A prelude is like a quick kiss at the start of a date– it can tell us so much, yet still hold many secrets. As “Hawaii Five-0” winds down their seventh season, it seems appropriate that they begin to reflect on the moments that brought the Five-0 team together. This week’s episode, “Weheʻana” (one word, not two) appropriately means “prelude” in Hawaiian. Written by Helen Shang and Zoe Robyn, the same pair who wrote “Ka Luhi” (“The Burden”), and directed by Maja Vrvilo, the episode takes us back to a few days before the start of the series. Told partially in flashback, it shows how HPD Detective Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan) is assigned to the investigation of the murder of retired HPD Sergeant John McGarrett (William Sadler).
And we all know where that led Danno– to meeting Commander Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and eventually joining the Five-0 Task Force. The pilot episode of the series showed us the origins of the Five-0 Team, and also introduced us to what was known as the “Core Four”– McGarrett, Danno, and Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) and Kono Kalākaua (Grace Park).
While a prelude usually explains the time before the start of a story and centers around an important event, it can also help to set up a character’s backstory. It can also show us the very catalyst that starts off a relationship, or an important part of a character’s life. I also see it as a way that the audience can begin to fall in love with a character and their story.
This week’s episode showed us Danno’s prelude. It’s not a new story, we know how Danno came to Hawaiʻi, about his divorce from Rachel, and how he transferred to HPD from the Newark Police Department, so he would not be separated from his daughter, Grace. We know how Danno once struggled with living in Hawaiʻi and has always found it hard to reconcile his love for his children, and his Five-0 team, with his desire to return to the one and only home he had for most of his life. As most Hawaiians know, leaving your birthplace and all that is familiar to you is beyond difficult– even if you move to a place called “Paradise.”
The episode starts in the present, with Danno and Steve actively setting up Charlie’s (Zach Sulzbach) new race car bed and checkered flag walls, when Danno is visited by his former Captain Tanaka (Michael Paul Chan). Tanaka tells him that a case Danno had been working with Kauai and Meka seven years before, has come back to haunt them.
We then flash back and meet Danno and Meka (Ramon De Ocampo) at a crime scene, where Tanaka is pushing them to move quickly to find the shooter of a low-level drug dealer whose body had been dumped at a construction site. As it has happened in the neighborhood of Governor Jameson’s Chief of Staff, there is a push to solve the case and clean up the area.
Even though Danno came from a successful career as a homicide detective in New Jersey, he is treated as the “new guy,” and worse yet, the new “haole” by some of the other members of his unit. And having been in Hawaiʻi for six short months, the other detectives make fun of his long-sleeved collared shirt and tie look, and leave sunscreen on his desk to remind him to protect his pale skin color. Adding to Danno’s woes at work, his struggles with his ex-wife Rachel are evident by his “Psycho” knife-slashing ring tone that signifies that she is calling– and it’s usually not for a calm little chat about picking up Gracie.
Still, even though we know this story, I liked how the episode really showed us what happened in the days leading up to meeting McGarrett. We meet his first partner, Meka Hanamoa, who we only previously saw in photos after he was murdered in the season one episode, “Manaʻo” (“Belief”). There’s a very telling scene with another detective he works with, Kauai (Rich Ceraulo), who gives him a piece of advice to perhaps relax his mainland-style detective dress code and pick up an aloha shirt and shades– “Think ‘Magnum PI.’ Everyone loved that haole,” he says.
Sure we did. And we all love Danno, too. Even in a tie. The word “haole” (pronounced “how-leh,” not “how-lee” which is more of a Hawaiian Pidgin English pronunciation) means “White person, American, Englishman, Caucasian; or formerly, any foreigner.” So folks who are not from Hawaiʻi and not Hawaiian. In ancient Hawaiʻi– anyone not Hawaiian was haole. The word has come to be used as an insult, depending on how it is used in context or in tone. But sometimes it is used as a way to clarify ethnicity– like, “my neighbor is a local haole,” meaning he is Caucasian, but grew up in Hawaiʻi, went to local schools, spent his whole life here– much like McGarrett.
But in the flashback, despite the chop busting by Tanaka and the other cops, Danno still works the crime scene. He sees Aheʻahe Makino (played by Hawaiʻi actor Crichton Uale) wandering around the construction site, and gives him a card to call Danno if he knows anything or saw anything. There is a bit of a moment where Danno gives Makino his obviously incorrect business card, which says “Donald Williams,” after scratching out his incorrect first name and writing “Danny” beneath it.
This is part of the same card that he and Tanaka find, in the present day scenes, when they search the personal belongings of a John Doe long-term care patient, who has been in a coma for seven years. Tanaka believes that this is Danno’s potential witness from the old case, and both men have come to protect him, as there is a guess that he could be waking up soon– leaving him in danger again. The theory is that Makino was pushed off of a ridge at Kaʻena Point because he knew too much about the shooting, and could perhaps identify the shooter. While the fall did not kill him, he did sustain head injuries which pushed him into a coma.
When Tanaka and Danno arrive to confirm their theory and suspicions that the coma patient is Makino, the chase begins. A hitman– well, hit woman disguised as a nurse (Lauren Shaw), who Danno realizes is there to kill Makino–arrives and she and Danno full-on battle it out like two Varsity Wrestlers at a state meet. Danno gets the upper hand and subdues the killer with a well-placed syringe full of die-villain-die serum.
Just as Danno frees himself from her choke hold, Tanaka walks in with Makino’s real nurse, Jenny Kitson. Nurse Jenny is played by the amazing Lori Petty– who looks a little too much like her “Orange is the New Black” character, Lolly Whitehill. Still, she is great as Nurse Jenny, who joins in the escape plan with Danno and Tanaka, as they take Makino out of the nursing home to save his life. The trio gets Makino into an ambulance and speed out of the hospital with the Ochoa army shooting after them.
It seems as if Makino did see a very bad guy from the Ochoa Cartel (the same cartel who killed Meka in season one) kill the drug dealer from Danno’s original case. And he, Dario Mendez (Roel Navarro) is eager to kill Makino so he cannot identify him as the triggerman. So eager, that he sends out a small army to silence Makino, which puts Danno, Tanaka, and Nurse Jenny at great risk.
In the meantime, Uncle Steve has not only finished Charlie’s new bed, he is also on his way to help Danno. The rest of the Five-0 team– Chin and Kono, as well as Lou (Chi McBride) and Jerry (Jorge Garcia) are working the clues Danno has sent them from the hit woman’s cell phone– they connect the dots to the Ochoa Cartel and move in to arrest Mendez. But he does not call off the hit on Makino, and the trio does their best to keep Makino alive. Well, Nurse Jenny does, while Danno drives the ambulance like McGarrett– successfully taking out one of the bad guy vehicles– and gets their little group that could to a random house to wait for Steve.
And Steve does arrive, at just the right moment I might add, as the last of the cartel hitmen move into the house to kill them– Steve, in his best McGarrett devil-may-care way– drives straight into the house, killing the assassins. Really, one of the best Steve saving the day moments we’ve had in a long time. When Tanaka says, “You must be Steve,” everyone had to laugh.
I think the best part of this episode, besides the amazing car chase and stunts, and Tanaka’s realistic and sincere apology to Danno– had to be the tender moments between Steve and Charlie, and Danno and Makino. I keep calling McGarrett “Steve,” because besides using his truck to take out the bad guys– McGarrett was Uncle Steve in this episode. Finishing Charlie’s room, yet telling him that Danno made the bed for him, and tucking the little guy in with an “I love you,” just about made the whole world melt. And Danno sharing with Makino, who stays in a coma the entire episode, about his friends and what he thinks of them and how much they mean to him– well, that was just about perfect.
But I did love revisiting the scene when Danno and McGarrett first meet– pulling guns on each other and launching the bromance of the century– reminded us how this all came together seven years ago. And how that one meeting brought a whole team of special people to work and play and love one another. An interesting prelude to more than a just friendship, but to the start of a true ʻohana.