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Five-0 Redux

Protecting their ʻohana gives ‘Five-0’ a stronger purpose

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The lives of Five-0’s informants-- including Kamekona (Taylor Wily)-- are in danger when the HPD system is hacked and one ends up dead, forcing McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) to enlist the help of hacker Aaron Wright (Joey Lawrence).

In Hawaiʻi, the word ʻohana often refers to more than just belonging to or being in a family. It can also mean having trusted friends and deep relationships with people you spend most of your time with. The same people who share your joys and your sorrows on a regular basis. These folks could be your blood relations, but they also could be the people you work and play with– the ones who have your back each and every day.

This is the way “Hawaii Five-0” uses the theme of ʻohana in their weekly episodes– as they have from the start of the series. This theme of family and friendship has solidified the bonds of the Five-0 team. This element of ʻohana extends beyond just the members of the task force– McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), Danny (Scott Caan), Lou (Chi McBride), Jerry (Jorge Garcia) and Tani Rey (Meaghan Rath)– but also encompasses the small group of friends who help support them. It is most likely the biggest reason fans have stayed loyal to the series for going on eight seasons.

This week’s “E uhi wale no ʻaʻole e nalo, he imu puhi” is Hawaiian for “No Matter How Much One Covers a Steaming Imu, The Smoke Will Rise.” The title is an ʻōlelo no‘eau, a Hawaiian proverb and poetical saying, which basically means that “the secret will get out.” An imu is an underground oven, dug into the earth, and filled with hot lava rocks to cook meat and other traditional dishes. The food is wrapped and covered with ti or banana leaves and then the imu is closed over with dirt. The food cooks for hours, and there is never a time when smoke does not escape from the imu. Like secrets, the smoke is difficult to contain.

The episode focused on the threat to all of the Confidential Informants, or C.I.s, who support McGarrett and the team. McGarrett– who works closely with Lou in this episode, as Danny is in New Jersey to attend his niece’s confirmation– gets a call from Adam “Toast” Charles (Martin Starr), their hacker buddy turned millionaire game app developer. Only Toast is not talking, he is obviously in distress, and the sounds of Toast being beaten and gunshots alert McGarrett and Lou. Yet by the time they find him, he is already gone, and both Lou and Noelani (Kimee Balmilero) are concerned about McG’s reaction to Toast’s death.

Yet, it is when Jerry calls to tell him that it seems as if their system had been hacked the night before, and whoever did it– took their list of C.I.s– which include Toast, Sang Min (Will Yun Lee), Barry Burns (Jon Lovitz), and their closest friend, Kamekona (Taylor Wily). McGarrett and Lou worry that the people who their informants helped put away are trying to kill them all. Their worry heightens when they cannot physically locate Kamekona.

Really, this episode brings the events of “Kuleana” (“One’s Personal Sense of Responsibility”), from season six, full circle. In “Kuleana” we learn how Kamekona went from a homeless hustling child to criminal, to ex-con, to successful entrepreneur. Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) brings Kamekona in as a Confidential Informant, or C.I., after arresting his brother Kanoa (Sam Puefua). Kamekona makes a deal with Chin that if he sets up his fellow drug dealing friend Levi (Maurice Compte), then Kamekona will go to prison and not Kanoa. It is the start of Kamekona and Chin’s relationship and how he becomes connected to Five-0.

In “Kuleana”, Chin tells Lou something that John McGarrett taught him– “Once they’re yours, they’re yours for life. Kamekona is more than just a C.I. for me, he’s ‘ohana.” And even though Chin is no longer with Five-0, the sentiment about Kamekona– and some of the other C.I.s who help Five-0– have stayed with McGarrett and the rest of the team.

The episode was written by Rob Hanning and directed by Antonio Negret, and while it included the type of action we are used to from Five-0– it also had several poignant and emotional moments that made the characters really shine. I personally have loved several of Hanning’s episodes– especially last season’s “He keʻu na ka ʻalae a Hina” (“A croaking by Hina’s mudhen”). I appreciate how Hanning allows the actors to say what they need to say, to react sometimes without words, and how his scripts let them be true to the depth of their character arcs. Of course, Negret’s directing helps with pacing and the way the actors handled their emotional scenes– which worked so well in this episode.

The emotion and desire for McGarrett to find Kamekona– especially after McG finds Flippa’s (Shawn Mokuahi Garnett) North Shore shrimp truck in flames with Nahele (Kekoa Kekumano) locked inside. Kamekona had been headed to Flippa’s truck to inspect it, but Nahele tells McG that two men in a black SUV took Kamekona and left Nahele in the burning truck. McG’s worry and concern over finding his friend read so strongly all over his face.

Likewise, the raw honesty of Kamekona’s confession to his kidnapper, Joey Kang (Reggie Lee)— that he never thought he would have lived this long, or this well, these last eight years (the years since he met McGarrett and worked with Five-0)– was truly beautiful. It was heartfelt and tinged with a bittersweet edge– which worked as Kamekona really thinks he was going to die by Kang’s hand. It seems as if our big friend kept $500,000 of Kang’s ill-gotten gains years before, and Kang is willing to do anything to get it back. Even if it means he will beat Kamekona black and blue and way too bloody.

Kamekona assures him it is gone– even though Kang feels he must have kept the money because he does not live like a man who spent 500K on two shrimp trucks and self-promoting t-shirts. But Kamekona tells him he has done something with the money to keep other kids from turning out like him– lost, dealing drugs for food money, going to prison way too early. Again, we go back to “Kuleana” and see what that responsibility has done to Kamekona. True, he’s willing to die for what he has done, but after he tells his story– we know that he’s not going to stop doing what he can until his last dying breath.

Between Kamekona’s revelation and McGarrett and Lou’s formidable push to find who stole the list in order to find their friend– all of this made the emotional punch of the episode really work.

I could even forgive the lackluster presence of hacker Aaron Wright (Joey Lawrence). Even his scenes with the sharply snarky Tani didn’t help make me want to see more of him. McG and Lou springing him from Halawa was silly, and his demanding five-star accommodations was ludicrous. And the fact that he didn’t kill Tani was completely unbelievable. It was Wright’s act of mercy that made Kang’s similar move of also not killing Kamekona ridiculous– the bad guys keeping two Five-0 members alive? What are the odds?  

Still, I did love their coming together to save Kamekona. And I especially liked McGarrett giving Junior Reigns (Beulah Koale) a dignified helping hand. I’m so intrigued to see more of Junior as the season progresses. I love that he is so eager to complete his academy training, and to impress McGarrett– to the point that he will hide the fact that he is living in a shelter and been robbed of the phone McG has given him. I want more about Junior and his real backstory.

I also want to see what happens with Tani and her brother, Koa. His issues really did distract Tani– causing her to drop her guard and not see what was walking through the door. McGarrett comforting her helped, but really– what more can her brother do to cause her pain? I really like Rath and how she plays Tani– I’m curious to see where her character is headed this season.

Overall, the episode gave us all that we like about watching the team protect each other on so many levels. Emotionally and physically, of course, but also by giving them a place to call home.  Jerry serenading Toast’s memory, Kamekona celebrating life with his friends after his harrowing ordeal, McGarrett taking Junior under his wing, and McG and Eddie visiting a self-critical Tani– made the episode. I loved seeing what Kamekona spent the $500,000 on– a community gym in Waiʻanae– a community with the biggest population of Native Hawaiians on Oʻahu– made it all complete. There’s something to be said about protecting your own– it just makes everyone a bit stronger and willing to help make a difference. 

Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright, and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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