Most of us would agree that two of anything we like is a good thing. Perhaps that is why “Hawaii Five-0” offered up two very strong episodes for this week’s viewing pleasure. Both episodes focused on interesting cases of the week and also allowed several main characters to continue to develop their overall character arcs. They also were both heartwarming and heartbreaking, two elements that have become signatures of the veteran series.
The first episode of the evening, titled “Hapai ke kuko, hanau ka hewa,” which is Hawaiian for “When covetousness is conceived, sin is born” dealt with a murder victim who had flaunted her exclusive lifestyle on social media. The title is a ʻolelo noʻeau, or Hawaiian proverb and poetical saying, and it perfectly describes the episode’s case of the week. Written by Talia Gonzalez and Bisanne Masoud and directed by Jerry Levine, the episode wove together two heartwarming secondary storylines that focused on ohana — as well as a murder case that was a testament to societal self-aggrandizing.
The secondary storylines highlighted Adam (Ian Anthony Dale) and his struggle to find his own footing after his breakup with his absent wife, Kono, and Tani’s (Meaghan Rath) tender memories of her father and growing up in Hawaii. While the case of the week also dealt with family and had a satisfying ending, it was these two storylines that helped make the episode — and Rath and Dale — shine.
The second episode, titled “Eʻao luʻau a kualima,” is Hawaiian for “Offer young taro leaves to …” which is actually a shortened version of the translation. The full translation of the ʻolelo noʻeau is “Offer young taro leaves to the gods five times” which to Hawaiians is “advice to one who has erred and wishes to rectify his mistake. Young taro leaves often were substituted for pigs when making an offering to the gods.” Hawaiians believed that if one made five separate offerings of young taro leaves, then they could “remove sickness of mind or body.”
While most people see the word “luʻau” and associate it with a great feast, it is also the Hawaiian word for the young tops of the taro plant. Our word for taro is kalo, and it is the plant that feeds us. Its corm is beaten to make poi and we use its leaves and stalks in many of our dishes. None of the plant is ever wasted. We also believe the first Hawaiian came from kalo, which makes any kalo plant extremely important to us. For Hawaiians kalo is life, so to offer it as a sacrifice is very significant.
The special episode was written by David Wolkove and Matt Wheeler and directed by series star Alex O’Loughlin. The storyline focuses on Junior (Beulah Koale) who thinks one of the suspects in a bank-robbery-turned-murder is the lover of his former girlfriend, Layla (Anna Enger). In his desire to protect Layla and her infant son, he is conflicted about what to share with McGarrett, who is not only his boss but his mentor and friend.
O’Loughlin expertly handles the action and the dramatic elements of the episode with the kind of talent often seen in seasoned directors, not one who has a single directing credit to his name. Last season, he made his directorial debut with “E hoʻoko kuleana” (“To do one’s duty”) and also had a story credit on “Ka lala kaukonakona haki ‘ole I ka pa a ka makani Kona” (“The Tough Branch that Does Not Break in the Kona Gale”).
MAYBE MERMAIDS ARE REAL
In the first episode, the case of the week starts off with mermaids. It seems as if in this day of modern technology and textile advances, creating realistic mermaid tails are all the rage. The opening sequence has the victim Gwendoline Baker (Chelsea Gilson) swimming with several other mermaid beauties until she begins to bleed out of her eyes and nose and dies.
Danny (Scott Caan) and Tani arrive on the scene to investigate, and while Duke (Dennis Chun) and Noelani (Kimee Balmilero) fill them in on who she is and the case, Tani is a bit sidetracked by the mermaid tails and her memories of playing mermaid as a little girl. Noelani tells them Baker most likely died of poisoning, probably rat poison which is an anticoagulant which is why she hemorrhaged out. Duke tells them Baker worked for a health-and-beauty company and had booked the entire Sealife Park for her top sales team.
Tani fills the team in about how the company, Plum and Rose, is a multilevel marketing company and that Baker was at the top of the food chain. She tells the gentlemen how Baker and women like her are all about the “Gram” — posting their lavish lifestyles on Instagram and other social media sites so they can recruit more sellers and increase the brand of their company. It’s not about selling the beauty products, it’s about gaining more sellers who buy expensive kits in which they make commissions, but the lower sellers have a hard time selling the product and are out their initial investment. McGarrett recognizes this as a fancy version of a pyramid or Ponzi scheme, and this gives them many options of who would want to kill Baker.
The team looks into Baker’s husband, Josh, played by the third Lawrence brother to join the Five-0 guest star roster, Matthew Lawrence (brother Andrew is recurring cast member, Eric Russo, and big brother Joey played villain Aaron Wright last season). The team turns their attention to Baker’s company after her heartbroken husband tells them she was going to leave Plum and Rose because “something shady” was going on with the company.
They find the CEO of Plum and Rose, Jocelyn Greene (Ginifer King), is using the company to launder money for a crime syndicate out of Detroit. They realize Baker was going to blow the whistle on the company and that Greene has more than enough motive to want her dead. Of course, they are right, and in an intense scene find her husband dead and her children kidnapped. While they still arrest her for murder, they also rescue her two young children.
The best part of the case of the week storyline, had to be when Tani tells Junior the story about how her father convinced her that mermaids were real so she wouldn’t be afraid of the ocean. He later surprises her by taking her to a “Fintastic Mermaid Adventure” and gifting her with a pretty green tail.
Rath is luminous as she frolics with a group of little girls in their own mermaid tails in the Hilton Hawaiian Village lagoon. She really made the mermaid part of the story sweet and took away any sappiness that could have sullied the storyline.
ADAM SEARCH FOR BALANCE
The secondary storyline of the episode was probably the most heartwarming. Adam has befriended a deaf, homeless man named Hal (Bob Hiltermann) who is teaching him sign language. Hiltermann is actually a deaf actor, and according to his Twitter account, “the part was rewritten specifically for (him), as a deaf actor. He is really fantastic as Hal and obviously gives the character a refreshing authenticity.
Hal asks Adam if he can buy a present for his granddaughter who is turning 6, not because he doesn’t have the money, but he just can’t go into the store in the clothes he has on. He doesn’t look bad, just a little weathered and his shirt is dirty. Adam agrees and convinces Hal to meet him later that day. When they do, Adam has a purple elephant for his granddaughter and a bag of new clothes for Hal. He takes him to get a haircut and a shave, and then tells his friend after he changes his clothes, they’ll get a meal at Kamekona’s Shrimp Truck and then he’ll take him to the airport. Adam bought a plane ticket for Hal so he could fly to see his granddaughter and deliver the birthday gift in person. He did this for his friend because he said, “Everyone deserves a second chance.”
But Hal does not meet him at Kamekona’s. When Adam arrives, Kamekona (Taylor Wily) hands him a note from Hal and tells him that sometimes people are not ready to be pushed. Everyone has to make their own changes in their own time. “Brah, you one good guy, doing one good thing. Sometimes you have to ask yourself if you’re doing this for him or for yourself?”
It seems as if Adam is doing it for Hal, but also because he wants to give someone the chance he got from Five-0. Hal tells him he’s ashamed to face his daughter because his drinking drove her away. But when Adam tells him that when he was rock-bottom, his friends gave him a lifeline and he took it, and it was the best decision he ever made. He just wants to do the same for Hal.
Later, when the team comes over for dinner at Adam’s new place, he thanks them for being there for him and for being his new family. Hal calls him and has his granddaughter thank him for sending her Poppa home. Hal tells him he doesn’t know how he can repay him, and Adam says he already helped him more than he knows. It’s the kind of ending we all hope for anyone who is lost or separated from their family.
In the second episode of the evening, it is Junior who does some major soul-searching. He is faced with having to break the heart of his former love, Layla, when he discovers her boyfriend, Tory (J.J. Soria) is part of a team of bank robbers that Five-0 is searching for in their case of the week. Tory’s crew have hit two banks and killed an armored car driver (Brian Howe) and a bank manager (Duane Char).
When he and Tani realize that one of their suspects might be Layla’s lover, he wants to make sure before he takes the information to McGarrett. He tells Tani he has to talk to Layla and find out what she knows. When he does, he finds that she is no longer teaching and staying home with the baby. Junior asks about Tory, who is working in a body shop and taking a lot of overtime, and Layla admits that supporting a family on a single-income is tough but they manage.
Living in Hawaii is hard, and most families need two or even three incomes to survive, so Junior probably thinks he’s on the right track. Seems as if Tory has a record, and when he asks Layla if he’s hanging with the same crowd he did before, Layla gets angry and tells him that people change. “You more than anyone should know that,” she says.
She is referencing the fact that when Junior left to join the Navy and become a SEAL, his plan was to serve his tour and then come home and marry Layla. But when he was asked to re-enlist, he did so without hesitation, leaving her alone halfway across the world. He changed his mind about her, so Tory could change his ways and keep himself out of trouble.
But Junior has his suspicions, and he finds Tory to confront him. Junior tells him that he knows he robbed the bank. He asks Tory to let him take him in and if he cooperates, he can help him. “If you don’t, this won’t end well.” Tory turns him down, and Junior tracks him and gathers evidence to show McGarrett that his hunch is right.
He apologizes to McGarrett for not bringing him the information about Tory earlier, but when it came to Layla there is nothing in this world that he wouldn’t do to protect her. McGarrett says they all have their blind spots, but they need to know what they are so they don’t let them cloud over their decision-making processes.
THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
As they zero in on the rest of the crew, Junior gets a text from Layla asking him to meet at Thomas Square. It’s a small park, located between the Blaisdell Center and the Honolulu Museum of Art. In 2018, a bronze sculpture of Kamehameha the III and a flagpole flying the Hawaiian flag were dedicated at Thomas Square. It is a perfect place for an ambush: Tory has set Junior up to kill him because he and his team think he knows too much.
But Junior knew it wasn’t Layla who texted him as Layla never calls him June. He tries to convince Tory to give himself up, but Tory runs instead. Junior tells the rest of the Five-0 team who have come to cover him, to hold their fire, and goes after Tory. The rest of Tory’s crew fight it out with Tani, Adam and Lou and are killed. When Junior catches up to Tory in a neighborhood grocery store, he tells Junior he can’t go back to jail. Junior begs him to give himself up.
He tells Tory that Kai and Layla will forgive him. But Tory says he can’t let his little boy see him live in a cage. Junior begs him to put his gun down, but he raises it to shoot Junior, who is forced to kill him. He tries to save Tory, yelling at the HPD officers that arrive to get an ambulance. He hugs Tory to him, crying he is so sorry, as Tory dies.
It was a choice Tory made, and while Junior understands, he is still heartbroken that he has to kill Layla’s love. The man who was there for Layla when he was not. Koale is magnificent in his conflict and confusion — hating the man who took Layla away from him but thankful because he took care of her when Junior could not. As he is covered in Tory’s blood, Layla confronts him and slaps his face. He says nothing but looks demolished.
For any service member, they often make sacrifices, but one does not think they will have to once they return to civilian life. For the members of Five-0, they are familiar with this kind of sacrifice and tend to make it often. Thankfully, they always have each other and which may be their only comfort.