Fifty years ago the original version of “Cocoon” aired on television, successfully launching “Hawaii Five-O” and the character of Steve McGarrett into cultural legend. Jack Lord’s McGarrett is quite different from Alex O’Loughlin’s version of the iconic character — but each actor brings his own passion and commanding presence to his performance. While the rebooted “Five-0” does not replicate the classic version which shares its name, it does share an affinity that helps it carry on the legacy of the original show created by Leonard Freeman.
The ninth season premiere of the rebooted “Hawaii Five-0,” which aired Friday on CBS and was also shown on Sept. 14 at Sunset on the Beach, is a remake of the original series premiere from 1968. Obviously, television in 2018 is vastly different, and today’s audience probably wouldn’t be able to take the methodical pacing and longer dramatic moments that framed the original “Cocoon.”
The rebooted “Five-0” meshes their version, titled “Ka ʻōwili ʻōkaʻi” (“Cocoon”), with the original pilot and presents an updated version, written by Freeman and Peter M. Lenkov. After watching both the 1968 “Cocoon” and the season opener, it was obvious where Freeman’s original script was used almost verbatim. Lenkov nicely paid homage to the original and yet was still able to continue the character arcs established in his contemporary version of the franchise.
FLASHBACK TO THE ORIGINAL
The episode starts with McGarrett (O’Loughlin) dressed in a red wetsuit, suspended by all fours, face down in a round pool in what looks like a geodesic dome. There are air hoses attached to a rubberized mask which encase his entire head. McGarrett is pulled out after six hours in this sensory deprivation tank, and it is none other than Wo Fat, played by a returning Mark Dacascos, who has his white-coated underlings strap McG to a table. Wo cuts off McGarrett’s mask, and finds him lifeless beneath it.
We know right away that this is a hallucination, as McGarrett shot Wo Fat in the 100th episode of “Five-0” back in season five. But as poor McG is being deprived of his senses he thinks his greatest nemesis is back to haunt him. But this was a way to have Wo Fat in the episode, as in the original — it is Wo Fat who puts McGarrett into the tank. In the rebooted version, Wo Fat has been dead for going on four years — so it was perfect how they figured out a way to bring him back. Plus, we love Dacascos, and would like to see him haunt McG a little more often.
So the re-creation of the sensory deprivation tank and the reappearance of Wo Fat, played by Khigh Dhiegh in the original, helped the story stay in line with the 1968 version. The episode also started with the English title, “Cocoon” posted on screen during the opening credits. The only other time the reboot has titled an episode like this — was when they remade the “Hookman” episode in season three.
Other nods to the original is the case of the week, which involves the death of McGarrett’s old CIA buddy, Tom Hennessey, who is found dead in Hanauma Bay. The way the scene is blocked mimics the original with McGarrett kneeling by Hennessey’s body, looking somberly at his former friend. Right away, McGarrett declares Hennessey was murdered, as his friend had a brother who drowned when he was a kid and he never went near the water.
McGarrett and Danno (Scott Caan) head to Hennessey’s apartment, which is being searched by a burly henchman who finds Hennessey’s case notebook, rips out a few pages, and burns them in his fireplace. Rosemary, Hennessey’s sweet landlady, lets McGarrett and Danno into the apartment, and after the men thank her, she says, “Anything for the fuzz.” Her character is a nod to Nancy Kwan’s character in the original, Rosemary Quong, a University of Hawaii student who was the last to see Hennessey alive. While McGarrett is questioning her about what she knows about Hennessey, she calls McGarrett “Mr. Fuzz.”
FOLLOW THE EASTER EGGS
The episode was very good at keeping as close to the original version as it could, sometimes just offering up little Easter eggs — like the round mirror in Hennessey’s apartment that gave McGarrett a heads-up that the henchman searching Hennessey’s apartment was behind them. The Buddha statue and Asian decor of the apartment was also similar to the set up in the original.
Dr. Noelani Cunha (Kimee Balmilero) finds the traces of gutta percha in Hennessey’s eyelashes, ears and nose, explaining it is used by dentists for root canals. This helps McGarrett put the pieces together about the sensory deprivation tank.
The CIA characters who interrupt McGarrett and Danno’s search of Hennessey’s apartment in the modern episode are a female named Greer (Rochelle Aytes), who happens to be a former love interest of McGarrett, and her superior, Miller (Jack Coleman). They question McGarrett — and this time Danno — much the same way as in the original. Greer even uses the famous line, “Everybody knows that Steve McGarrett only takes orders from the governor and God. And occasionally, even they have trouble” when explaining to Miller how McGarrett operates.
In both episodes, McGarrett looks at the pieces of burnt paper and finds the word “cocoon.” For all the millennials out there — it wasn’t written in secret CIA code — just cursive. These pieces of burnt paper also leads them to the S.S. Arcturus and the sensory deprivation tank as well.
The best throwback to the original series — but not necessarily the “Cocoon” episode — was when McGarrett kills the henchman in Hennessey’s apartment after the man brutally attacked Danno and him. McGarrett, sitting on the floor and out of breath, points to the guy and says, “Book ‘em, Danno.” To which Danno promptly says, “I’d like to do that, but he’s clearly dead.”
Likewise, when Danno saves McGarrett in the sensory deprivation tank and asks his friend what his name is and how long they have known each other, McGarrett says, “Fifty years.” It is an obvious homage to the 50th anniversary of “Hawaii Five-0” and it was a neat way to honor both the legend of the original and the continued success of the show. It was a perfect mix of both elements of the past and present captured within the dialogue.
KEEPING IT MODERN
While the classic version of “Cocoon” was so obviously represented, Lenkov was sure to keep the modern-day storyline embedded within the homage to the original. There are four new characters who were not in the 1968 version, yet Tani (Meaghan Rath), Junior (Beulah Koale), Lou (Chi McBride) and Jerry (Jorge Garcia) played well into the updated episode.
Danno partners with McGarrett and gives him a lot of grief about his lack of dating life since he broke up with Lynn, and encourages him spend some “grown-up” time with Greer. He noticed there seemed to be a bit of flirting going on — and McGarrett admits they had a short relationship long before he met Catherine. Danno says he wishes McGarrett would stop being a monk — which causes Danno to get locked out of his own car.
The scenes between the two partners are funny and perfectly timed. It is obvious they have a strong relationship — both as characters and as actors — as they both are comfortable sharing a scene together. After eight seasons they play well off each other and are really balanced. It’s a nice change of pace from other seasons where the bickering was just mean-spirited — now it sounds like it is coming from the heart versus nagging or one-upmanship.
Jerry takes over the deciphering of the burnt pieces of paper, and like in the original when Danno (played only in the “Cocoon” episode by Tim O’Kelly) projected the pieces onto the wall — Jerry utilizes the magic table to help them decipher the S.S. Arcturus in the super-secret cursive code Hennessey used.
Tani and Junior add a different perspective to the case, as they don’t know McGarrett’s backstory as much, so when McGarrett tells them that Hennessey helped him “find Victor Hesse back in the day,” Danno has to explain to them Hesse killed McG’s father. And when McGarrett decides to make himself bait in order to find the mole and spread disinformation to save other agents — she is the biggest protester in the group.
Lou and Danno are also upset, yet like Junior, they know McGarrett is going to do what he feels he needs to do. They are not happy, but seemingly resigned to his decision. It was nice to see Lou comforting Danno, saying “He’s my boy, too” as they wait six hours after McGarrett gives himself up and they know he is in the sensory deprivation tank. Yet they really do not know what is going on with McGarrett, and if his plan will really work.
Really the sensory deprivation tank wins at being the best in show in this episode. The remake of the tank and how much it kept to the original was pretty remarkable. Add in O’Loughlin’s believable delivery and complete dedication to the moment always gives “Hawaii Five-0” an edge.Without the strength of O’Loughlin the show would not have lasted these nine seasons. Add in the indelible character of McGarrett, who was created by Leonard Freeman, made famous by Jack Lord, and now carried honorably by O’Loughlin, we can see why the show has lasted for 50 years.