Life in Hawaii has often been called “living in paradise” mainly because of its warm weather, cooling tradewinds and nearly constant sunshine. Each week on “Hawaii Five-0” we see this beautiful weather on our high-definition screens played out in vivid color and digital sharpness. If you are a viewer who does not live in Hawaii, you probably think it is paradise, especially if you are watching from a part of the world that perhaps has more snow days than beach days.
This week’s episode, “Ikiiki i ka la o Keawalua” is Hawaiian for “Depressed with the heat of Keawalua.” It is an olelo noeau, or Hawaiian proverb and poetical saying, which speaks of someone being “sick and tired of living in an atmosphere of unkindness and hatred.” It seems hard to imagine that hatred can exist in a place often called paradise. The saying refers to the idea that hatred is like the heat that sometimes plagues our island home — which is equally as oppressive and depressing.
The title works very well as an overall metaphor for the episode as Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Lou Grover (Chi McBride) are both deeply affected by the case of the week. The episode starts with the team working to find out who killed Flippa’s (Shawn Mokuahi Garnett) bandmate and friend Luka Palakiko (played by Hawaiian actor and filmmaker Hale Mawae). The murder of someone close to the Five-0 team is upsetting enough, but while investigating Luka’s killer, they uncover a plan by an extremist group to bomb key cities around the country, including Honolulu.
Written by Paul Grellong and directed by Peter Weller, the episode is one that takes us from the case of a terrible murder to an act of terrorism. While we always hope that terrorism never visits our islands, we also know that in this day and age, we are not immune, especially when it is based on racial hatred and myopic ignorance. That kind of thinking can fly anywhere even to our shores of paradise.
FLIPPA’S LAST CALL
Sadly, it is our friend Flippa who is most affected by the murder of Luka and is the last person to talk to him before he is stabbed to death. Flippa and his band are getting ready to perform at the Hawaiian Cultural Festival and he asks the stage manager (Hawaii actress Tiffany Rose Brown) if they can wait for their drummer, Luka, who seems to be on Hawaiian time, our local explanation for being late.
This isn’t our funny cousin Flippa, always ready with a joke or a quip — this is all business Flippa, ready to perform and nervous that he and his band will miss out on a great gig. We all know what a great singer Flippa is after seeing him perform at Five-0 team parties, and if you have ever seen Garnett play off-screen, you know he is a talented musician. It’s always great to see him play the ukulele and sing on “Hawaii Five-0.”
Flippa calls Luka who apologizes to “Flip” for messing up but he has just arrived and is unloading the drum kit. As Flippa talks to him, Luka is stabbed, and Flippa hears his reaction and his phone drop. McGarrett arrives on the scene and Duke (Dennis Chun) fills him in. When McGarrett asks Duke how their friend is doing, Duke tells him he seems to be in shock.
McGarrett immediately goes over to Flippa and they embrace. It’s an “I’m sorry, I’m here for you, thank you friend” kind of hug. McGarrett promises Flippa they will do everything to help find out who did this to Luka. Flippa is upset and beating himself up for being annoyed with Luka, “It was the last time I ever talked to him.” He tells McGarrett that Luka would given up the keys and the drum kit without any hassle. McGarrett tells him to hang in there and that he’s got it now. Flippa sadly agrees as McGarrett moves on to work the case.
McGarrett gets the details from Dr. Noelani Cunha (Kimee Balmilero) who tells him that Luka was stabbed nine times, which is excessive and connotes that the killing was personal. She finds a red herring clue, a long blonde hair, which leads McGarrett and the team to Annie Kehr (Maddie Nichols), a 15-year-old girl who Luka was counseling at his day job as a family therapist.
Luka counseled LGBTQ kids and is trying to help Annie whose parents want to send her to a conversion therapy school in Idaho. Conversion therapy is the “pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological or spiritual interventions.” McGarrett mentions that conversion therapy on minors is banned in Hawaii, which is true as a law was passed and went into effect on July 1, 2018.
McGarrett learns that Annie is being persecuted by her own parents, Linda (Tonja Kahlens) and Ned Kehr (Cory Blevins), and promises her that he will not turn her over to them. When he questions them, he tells them if he was a parent he would love his children unconditionally, meaning he would certainly not judge her sexual orientation or put her through what Lou calls “torture.”
Once Annie is ruled out as a suspect, Jerry (Jorge Garcia) finds traffic cam video of an ex-con, Conner Russell (Riley Baron), in Luka’s van. They still do not know if Annie’s parents perhaps hired Russell to take out Luka, and they head to his apartment to search it. McGarrett tells the team that if they do not find a connection between Russell and the Kehrs, they can leave only if they sign Annie’s emancipation papers. Whatever happens with the case, at least Luka’s wish, and Annie’s freedom, will be confirmed.
JERRY GETS BURNED
Jerry, Adam (Ian Anthony Dale), Junior (Beulah Koale) and Tani (Meaghan Rath) head to Russell’s apartment and Jerry breaks down the door to his room. It’s cool that Jerry is getting to go out on raids, but unfortunately, he’s still a little accident prone. The last time he worked undercover for Five-0, he broke his leg. And this time, he gets second-degree burns after he finds Russell’s computer — which is rigged to blow.
But Jerry is undeterred and wants to get Russell, especially after Adam reports that the bomb squad found traces of ammonium nitrate on his clothes and shoes — the key ingredient in fertilizer bombs. They all deduce that Russell killed Luka because he doesn’t want to leave any trace of himself by renting a van to carry the bomb, which is how the FBI caught Timothy , the Oklahoma City Bomber.
The team splits up to find Russell — Adam and Tani head to the Department of Transportation to watch traffic cams to find the van, Junior and Jerry head back to headquarters to check out Russell’s computer, and McGarrett and Lou head to Halawa to question Russell’s former cellmate, Roger Barton (Graham Beckel).
Jerry and Junior find evidence on Russell’s computer that he is a member of an “alt-right” group, who Lou describes as those who believe in “racism, sexism and anti-Semitism — the hate trifecta.” Stealing Luka’s van was a twofer, as he not only got a van for the bomb, but he also killed a person of color (Luka was Native Hawaiian). Junior also mentions that it seems like Hawaii would be the last place you would find a white supremacist, but Jerry correctly says that they are everywhere — and the statement has McGarrett realizing that Russell’s plan is much scarier than they originally thought.
Jerry finds a video manifesto where Russell details a bigger plot that spans from Hawaii to four other cities on the mainland. Lou is obviously upset by Russell’s rhetoric and McGarrett notices his balled fists and his struggle to contain his anger. They return to Halawa to question Barton, who they find is the real mastermind behind Russell’s manifesto and plan of attack.
As Lou and McGarrett question Barton, using quite a bit of force to get him to admit his connection to Russell’s actions, it is obvious how much they detest the man’s beliefs. Barton scolds McGarrett for being a disgrace to “his people.” To which McGarrett replies that Barton and those who believe in what he does are “not his people.” McGarrett tells him that his “grandfather died defending this country from (men) like you.” McGarrett’s grandfather died on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Just as Lou has had enough of Barton’s anti-American/anti-humanity ranting and ravings, a guard brings in a burner phone he found in Barton’s cell. Now they have the evidence they need to find Russell and more details about what cities the group has targeted. They also finally have the last clues to find Russell and the bomb that will be detonated.
The team finds Russell in Waikiki and McGarrett wrestles him to the ground to take away a grip detonator he has set to explode the bomb. Lou shoots Russell as they struggle. We know they have also alerted the other cities to stop the coordinated attacks Barton had planned to reign terror from “sea to shining sea.”
Later, McGarrett asks Lou why he was so angry, about this case specifically. Lou tells him a story of being discriminated against in Elkhart, Ill., where he fought with two men who obviously did not like a black man, or anyone black, eating in one of their local eateries. It wasn’t 1968, it was 1988 when this happened — long after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed in this country.
McGarrett tells him that he’s really sorry he went through that, and Lou tells him he doesn’t think of it much, as in Hawaii those kinds of things don’t happen that much. When McGarrett says “I love you, man,” Lou says “I love you right back.” It’s as heartfelt as all friendships should be.
SHINING THE LIGHT
The episode ends on a much brighter note, which seems ironic as it is Luka’s celebration of life that brings the episode full circle. Flippa sings the Brother Noland’s song “Great Hawaiian Man” — changing the lyrics a bit from present to past tense. “I knew a great, Hawaiian man” he sings in reference to Luka, as we all see a large portrait of him on the stage next to Flippa and his band. As he sings he acknowledges McGarrett from the stage in thanks and in friendship.
Annie sees McGarrett in the crowd and thanks him for helping her. When Flippa cues her to come onto the stage, she asks the crowd to turn on the flashlight on their cellphones and lift it up into the night sky. “It’s our way of saying thank you and we love you,” she says to Luka. And in the crowd of friends, family and couples of all different races, beliefs and lifestyles — it is a beautiful reference to how our differences can light up the world.