven Bauer), who saw Clayton as a threat to his drug dealing all those years ago. Ellie got her answers and John’s case was solved. But what doors did it open?
It seems Steve may have a new friend to share memories of his father with. Perhaps now he can begin to get past his father’s death and continue to live out John’s legacy without so much regret and guilt.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
There is lots of information on social media about the 100th episode, “Inā Paha” (“If Perhaps”). Five for Fighting frontman John Ondrasik wrote an original song for the landmark episode, entitled “All For One.” Many dead or long gone recurring characters will return, including William Sadler, Will Yun Lee (Sang Min), James Marsters (Victor Hesse) and Larisa Oleynik (Jenna Kaye.) The episode seems to have an “It’s a Wonderful Life” slant, as Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) returns and kidnaps McGarrett — only to have McG experience what it would have happened to the team if they had taken different paths.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.