A cornerstone is the first stone set in a foundation. It can also be the mainstay, the backbone and centerpiece, of a group. This week’s “Hawaii Five-0,” “Ka Pōhaku Kihi Paʻa” (“The Solid Cornerstone”), brings McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and the team back to the birth of the Five-0 Task Force– back to the start of their now firmly-rooted ʻohana.
For many, the moment when the Team– at the time made up of McGarrett, Danno (Scott Caan), Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) and Kono (Grace Park)– met Sang Min (played by recurring cast member Will Yun Lee), it didn’t seem like a momentous occasion. I doubt than any of us thought their initial meeting would lead them on a journey that would last six years, but here we are.
While Sang Min is now considered a confidential informant– a criminal who often helps the Five-0 task force with valuable information–and he seems to mean more to the team than just being a good “CI.” While informants usually give law enforcement details and clues in order to solve their cases, or help them to find legitimate evidence in order to catch other bad guys, Sang Min seems to like the Five-0 team and has more than once stuck his neck out in order to help them.
This week’s episode focuses on the team now having to come to Sang Min’s aid. Written by Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt, from a story by Peter Lenkov, the episode is a good mix of Five-0 backstory, friendship, and action. As with most of the storylines created by Lenkov, the foundation of the team– the ʻohana cornerstone– is foremost within the storyline.
Director Jerry Levine executes the humor and team cohesiveness, as well as the action and tension, with an expert hand. It’s obvious that this is an episode based not only on the strength of the actors and the crew, but also on the overall knowledge of the backstory and the established character arcs.
The episode starts with McGarrett convincing his friend and resident barber, Odell Martin (returning guest star Michael Imperioli) to help his long-time informant, Sang Min (Will Yun Lee), fight a murder charge. A crime that McGarrett and the team are all convinced he did not commit. The surfing barber is also a lawyer, and McGarrett appeals to his core beliefs– what seems to be Odell’s own belief in the underdog– to convince him to help Sang Min.
Odell immediately sees the futility of defending a known felon, who for years has had his hand not only in the underworld of selling drugs and people, but who was at one time an associate of Wo Fat, helped a traitor ex-cop start a prison riot in order to kill Chin Ho, and orchestrated his own escape from Halawa Correctional Facility.
Not exactly someone who a jury would tend to believe, or find innocent.
Still, Sang Min has a lot of credibility with Five-0. He’s come through for them in interesting ways. He has helped them on many occasions and the team has a bit of a soft spot for him, as they know he is estranged from his wife and son, who moved on with their lives after he was sent to prison by Five-0. Like most of the bad guys turned good– McGarrett and the team love the underdog, and while Sang Min is no innocent– he isn’t a killer, and that seems to set him apart.
Fans feel the same way about Sang Min– sure, he’s got bad hair and is too sassy for his own good, but spicy or not– he’s strangely endearing.
As for the case against him, I did appreciate that we, the viewers, were privy to the knowledge that Sang Min really did not kill his fellow human trafficker, James Lam. When he says killing someone “is not his style”– we believe him. I think if we were kept guessing, it would have been a frustrating episode.
But Odell has a difficult task in convincing an actually jury– not composed of Kamekona (Taylor Wily) and Flippa (Shawn Mokuahi Garnett)– that his new client is not guilty. There are no witnesses to confirm his innocence, and Andrea Sarte (Jocelyn Tecson), the sister of the victim, has identified him as the man who threatened to send them back to the Philippines if they did not pay him more money for bringing them into the country.
Odell really does everything to help prove that McGarrett’s gut instinct and belief in Sang Min is true. And while he works to find the clues to help prove what seems to be an impossible case, he hears the story of how Sang Min met Five-0– which inevitably gives him the clue that proves Sang Min innocent.
Who knew that when Sang Min met the Five-0 team all those years ago, that his smart mouth would give Odell the reason that would prove Sang Min’s innocence. During his first interrogation by the Five-0 team, Sang Min said something very inappropriate about Kono, and her overprotective cousin Chin, whacked him with a ceramic ashtray. This caused Sang Min to become nearsighted– making it impossible to have shot someone center mass in a dark warehouse from 60 feet away. Ironically it is sharp-shooter Kono who gives Odell the specific evidence to prove Sang Min could not have killed James Lam.
So the jury finds him innocent. And Odell sees that perhaps his legal skills are something he should not deny. I loved the moment he had with McGarrett before the trial, when McG convinces him that his birthright– as the son of a lawyer– shouldn’t be a burden or something bad. As he shared in “Kahania” (“Close Shave”), Odell has Daddy issues and has tried very hard to not follow in his father’s footsteps, as they never did quite see eye to eye. McGarrett tells him that he regrets not reaching out to his dad before his death and perhaps it is time for Odell to reach out to his father. It was a sweet moment at the end when Odell calls his Pop and asks him if they can talk.
Overall, the episode was great– I think my favorite parts, besides watching Odell blossom in the courtroom, were the scenes with the team practicing for the trial, and special guest star Ziggy Marley as Bones. The practice scene in the hotel room, complete with Judge Max (Masi Oka), prosecuting attorney Jerry (Jorge Garcia), bailiff Bones, Jury members Kamekona and Flippa, and star witness Kono, were just priceless. I love when amongst the gunfights and the tension of a seemingly no-win situation– I can laugh at some of the snarky comments and funny moments.
Ziggy Marley was really fun to watch, and I enjoyed all of his scenes. His scenes with Grover (Chi McBride), who seemed to really embrace a Jamaican accent, were great, and I’m glad they allowed Marley to really be himself. I was pleasantly surprised at how natural and relaxed he seemed. Yes, the role was pretty much written for him, but still– he came across as believable and charming and I’d love to see him return to work with Five-0– now that he has his green card.
Really, I just loved how the episode showed us more about Sang Min, and didn’t push the humor into the realm of the silly. But poor Sang Min– not only does he have hair that should have stayed back in the 80s, but now he has to wear spectacles that make his haircut look completely modern and super spicy.
But maybe after Odell fixes Sang Min’s hair– they can find a way to continue to help the team. They both have earned and established themselves as cornerstones in their own right within the Five-0 ʻohana.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
I loved seeing so many Hawaiʻi actors in this week’s episode. Recurring cast members Taylor Wily, Dennis Chun, and Shawn Mokuahi Garnett returned to deliver their usual great performances. Chun was great in two scenes– one promising McGarrett that his men would be searching for Graham Clark, and the other in court testifying about the gun in Sang Min’s case. Wily and Garnett were so funny in scene where they helped Odell and Sang Min prepare for their trial. If I had to be on a jury– I would definitely want to be sequestered with those two for a few weeks. I don’t think I would stop laughing.
I loved that this week we learned more about Sang Min and his connection to Five-0– much like we did when we learned more about Wily’s character Kamekona in “Kuleana” (“One’s Personal Sense of Responsibility”), and when we got another peek into Chun’s character, Sgt. Duke, when we met his wife, Nalani, in “Hoa ʻĪnea” (“Misery Loves Company”). Nalani was played by Chun’s real-life partner, Laura Mellow, which added a sweet note to the Feb. 12 episode.
Other Hawaiʻi actors of note included renown local actor Eric Nemoto, who returned to play Prosecuting Attorney James Chen, a role he played in “Loa Aloha” (“The Long Goodbye”) in season one. Nemoto is a Po‘okela Award-winning actor, as well as a director and teacher. Most recently, Nemoto wrote and produced the film “Natural Reaction,” in which fellow “Hawaii Five-0” alum, Troy Ignacio, also co-stars.
Geoff Heise also returned for another round as a judge– this time as Judge Gregory Parnell who presided over Sang Min’s trial. Heise also played the judge who sentenced, and later cleared, Michael Madsen’s character Roy Parrish in “Nā Hala a ka Makua” (“Sins of the Father”) in season four. Heise probably is a familiar face to fans of Hawaiʻi television shows, as he played several different roles on the original “Hawaii Five-O,” “Magnum P.I.,” “One West Waikiki,” “Baywatch,” and “Lost.” He also co-starred as Waterhouse in the 2009 film “Princess Kaiʻulani.”
Jocelyn Tecson played Andrea Sarte, the woman who falsely accused Sang Min of killing her brother. Tecson and her husband, James Roberts run the Waipiʻo self-defense school Hybrid Kempo Martial Arts.
Another Hawaiʻi actress, Tessie Magaoay, played the Foreman in Sang Min’s trial. Fans may recognize Magaoay who played Solomon’s Mother in Keo Woolford’s amazing film “The Haumāna.” Woolford has played James Chang, a detective, patrol officer, or a Sergeant– depending on the episode– several times since season two of “Hawaii Five-0.”