It’s hard to say good-bye to a beloved character, especially one played by the amazing Carol Burnett. This week’s episode, “Ua ola loko i ke aloha” which is Hawaiian for “Love Gives Life Within,” is Burnett’s third episode for the series, and sadly, also her last.
Not that anything has happened to the amazing actress and entertainer— please, we’ve had enough sad losses within the entertainment world this week. I can hardly stand the loss of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, but if I had to add Burnett to the mix this week, I think I would have waterlogged my laptop writing this post.
Still, I seem to be sopping up a lot of water around my keyboard watching Burnett return as Aunt Deb. This is the woman who became Steve and Mary’s de facto mother after Doris was supposedly killed in a car crash when they were teenagers. Deb is John McGarrett’s sister, and she gave up her singing career in order to take in Mary and look after Steve while he attended military school. Both Steve and Mary love Deb and have shown her far more affection than they do their real mother Doris, for some obvious reasons.
I loved seeing Deb back in Hawaiʻi to scatter the ashes of her husband Leonard, who she married in “Ka Hana Malū” (“Inside Job”). She also had some unfinished business to attend to— she wanted to finish the rest of her “bucket list” which she and Leonard created knowing that they did not have long to live. The knowledge that Aunt Deb was back to say aloha to her family and live out the last of her list, made everything incredibly bittersweet.
The episode, written by John Dove and Eric Guggenheim from a story by Steve Douglas-Craig, was a strong mix of the team unraveling a World War II mystery— complete with Japanese spies and 75 year-old bombs— interlaced with several lovely moments with the McGarretts; and the further development of Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Abby’s (Julie Benz) relationship. Directed by Maja Vrvilo, the episode was well-balanced, entertaining, and beautiful to watch. I loved the restraint Vrvilo used, as there could have been moments in the episode that could have easily turned toward the melodramatic.
And even though I knew that this was going to be Burnett’s last time on “Hawaii Five-0,” I think I wanted to pretend that she was just going to ride off into the sunset, and then maybe we would have a chance to one day see her again. We were lucky enough to get her back after being told she had a tumor in “Hauʻoli Lā Hoʻomaikaʻi” (“Happy Thanksgiving”) and then she returned in season five for her wedding— so it was a feasible thought. I suppose I have to be thankful that we did get to see her sing—twice!— and she gave us a glimpse into Steve and Mary’s life that we had not had before.
I also really have enjoyed the fact that when she is on, Larry Manetti’s character Nicky DeMarco returns as well. She sang in Nicky’s club, and he conducted her wedding, and this week, he returns to offer her a job— to perform with him in his club and continue where she left off before stopping her career to raise Mary.
I think I cried more when she said no to Nicky’s offer to come back to join him and especially when she said: “There’s not going to be a next time.”
Yet, even though she was back to say good-bye, it was so fun to watch her eat every fried item on the JJ Dolan’s menu with Nicky, take the girls on an epic shopping spree in a fancy clothing store in Waikīkī, and the best part— watching her drive Steve’s truck with lights and sirens— and almost making McG throw up as she wove in and out of traffic.
I have to say that Joanie is going to be a handful for Steve— her chanting “Puke! Puke! Puke!” was hilariously adorable. Between Mary and Joanie— Uncle Steve is in trouble. But I am glad he has them in his life.
Besides all the fun moments with Aunt Deb, the opening scene when she says aloha ʻoe to Leonard, and McGarrett gives Kawika (Kala Alexander) the ashes to paddle out and scatter— was simply beautiful. Burnett still knows how to deliver— not that any of us are surprised. She steals the show in every scene and in each of her moments.
Still the ending, when Steve goes to wake her and she gives him a pained half-wave and then drifts off— oh, just kill me “Hawaii Five-0.” I’m still weeping about that scene. Add Steve’s reaction— his heart breaking, but yet he knows that she is at peace and no longer in pain— was breathtaking.
And when he sees that the last item on her list is to climb a really tall mountain. So McG, Mary, and Joanie, take her ashes up the Kamehame Ridge Trail in the Koʻolau Mountain Rannge to fulfill her last wish. It was one of the most peaceful and beautiful moments I have seen on the show.
I also noticed that another line on her bucket list was to see that Mary and Joan were provided for, and I’m curious to see how that will play out. I hope it means that Steve’s two girls can now move back to Hawaiʻi and have a bigger presence in his life. It seems as if Aunt Deb was also trying to provide for McG— in her talk with Nicky and asking him to be there for Steve after she is gone. I think Aunt Deb’s list probably entailed more than just what was written on that small scrap of paper.
I suppose I could go on and on about the Aunt Deb scenes, but there were other moments in the episode that I loved. Chin and Abby finally becoming a couple was pretty sexy. It was nice that Chin got to show that side of him. And I think Chin should join the Danno and McG “No Shirts” team when they get together to play flag football again.
The case was really interesting— based on a true World War II story of Japanese “fire balloons” being sent to populated areas to explode and kill civilians, the writers used the story of “Operation Fu-go” and placed it in Hawaiʻi. I did love that the story also revolved around family and the desire of Kyle Tamuro (Michael Ng), the grandson of the Japanese spy who was sent to operate Fu-go in the islands, to clear his grandfather’s name.
The case also allowed Jerry (Jorge Garcia) to use his investigative skills in finding out information about something obviously not widely known. And we got to experience a Jerry Alert as well as gain interesting decorating techniques for a badly lit office. I’d love to have a flat screen roll island footage all day, wouldn’t you?
Besides a good case, Chin seeming to find a bit of happiness, and Jerry showing off his stuff— McGarrett and Mary got to spend a few last moments with Aunt Deb. She is a perfect representation of the theme “Love gives life within”— as she gave so much love to Steve and Mary, showed them how precious life is, how important they are to each other, and that life “’S Wonderful.”
REDUX SIDE NOTE
I was so pleased to see several Hawaiʻi actors in this week’s episode.
Kala Alexander returned as Kawika, a member of the Five-0 extended ʻohana. Alexander, who is a professional waterman and Mauli Ola Foundation team rider, has helped the team on several occasions in the past. Usually Kawika helps Five-0 stay connected to their Hawaiian roots, like blessing Kono’s waʻa in “Moʻo ʻōlelo pū” (“Sharing Traditions”) and sharing “ha,” or breath, with McGarrett before taking Leonard’s ashes out to sea for a private scattering.
Thiessen Wright played Liani Nakuluena the young boy who was shot outside of the Japanese bunker. Albert Ueligitione played his father Keno Nakuluena. This was Ueligitione’s second “Hawaii Five-0” episode. He was last seen as Officer Hale in “Mōhai” (“Offering”) the season three Halloween episode.
Lynne Ellen Hollinger who played the scarily on-point Librarian who gives Jerry a hard time about borrowing a microfiche projector— is also a classic “Hawaii Five-O” actress. She was in 11 episodes of the original version from 1970 to 1980. I loved that they really did film that scene at the Hawaii State Public Library on S King Street next to ʻIolani Palace.
It was also good to see Michael Ng who played Kyle Tamuro, the young man who accidentally shot Liani and remorsefully admits his guilt to the Five-0 crew. I loved Ng when I first saw him as Rafe Tong in “Alaheo Pau ‘Ole” (“Gone Forever”). Ng was most recently seen as Sonar Chief Petty Officer Cameron Pitts in ABC’s short lived “Last Resort.” The show filmed on Oʻahu in late 2012 until January 2013. It was the last television show to use the state film studio at Diamond Head until “Hawaii Five-0” moved in at the start of their season four.
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Follow the Five-0 Redux page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.