The ocean is not only a haven of peace and relaxation for Hawaiians, but also a way of life. Hawaiians were expert sailors long before the sextant and compass helped navigate the seas. Stars, waves, and wind helped us reach our destinations; a talent that continues today.
The modern crew of the Hōkūleʻa is currently on a worldwide voyage, traveling over 50,000 nautical miles around the earth using traditional wayfinding techniques. That’s a fancy term for using the stars as a map without any other modern technology for direction.
This week on “Hawaii Five-0,” Kono Kalākaua (Grace Park) was set to sail from Oahu to the island of Molokaʻi on a wa‘a, or outrigger canoe. She planned to make the trip in honor of her mother, Nani (Catherine Haena Kim), who never had a chance to fulfill her own dream of making the same solo voyage after being incapacitated by an aneurysm.
After an emotional send off by her Five-0 ʻohana as well as her mother and father, Kono met rough seas and bad weather. He outrigger capsizes and she is stranded for days. Continuing on her physical and emotional journey via paddleboard, Kono revealed more of her background and character than fans have seen in the last few seasons.
While the episode is called “Moʻo ʻōlelo pū” (“Sharing Traditions”), the real tradition is more than just Kono and Nani’s shared love of surfing and sailing. It is also the sharing of Hawaiian beliefs and customs passed down to Kono and her cousin Chin (Daniel Dae Kim), and in a sense to their extended Five-0 crew.
“Out of water, I am nothing,” said Olympic gold medalist and Hawaiian surfing legend Duke Kahanamoku. While we know this is simply not true, in a way, Kahanamoku was speaking of more than just his talents as a waterman and surfer. I’d like to think he meant that, as a Hawaiian, he needed the ocean as much as he needed air to breathe.
I loved that throughout this week’s episode, the Kahanamoku quote came back again and again, as Kono proved how much the ocean had formed the woman she became. I know, it may seem too sentimental, but this episode touched me more than any other.
Perhaps it was because there were so many examples of real Hawaiian beliefs and culture. The connection to the ocean, Kono being taught Hawaiian traditions, even the deep ties of ʻohana — it all rang so incredibly true for me. Kono’s flashbacks showing the youth and vitality of her mother, the sayings and prayers were very well done. And when Kono called to her mother and saw her in a haze of pain and exhaustion, it spoke to so many stories from Hawaiian legends and folklore.
It’s not that “Five-0” has never had an episode that portrayed Hawaiian culture with truth and realism before. It just seemed as if this one was more innate than researched. Perhaps after five seasons, Hawaii has really sunk in for the writers.
Grace Park was really terrific in this episode. And the darling little girl who played her as a child, Miya Cech, as well as Kim as her mother; all three were really superb.
Of course, I know most fans tune in for McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), and luckily writers Peter Lenkov, Ken Solarz and Jessica Granger did not disappoint by crafting a case that paralleled the idea of sharing traditions to buffer the intensity of Kono’s peril at sea. Director Eagle Egilsson did a expert job of keeping Kono’s plight foremost in our minds and with the Five-0 crew, even as they worked what started off as a robbery-homicide case.
While McGarrett and Chin shared many moments worrying about Kono this week as they both watched the storm clouds and bad weather, they also worked a tough case that came from Chin’s past.
Makai Akana (Philip Moon), a crystal meth cook recently released from Halawa, was seen on video robbing a store of pills used to make meth. The head pharmacist was killed in the heist, and Chin recognizes Akana’s tattoos in surveillance videos. They easily track him down at a meth lab where he has returned to his old habits. Yet, this tradition is not what it seems, as Akana told McGarrett and Chin that if he stopped cooking, his son would be killed.
I suppose some family traditions shouldn’t be passed down, like criminal ways or joining the illegal family business, but for Akana’s son Carter (Jordan Rodrigues), those lessons came too late. As McGarrett and Chin realized with help from Grover (Chi McBride) and Danny (Scott Caan), Carter was really the mastermind behind forcing Akana to return to his old life of crime. He blamed his father for ruining his life and saw the money he could make selling his father’s expertly created drugs as a way to capture what he felt was a long overdue inheritance.
Sadly, Akana only wanted to get out of Halawa to be with his son, and it was Chin who encouraged him to not give up and return to his old life of crime, but to make something of himself. Chin told him to see the break Five-0 gave him as a second chance.
Still, most of our attention this week was on Kono and her frightening story. Luckily, in true “Five-0” fashion, Kono found the inner strength to make it to Molokaʻi as her ʻohana really pulls out all the stops to find her. McGarrett rallies the Coast Guard, even offering to fly himself in order to keep the Coasties out of harms way. All of the Five-0 crew got in the air to look for Kono, but Kono saved herself and made it to land with a little spiritual guidance from her mom.
I think I loved it more that Kono saved herself and that Chin and McG didn’t swoop out of the sky to save her. I loved how she found moments of strength in her traditions as a surfer, daughter and Native Hawaiian. It’s good to see the traditions of Hawaii have made a mark outside our island home, as sharing them with others has always been our way.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
May 1 was officially May Day, or what Hawaii residents like to call Lei Day. Everyone celebrates by wearing aloha attire and lei of all colors and flowers.
In Friday’s episode, Grace (Teilor Grubbs) gave Kono a lei before she sailed off. Lei are usually given to mark or celebrate a special occasion, and more than anything are given with aloha, so a kiss or a hug should accompany the lei. So if someone ever gives you a lei, don’t begrudge them from hugging you or giving you a kiss on the cheek.
Another example of Hawaiian culture was when Kawika (Kala Alexander) shared “ha,” or breath, with Kono after he blessed her waʻa. Ha is what gives aloha its deeper meaning. Aloha may mean hello and goodbye, but when giving a lei it means more than just a greeting.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.