Freedom is one advantage that most of us take for granted– until it is threatened or taken away from us. Luckily, not many of us ever experience the true cost of freedom beyond adolescence, when our immaturity and age keep us metaphorically under lock and key. As a police procedural, “Hawaii Five-0” often brings up the concept of freedom– and the potential or promised loss of it– each week. Yet, this time, the issue hits them a bit close to home.
This week’s episode, “Ka pono kūʻokoʻa” (“The Cost of Freedom”), written by John Dove and directed by Peter Weller, has McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and the Five-0 crew searching for six escapees from a Halawa prison transport. All in a day’s work for McG, Danno (Scott Caan), Chin (Daniel Dae Kim), Grover (Chi McBride), and Kono (Grace Park)– but the team is far more anxious to catch these convicts, because one of them is Kono’s husband, Adam (Ian Anthony Dale). They don’t think that Adam is guilty of trying to escape, as he is shackled to none other than Five-0’s favorite arsonist, Jason Duclair (Randy Couture), but there is a bit of doubt until he starts to leave clues for Kono and the team to find him and his wayward band of prison pals.
In Hawaiian, “kūʻokoʻa” means “independence, liberty, and freedom,” which of course, tends to be what a convict desires on any level. Freedom from prison, from being wanted by the law, and from being told what to do on a daily basis. It’s interesting to me that the translation of the title uses the term “cost” which implies a sort of price or monetary amount. Really the “cost of freedom” is a metaphoric price– it’s more of a moral cost, a “fitting, proper, or righteous” cost, which is the actual definition of the term “pono.”
So even in the Hawaiian language, the theme is evident. For Adam, the cost of this freedom is heavy– and almost fatal. For much of the episode, there are several people trying to kill him– much more than they want to re-capture him.
Adam is really the target of the posed escape plan, and it seems for a reason that is not really true. The Yakuza, lead by Michelle (Michelle Krusiec), the daughter of Goro Shioma (who was killed by Gabriel in “Ka Mākau Kaʻa Kaua” (“The Sweet Science”) — wants him dead. They set up the chemical spill, in order to evacuate the prison, so that Adam would be placed on a bus that would hit an IED, which they hoped would kill him. If that plan backfired, then a hitman would execute him. But that didn’t work out all that well, as the hitman killed the wrong prisoner, an Adam lookalike named James Hamasaki (Matt Nelms), who just so happened to also be wearing the same type of prison stripes.
I really loved all the intricacies of the plot, which kept me guessing, but also kept me worrying. Because, gentle viewers, I was ready to pack it all in if Adam was the actual price paid for freedom in this episode. I think I said several times to my poor, abused television– every Friday it takes my angry tantrums and hurled shouts of incredulity without any reaction– that if Adam was killed I would riot. RIOT– with words, or course, but I did have fans, like Amy Denton, who tweeted: “Pitchforks and TORCHES!” as we chatted about what we would do if Adam was killed off. Another fan, Belle Anderson, tweeted: “He can’t die! (Adam and Kono) belong together!”
Like Denton and Anderson, I love Kono and Adam being together. It’s “Romeo and Juliet” for sure, but for some reason in this episode, it was if “Hawaii Five-0” was setting us up for heartbreak. Not that the episode wasn’t exciting or action packed– it truly was, but I really thought it was going to be a not-so-happy ending for my favorite couple.
The set-up worked well– a chemical spill at Halawa Correctional Facility causes the prison to have to be evacuated. According to “Field Guide: Honolulu Behind Bars,” an article published by Honolulu Magazine in 2012, author David Thompson compiled basic information about the prisons on Oʻahu. At that time, there were 1045 prisoners in Halawa, and I would guess that the number is about the same today.
So transporting all of these prisoners to another facility– would be a task. Thus the idea that the Mayor loaned the prison city buses to transport the inmates is completely correct. Honolulu’s public transportation, called “The Bus,” falls under the control of the sitting mayor of Honolulu. Currently our mayor is Mr. Kirk Caldwell, who was not mentioned by name in the episode.
The way that Adam, dressed in medium security or protective custody stripes, gets mixed in with maximum security inmates, dressed in day-glo orange, was pretty clever. He is shackled to Duclair and sent on the same bus as other very violent and frightening prisoners by shady Halawa guard, Solomon Tuasopo (played by Hawaiʻi actor Spam Laupola). I loved that “Five-0” set up this story in last week’s episode “Ka Haunaele” (“Rampage”) when Kono confronts Tuasopo, about how he was the one who let Gabriel (Christopher Sean) into Halawa to visit Adam.
Perhaps visit is not the right word, but basically, that’s all Gabriel got to do– as Adam turned down his offer to “work” for him. Yet that visit was exactly what put Adam back on the Yakuza’s radar. It let Michelle Shioma know that perhaps Adam and Gabriel were working together. And as a daughter out for revenge, and seemingly in control of her father’s “business,” she wants Gabriel, and all of his minions– dead.
The Michelle Shioma character is one of the issues I had with this episode. For the most part, women do not head Yakuza organizations. I know, Lucy Liu’s character O-Ren Ishii in “Kill Bill: Volume 1” gives us a different impression, but in Japanese culture– a female Yakuza boss or “Godmother” is rare. Really, in Japanese culture women in any kind of leadership role is quite uncommon. Right now, the country is struggling just to increase the number of women in senior leadership roles in government and business by 7 percent by 2020, according to CNN Money.
I know, it’s 2016 and Japan is a modern, flourishing country, but they are still very traditional in many aspects of their society. And I would speculate that this is especially true within the Yakuza, which is steeped in tradition and codes of honor (sake ceremonies, full body tattoos, and fingers being cutting off in apology).
I suppose I can suspend my disbelief as Shioma is a daughter of a Yakuza boss and obviously “beautiful, sophisticated, and would shoot you in the face to see if the gun worked.” How can we not want to see a character like that continue to make trouble for Five-0?
The other issue I had was the gore. I know, we’ve had blood and cases that disgusted me before– serial killers who kept fingers as tokens, another who was building his own Bride à la Frankenstein– and yes, director Weller handled all the blood and eating of hearts very well. It was expected that there would be a lot of blood and burns– we did have Duclair back again– and that part was believable for sure. Since the six escapees had escaped from a bus that had been blown up, and most of the riders had been killed or badly injured. But did we have to have a cannibal who liked to chew off hands and give new meaning to eat your heart out?
That part was really creepy. And really terrifying. I liked two of the other escapees much better. I always like having criminals who have a connection to Five-0 and who were sent away in past episodes back. It reminds us that Five-0 do put people in jail– and for the most part, they stay there. Well, unless you are Wo Fat, or Sang Min, or two that escaped in this episode.
I was actually glad to see Randy Couture’s character– he plays a very interesting and complex character. And he’s just fun to watch. I hope he didn’t die after saving Adam’s life– that would be a lame way to write him off. Also Michael Jay Green (a real life attorney from Hawaiʻi), who played Gerard Burns was another Five-0 arrestee. He murdered his wife and her lover– the very crime he is in prison for in this episode– in “Pale ʻia,” (“Buried Secrets”) from season four.
So besides the interesting escapees, and the chase in Heʻeia Kea Valley, as well as Chin and Jerry’s (Jorge Garcia) chase of Michelle Shioma and her Yakuza goons who were continuing their hunt for Adam– the episode was full of tension, great stunts– explosions, fight scenes, gunfights, as well as amazing burn makeup and prosthetics– this episode also had a few sweet and touching moments.
I just love when the team gets a chance to show concern for each other. Duke (Dennis Chun) taking a pause before he breaks the news as gently as he can to Kono, that Adam is one of the escapees, was a brief and sweet moment. Grover asking Kono if she needs “help dealing with the weight of the world on your shoulders, Atlas” was a nice touch between team members. Danno trying to work it out with McG how they were going to deal with the fact that Adam may not be as innocent as they were assuming, was tough love at its hardest. Danno wasn’t off base, because Adam has not been as forthcoming with Kono (she had a couple of doubts about his intentions as well) and it was as if Danno was being the big brother– trying to figure out a way to deal with something that may be coming their way.
And McGarrett, having to break the news to Nahele (Kekoa Kekumano) that his father was one of the casualties of the bus explosion, was heartbreaking. But when he tells the boy, who cries, “I got no more family,” that he does– and we know it’s McGarrett and the rest of the team who will hold and protect him– that was worth holding on for the entire episode. Sometimes it’s this kind of moment that makes all the tension and heartache so rewarding.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
There were several great performances by Hawaiʻi actors in this episode. Some previously mentioned– Dennis Chun, Michael Jay Green, Spam Laupola, Kekoa Kekumano, as well as Taylor Wily, were all great– but two others need a mention.
Ari Green, who played scary escapee Efrin Aquino, was in several episodes of “Lost” and also in “The Last Ship” on TNT. He is also the son of fellow actor Michael Jay Green.
Keane Ishii was very believable as the Yakuza hitman dressed as HPD Officer Yoshito Shen. Ishii is a Mililani High School graduate and their current Chorus and Guitar teacher. He was also the uncredited image of Lt. Yuri Musaka, the Japanese spy from “Ua ola loko i ke aloha” (“Love Gives Life Within”).