There have been many times when “Hawaii Five-0” has moved me to tears. Usually, it is because one of the main characters has experienced a profound and dramatic moment, or when the show has delved into a time in Hawaiʻi history that has impacted my people as well as the rest of the world.
Iʻm thinking of course about specific episodes– like “Inā Paha” (“If Perhaps) the 100th episode of “Hawaii Five-0”; “Ho’onani makua kāne” (“Honor Thy Father”) the episode that took us back to Dec. 7, 1941 and the sad story of the internment of Japanese-Americans; and “Ua ola loko i ke aloha” (“Love Gives Life Within”) the episode when Aunt Deb (Carol Burnett) passed peacefully away in the McGarrett home. I’m sure there are many other episodes fans can think of when they wept like babies throughout an episode, but these were the ones that wrecked me more than I care to admit.
Other times have been when our favorite characters have had to deal with more heartbreak than normal people are supposed to experience in one lifetime. Like when Danno (Scott Caan) realized that his brother Matt (Dane Cook) had been dead for years; or when McGarrett’s (Alex O’Loughlin) SEAL brother Freddy (Alan Ritchson) sacrifices his life to save McG; when Chin’s (Daniel Dae Kim) wife Malia (Rieko Aylesworth) is killed and he has to scatter her ashes into the Pacific; when Kono (Grace Park) found Adam (Ian Anthony Dale) in Canada, and then when he gave her his wedding ring before he surrenders himself to serve 18 months in Halawa– yes, all times I have ugly cried all over my keyboard.
But this episode was probably the worst of all the weepers that “Hawaii Five-0” has presented in the last few years. Not that the crime of the week was bad– it was pretty interesting and actually compelling. It probably would have taken up half of my column in a different week– but this time– all I can write about is saying aloha ʻoe to Masi Oka’s indelible and beloved character, Dr. Max Bergman.
Perhaps I feel so strongly because Max has been with us since season one, and because well, Max is a character that everyone adores. He’s quirky and fun and yet, extremely knowledgeable about his death. While that may seem like a morbid juxtaposition, it does add to his endearing qualities.
Or perhaps it’s important to me because Masi Oka was the very first “Hawaii Five-0” actor I ever interviewed, as well as the first person I spoke to my first time on the red carpet during “Sunset on the Beach” in 2011. Maybe it’s the reason why my eyes have been welling up all week as I watched the promos for this week’s special farewell to Max, “Ua hoʻi ka ʻōpua i Awalua,” translated in the CBS press release as “The Clouds Always Return to Awalua.”
The title threw me off a bit. When I looked up the phrase in “ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings” by Mary Kawena Pukui– I found that the published translation, is not the true translation of the Hawaiian phrase. The title actually means “The Cloud has returned to Awalua” and is “said of one who has gone home.”
The translation in the press release connotes that the cloud, presumably Max, will always return to Awalua, or home. I suppose that it’s just a poetic turn of words to make it work for Max’s leaving, and it also gives him an option to come back home. This is of course, what we all want– for Max to return to his Five-0 ʻohana– and what executive producer and showrunner Peter Lenkov has said yesterday in Entertainment Weekly, he would “love” for him to do.
Still the title doesn’t quite work– as Max is not going home, he’s leaving home. If you have not been watching since the start of the series, Max was born in Hawaiʻi and raised by the Bergman family, who adopted him after his birth mother Machiyo Takeshita left him on the steps of a local church. Sadly, Machiyo, a young unwed mother, was killed by a serial killer called “The Trashman,” who focused on young women who had abandoned their children, wrapping them in trash bags, and dumping them like trash.
We all know that Max is a son of Hawaiʻi and he is leaving his home, and his ʻohana, to join his new wife Sabrina (Rumer Willis) in Madagascar.
As sad as we all are that Max is leaving his adopted family– I just wish the title had been more telling of the familial pride the team has for their endearingly awkward, Keanu Reeves loving, firmly supportive, and wonderfully amazing Max.
I suppose that is enough about the title, but I had to set that record straight. While I’m mentioning the inconsistencies, it would have been nice if they had also spelled the place name, Awalua, correctly in the translation of the title. The press release, and many subsequent repostings of it, spelled it “Alawua” in the English version of the title, rather than the correct “Awalua.” But I suppose it’s only important to me– and perhaps to all of the Hawaiian people who hold fast to their language and heritage.
Still– regardless of the revised title– the episode itself was just what we all needed. It opened with two funny scenes with Chi-Town Lou teaching Hawaiʻi boy McG about the perfection that is a malasada. And folks– if you have never had a malasada– think of the most delicious doughnut you have ever had, and then multiply that yumminess by a thousand, and you might come close to how amazing a malasada tastes– even before it gets dunked in coffee.
Our malasada loving-Kona coffee drinking Five-0 men are visiting HPD headquarters to support Sgt. Lukela, who is giving a morning briefing about the upcoming Honolulu Police Expo. Duke tells the room full of HPD officers that while the Expo is for fellow officers to share techniques, learn about new equipment, and attend workshops, he also shares that the expo is for their mainland counterparts to “have a good time– to a point.” Leave it to Duke, with his fatherly but firm tone, to agree that fun (read: craziness) will be had by his fellow brothers in blue– but that fun does not have to mean running naked through Waikīkī chasing a goat. Have some decorum, please, is what his tone and his face say to his officers.
The opening scene helped to introduce a few of the important plot points for the case of the week– the return of Gerard Hirsch (Willie Garson) who is trying to get other police departments across the country to hire his Crime Clean company, as well as how their victim came to Hawaiʻi, and why he was murdered.
The scene with Danno and little Charlie (Zach Sulzbach) playing the most ridiculous game that was ever invented– The Pie Face Game (which is a real game you can buy from Hasbro) was just a moment of cuteness. Danno steps out of his front door to see the aftermath of a huge explosion downtown– which gets Five-0 rolling.
This brings the team to a blown out building with a dead mainland cop buried within the rubble. The cop was one of many off-duty officers in town for the expo, who was helping clear the building of any victims. But Chin finds evidence that shows that there was more to the explosion than a broken gas main.
While the team is on scene, they learn that their victim has been stabbed– and not by falling rebar. Dr. Cunha, (Kimee Balmilero), who is on scene as Max is back at his office packing up his personal effects, fills McGarrett and Danno in on the knife wound she found in the officer who had been working on the rescue efforts after the explosion.
I know we have to get used to Noelani working the crime scenes–but it was still another bittersweet reminder that Max is leaving.
I did love the interjections of Max packing and Jerry (Jorge Garcia) asking him about his Five-0 past– all while Jerry reads his personal journals– and reliving some great moments in Max’s life after he started working with Five-0. Max was really brought to the forefront when in season two he was the first to harbor fugitive McGarrett, and when he copied Danno and bought a nearly identical version of his silver Camaro. His yellow version of the sports car, complete with WARP 9 license plates, made us only love Max more.
We also saw how Max met Sabrina, who he married right before Halloween, and the sweet way their relationship started. Max also shared with Jerry that he probably never would have met or married Sabrina if it had not been for the encouragement, and confidence, he had gained from being a trusted friend of the team.
Really, the episode moved quickly and expertly– and while there was a lot of details that I might miss writing about, overall it was a treat to watch. Written by Cyrus Nowrasteh, and marking the directorial debut of Jim Jost– the episode could have fallen into the realm of cheesy sentimentality– but it really was a great tribute to not only a fantastic and well-loved character, but to the wonderful actor who played him as well.
The ending scene, which was Max’s Aloha ʻOe Party, had Max telling each of the Five-0 team– McG, Danny, Chin, Kono, Lou, and Jerry– how he felt about each and every one of them, and what he thought of them. McG as a big brother, Danno as his sarcasm role model, Chin as a wonderful father, and Kono and Adam as relationship goals. Lou for his big smile and his adoption of his new Hawaiian home, and Jerry for all of his support and friendship. When he said “All of you will be ʻohana to me, forever. I love you,” I could not stop the tears.
If you are not a fan of the show, you probably would think this ending was a little much, but it really was a great send off for such a beloved character. And what a way for an actor to also get to say aloha to a character he has played for seven seasons. What a way to say goodbye to friends, and to the people who you have come to call family.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
I loved the music at the end of the episode. It was wonderful to have Cousin Flippa (Shawn Mokuahi Garnett) serenade the Five-0 team during Max’s Aloha ʻOe party– both onscreen and off.
Garnett sang as Flippa and then covered the Jackson Browne song “All Good Things” as a Masi montage played through the end the episode. I recognized his amazing voice as it floated over the bittersweet moments of the team hugging Max at the end of his party, as well as through the clips of Max moments throughout the years.
The lyrics– “all good things got to come to an end”– were perfect as we watched McG and the rest of the crew– including Kamekona (Taylor Wily) who wiped his eyes, Mamo Kahike (Al Harrington) whose big voice rang out a “Hana hou!” for Max, and Duke and his wife Nalani (Laura Mellow) who were also in attendance– came up to hug their friend Max. Garnett singing in the voiceover really capped off a beautiful farewell.
Aloha ʻoe, Masi. We’ll miss you. Good luck in all your future endeavors. We look forward to you returning to your Five-0 ʻohana.