In six seasons, “Hawaii Five-0” has never shied away from highlighting the themes of ʻohana, family, and pilialoha, friendship. For the most part, every episode has stressed the deep loyalty that the Five-0 crew shares with each other, their immediate family members, as well as the friends they consider a part of their extended ʻohana.
While McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), Danno (Scott Caan), Chin (Daniel Dae Kim), and Kono (Grace Park) have pledged to protect each other, this responsibility also extends to their friends— Lou (Chi McBride), Max (Masi Oka), Jerry (Jorge Garcia), Duke (Dennis Chun), Flippa (Shawn Mokuahi Garnett), and of course, Kamekona (Taylor Wily).
This week’s episode, “Kuleana” which is translated to mean “One’s Personal Sense of Responsibility,” dealt with Kamekona’s back story. It showed us how he went from homeless young hustler (played by Jovan Armand) to big boy drug dealer. It also further developed the story of how he connected with Chin and became an HPD confidential informant, or C.I.
The episode, written by David Wolkove and directed by Sylvain White, also featured some of the funniest scenes between McGarrett and Danno attending couples counseling at a luxury resort on Maui. Their brocation took on a deeper meaning as they were forced to address the flaws and differences within their professional, and personal, relationship.
In Hawaiian “kuleana” literally means: “right, privilege, concern, responsibility.” But the connotation of the word means something deeper than just the basics of being responsible— it really represents a burden— of obligation and commitment and the duty to family. Kuleana is a heavy, important, and meaningful term in Hawaiian culture. When someone says: “it is your kuleana”— the responsibility becomes part of your naʻau— your gut, mind, heart, and affections.
So Wolkove’s translation of the term is pretty accurate. “One’s personal sense of responsibility” is a good way to quickly explain kuleana. Yet, Kamekona’s actions, Chin’s protection of his former C.I., as well as how Steve and Danno deal with their partnership, are all good examples of “kuleana,” and shows the burden that is placed on our heroes.
I think I could probably write an entire separate post about the couples therapy scenes between Steve and Danny– not Danno as he so unceremoniously crossed off his endearing name on his name tag. They were laugh-out-loud hilarious, but also so sweet and affectionate. I loved that Steve gushed over the soap concierge and the down pillows— and Danny is right— what would Steveʻs SEAL brothers think?
But besides the little moments that made the scenes delightful, it was great to see our two manly heroes be kind to each other in a way that warmed our hearts. The bickering is par for the course with these two—in their line of work, there’s no time for hand-holding and breathing space, but lots of time to nag and nit-pick. Perhaps this was just what the two needed— a weekend away to work out their kinks and reconnect.
Yes, itʻs touchy-feely, itʻs too many hearts and flowers, and I know some of you just want to get back to the gun fights and car chases and kicking down of doors. But their weekend away gave us some really great McG and Danno moments. I know I’m not alone in being a fan of episodes that give them a chance to show their true friendship and brotherly love for each other.
Still, the episode focused on Kamekona, and I was definitely looking forward to finding out more about our entrepreneurial friend. He has somewhat been a bit of an enigma since the start of the series. We met him in the Pilot episode when Chin connected him with McGarrett and Danno to find out more information about John McGarrett’s (William Sadler) murder. At the time, all we really knew about Kamekona was the fact that he was an ex-con with a thriving shave ice business, who seemed to still have his finger on the pulse of illegal activity around the island.
Over the next five years, Kamekona has taken his beach front shave ice stand and turned it into a shrimp truck complete with table and delivery service. He has also branched off into helicopter tours and has completely turned his criminal life around.
Yet the only family who surrounds him is his cousin, Flippa— which if you know any Polynesian family, is way too small to be realistic. The questions about Kamekona’s family and how he went from criminal to small business kingpin, have been brushed upon, but never to the extent they were developed in this episode.
I really enjoyed the fact that they kept Kamekona’s story in line with his initial origin story established in the Pilot. Chin introduced him to McG and Danno as his former C.I. and this week’s episode showed us how Kamekona really met Chin. Little did I know that it was Kamekona’s sense of kuleana to his brother Kanoa (Sam Puefua) and his mother (Sisa Grey) that caused him to become Chin’s C.I. I loved that Kamekona did it in order to save his younger brother, Kanoa, who had been running drugs for their mutual childhood friend, Levi Sosa (Maurice Compte). Kanoa had been arrested by Chin with 2 kilos of heroin and was on his way to prison. Kamekona sacrificed himself to Chin in order to keep his brother out of jail.
All throughout the episode, you could see how much Kamekona felt his kuleana. The sense of responsibility he felt for his family, to his friend Levi— who basically helped Kamekona make enough money to get his family out of a tent on the beach and into an apartment. He was a kid who knew he had to help his family survive— to the point that he would cut school and spend his days in Waikīkī selling fake leiomano to tourists in order to make some extra cash. And when he got older, he was a man who knew that the only way to keep his brother from following in his criminal footsteps was to sacrifice himself and his best friend.
Like I said, kuleana is a heavy word. It comes with a burden. And sometimes that sense of duty can hold you down or it can lift you up. For Kamekona, his kuleana saved him from continuing down a dangerous path. But that was not the same for Kanoa, who seemed to not have learned his brotherʻs lesson. When Kanoa points his gun at Kamekona to kill him for being the snitch that sent Levi to prison— that was one plot twist I did not see coming. I thought Levi had been working with Gabriel (Christopher Sean) and that Kamekona was going to have his cover blown when Gabriel points out to Levi that Kamekona was a friend of Five-0.
I guess I wasn’t thinking that sometimes people don’t feel a sense of kuleana. It was obvious that both Levi and Kanoa’s only feeling of duty and loyalty was to themselves.
I’m glad that Kamekona turned his life around. He offers the Five-0 crew a place to talk story and pau hana. He feeds them and gives them a place to spend time with each other. His new ʻohana is good for him and the sense of kuleana he feels for them, is not as much of a burden as the one he felt for Levi and Kanoa.
The best part was the scene when Kamekona is in Halawa and Chin tells him that his Levi was going to prison, which basically meant that Kanoa was free. Chin giving Kamekona the book “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, gave Kamekona a new kuleana— one to himself.
His idea of shave ice having high margins is spot on— and the fact that he made his dream come true, regardless of his past or where he came from, was a perfect end to his story.
Because Kamekona not only gives us a bit of levity in episodes that are hard and serious, but he embraces the sense of ʻohana within the Five-0 team. And that is a kuleana that makes us all happy.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
I canʻt end my post without a mention of Kono and Adam (Ian Anthony Dale) this week. I’m glad that Adam is still being included in the storyline and I really do love that Kono is visiting and supporting him. But I am SO nervous about what Gabriel has in store for him. And we all thought Wo Fat was bad! I’m not sure who is going to win the prize for super villain, but Gabriel is doing a great job fitting into Wo Fat’s bag guy shoes.
I also loved seeing all of the Polynesian actors as well as Hawaiʻi actors this week.
Sara Kova played Alissa Moss, the young woman sat between Steve and Danno on the flight to Maui, and who gave Steve her phone number. Kova owns Kova Yoga and runs HI Life Athletics, an “Outdoor Gym” that offers beachside fitness and yoga classes. It looks like her daughter Zoey will be in the Jan. 15 episode “Ua ola loko i ke aloha” as Joanie McGarrett.
Sisa Grey> played Kamekona’s “Moms” Maya Tupuola and Sam Puefua played Kanoa. Both are Samoan actors living in Los Angeles.
Hawaiʻi entertainer Kutmaster Spaz played the past and present version of Zeke— the bar owner who called Kamekona “Big Boy.” Spaz is a popular Honolulu DJ and hosts the Oceanic television show, “Dis-n-Dat, which showcases the latest in entertainment, lifestyle, and foods of Hawaiʻi. Spaz is also a strong supporter of our community and shares his message of overcoming adversity with schools and youth groups around the islands.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook, follow her on Twitter and Instagram.