Five-0 Redux: The defenders

Feb. 21, 2012 | 17 Comments

McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) and Danny (Scott Caan) interview Mamo Kahike (Al Harrington) when Five-0 investigates the murder of a man dressed as a Hawaiian warrior at the site of a historical war re-enactment. (Courtesy CBS)

BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser

In Hawaiian language, kūpale means defense or to defend or ward off, and this week’s offering from “Hawaii Five-0,” titled “Kūpale,” definitely brought the idea of the “defender” to the foreground. We also had some pretty great guest stars on board to help the show’s defense of their Monday night time slot: Olympic speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno and Hawaii’s own “Flyin’ Hawaiian,” Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino.

Victorino got the party started with his portrayal as Shaun, an eager team-building trainer, who while leading a group of corporate stiffs wanting to bond in the middle of a tropical forest rather than getting massages on the beach, leads the Five-0 team to the crime scene du jour. The victim is dressed as an ancient koa or warrior, in traditional malo and tattoos, and while Max’s theory of time travel bringing our victim back to Five-0 territory was extremely humorous, it was almost reassuring to see the Hawaiian warriors running down the valley. For a moment there, I thought we might have been doing a “Lost” reenactment.

The reenactors were portraying King Kamehameha’s battles, though his most famous was the Battle of Nu‘uanu, a key battle in his quest to unify the Hawaiian Islands. Nā koa means “the soldiers” or “the warriors,” and many contemporary military groups use the term to symbolize our brave warriors still out in the field.  Members of the Hawaii Air National Guard uses an image of nā koa on their shoulder patches, and the USS Chung-Hoon DDG-93 uses the nā koa helmet, as well as the term, on the ship’s crest: Imua e nā koa kai, which means “Go Forward Sea Warrriors.”

Nā koa of Kamehameha’s time were trained like elite special forces, much like our McG was trained to be a SEAL. According to the Bishop Museum’s “Hawaii Alive” website: “These “special forces” trained in pā lua (schools in the art of breaking bones), becoming highly efficient in the use of the assorted weapons that populated the Hawaiian battlefield.” We saw many different weapons used in this week’s episode, and I was interested to see their effort in trying to make the scene look as authentic as possible. Yet unlike the Civil War reenactor groups who dress up like Union and Confederate soldiers and act out the fall of the South or Lee’s last stand, I don’t think I have ever heard of a group donning faux feather cloaks and brandishing leiomano (shark-tooth weapons) and pololū (long spear) to run through Kaʻaʻawa Valley to pretend to push their enemies off the Pali.

I have to say, if any show on television is trying to highlight Hawaii and Hawaiian culture in a positive way, it would be “Hawaii Five-0.” I know there will be those who pick apart the show and make reference to every misrepresentation or false detail, but whenever an episode uses a page from our Hawaiian history book, it does help to open the eyes of those outside of Hawaii to our rich culture and often tells them more about Hawaii than what they would learn at a lu‘au or at a shopping center hula show.

I think “Hawaii Five-0” is kind enough to make the effort to try and make everything as accurate as possible and still work within the confines of network television. Remember, folks, “Hawaii Five-0” is not a documentary, so their need to be accurate is very low. I do appreciate that they want to be accurate. Mahalo nui to Peter Lenkov and the rest of his crew for making that happen on a network television show. I think it is probably a small victory every week to accomplish any kind of cultural accuracy on the small screen.

Kono (Grace Park), Chin (Daniel Dae Kim), McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin), Danny (Scott Caan) and Max (Masi Oka) at the site of a historical war re-enactment where a man dressed as a Hawaiian NaKoa warrior is found murdered. (Photo courtesy CBS)

A lot of what Dr. Gabby, Danno’s current love interest and resident expert at the Bishop Museum, said about the lei niho palaoa, the necklace that was taken from the stand-in warrior victim, which is a braided necklace of human hair with a carved whale tooth pendant, was very accurate. Only the highest ranking ali‘i, or chiefs, wore this symbol of strength and mana, or spiritual power. Most lei niho palaoa are passed on through royal families, and the hair used to make the necklace is usually hair from their family kūpuna, or elders. It is a very special artifact, one perhaps a reenactor would think twice about wearing into a battle, no matter how authentic he might want to be. But Seth, played by Apolo Anton Ohno, was correct — they are worth a fortune to our people. They are perhaps not so much financially valuable but culturally valuable. And to Hawaiians, that would outweigh its worth in gold.

Perhaps that is why the victim, Brandon Koruba, had a change of heart when deciding about his Superferry taking over the interisland seas. The episode concentrated on the financial motive for his murder, but that was just because the Hawaiian partner decided he didn’t want to endanger the environment. ‘Āina was more important than kālā (money) to Koruba, and that was what got him killed. In the end Koruba was more than just a defender reenacting a great battle, but a defender of his home and land.

And as always, Five-0 shows up every week to defend their time slot, and to show us how they can also defend Hawaii and its culture in more ways than one.

Redux Side Note:

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how much fun this episode was, with all of the funny Danny and McG scenes and the sweet ‘ohana dinner at the end. Danny setting up a controlled environment to have Gracie meet Gabby was a great moment and definitely gave me some hope that our whipping boy will have some happiness this season. But the best parts were the reminders of why we first fell in love with the show, McG putting out Danno’s frittata fire, carguments, a “Book ’em, Danno” — all warm reminders of why the fans defend their Five-0 Team on a weekly basis.

~~~~~

Wendie Burbridge is a published writer, playwright and a teacher of literature and fiction writing at Kamehameha Schools-Kapālama. Reach her on Facebook and on Twitter.

  • http://twitter.com/fiveophans Joey

    this episode was on point from start to finish. it flowed so well! nothing even remotely off on this! alex and scott were excellent – they are sooo much fun to watch together! i enjoyed this episode so damn much i watched it again at 11 !! shane my man – well he needs to keep his day job especially if were gonnna go to the show this year but it was great to see him on tv!! great job to everyone on this one. yes i miss lori but as i said – they know what theyre doing and they proved it last nite.being a touch OCD i was a mess when steve walked into his house to danny that was sooo funny but not cool i would have blew my lid!!! The chemistry and good feel of the show (although i have no complaints at all about s2) feels rite it feels like the core 4 ohana are all in sinc and its what makes five-0 the best on tv!!

  • Anonymous

    Great review Wendie. You are such a champion of your home state and the show which showcases it in such an honorable way. I adored this episode, everything about it. Thanks for the history lesson, always greatly appreciated. Love our boys bromance moments. :) 

  • Anonymous

    Oh yeah, forgot to congratulate you on finding a ” Lost” connection w/ Max’s reference to Time Travel. I was chuckling too much about it being a blatant ‘Heroes’ shout out to Masi Oka’s time-traveling character to make the obligatory 5th season “Lost” time travel connection. The scenery where that happened was also very reminiscent of “Lost.”

  • Anonymous

    Agree totally with your take Wendie! I also appreciate that a prime time crime show gives us such different and interesting perspectives of Hawaii. I think this episode was fantastic. The spirit of everything we fans loved about Season 1 was back in full force. The team worked like a well-oiled machine: they truly were Ohana. The plot kept me guessing, the humor was just so well written, even the guest stars were satisfying Finally, the primary relationship, banter & yes ‘bromance’ between Steve & Danno was just sublime. I feel like it really was a love letter to the fans! Thank you show for coming back to us. Please stay for a while

  • Anonymous

    I’m grateful as always to you for your re caps and for highlighting the positive impact that Hawaii 5-0 is having on sharing aspects of Hawaii and it’s culture with the rest of the world.
    I loved this episode,the bromance was in full force!

  • http://twitter.com/Radazzle LovesAlexO

    Excellent review Wendy!  I loved every second of last night’s new episode.  All the carguments, bromance, humor, drama and friendly banter between the amazing characters are back and better than ever!  

  • Anonymous

    Great review and the reenactor scene was a reminder of the cultural heritage that Hawai’i has and a reminder to all of us who live here.

    Incidentally, Na Koa is also the name of the University of Hawai’i’s football booster club.

  • Anonymous

    Wendie, thanks so much for another fantastic review! We can always count on you for our history lesson on what was showcased in each week’s #H50 episode! Thanks to you and H5-0, my personal list of places to go and things to eat when I’m on Oahu this summer is growing in leaps and bounds! This week, I’ve added the Bishop Museum to the list for some history lessons!

    This week’s episode had me dancing in my chair from the moment Steve walked into his smoke-filled house until Steve smiled contentedly at his partner sitting on the beach with his daughter and new love interest, surrounded by his Ohana.  It was a long time coming, but TPTB finally rewarded their tried and true fans with all the treats we loved from Season 1 – all wrapped up in one spectacular episode!  We know Shelburne and Wo Fat will return before the end of the season, but if we can be assured that our Core Four will remain together, supporting each other through whatever PLenkov chooses to throw at them, then the season will end gloriously for everyone concerned!

    Thanks again Wendie. Oh, and looking forward to hearing your take on the episode with Websouffle soon!

  • Anonymous

    Why do they have the background music so loud at times. Could hardly hear the conversations at the beginning of the show.  Keep the music in the background. Love the show but would like to hear what is being said.

  • Anonymous

    Wendie!  I say it every week but this week I mean it even more. THANK YOU for your wonderful blog. Everyone, me included, is writing and hyperventilating over the awesomeness of this episode.  From the bromance and the carguments to the cuteness of Danny and Gaby and the great team bonding we’ve been missing for so long. Of course, these things are not to be underestimated.  They gave us a S1 worthy episode which has calmed the masses.  It was a truly fun and exciting return to the show we all fell in love with!

    But, as always, you give us something more.  It’s so easy to over look what brought us to
    our crime of the week.  It’s fun to watch a bunch of grown men dress up in period costume and reenact something from the past.  But to over look it as just a means to get us into the crime would be wrong.  Yes, it was fun but more importantly it highlights how important the culture is to the people of Hawaii. How important the history and the stories and the legends are.  I, like you, commend TPTB for trying as hard as they do to keep their portrayal of Hawaiian culture as authentic as possible and I thank you for being here to explain it to us haole’s so we can understand it too.  I have wanted to visit Hawaii my whole life (ever since the Brady’s went there LOL) and Hawaii Five-0 only makes me want to get there more. Learning all these wonderful things from you and your blog as well as
    from our other 808 friends makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, I won’t be too much a fish out of water if I ever do get there.  Mahalo nui loa!

  • lu izu

    The Na Koa scenes and the warrior tattoos were great. I thought the Shane Victorino scene was unnecessary to the show, although it was nice to see a home-grown celebrity on camera.  The smoke alarm scene with Alex and Scott was fun.

    Loved seeing Al Harrington and Dennis Chun in this episode.  Also Taylor
    Wily’s tiny part at the end.  In reference to the caption for the top
    photo above however, isn’t Al Harrington’s character named Mamo, and
    Dennis Chun’s character (not in the photo), actually Duke Lukela?

    Wendie, your column goes far beyond Hawaii Five-0 and provides some great lessons about Hawaiian language and culture.  So even if the show might not be entirely accurate, we can be sure that you will set the record straight.

    • http://twitter.com/WendieJoy Wendie Joy

      Yes, that is Al Harrington playing Mamo in the picture, not Dennis Chun who plays Officer Duke Lukela who was in the scenes when they captured “Seth”= Apolo Anton Ohno. Sorry about the incorrect ID. Thanks for your kind comment! Aloha, ~WJ

  • http://twitter.com/hedwig2212 Dina

    as always lovely to read and enjoy Wendy

  • http://twitter.com/dakotatears Nicole

    Mahalo Wendy for some history insight. I lived in HI from 1990-92 when my niece was a bby(I helped take care of her) and my brother/sis-n-law were in the Navy. I love all culture and having lived on Oahu, I miss it here in ND..send some sunshine please. Mahalo. Nicole

  • http://twitter.com/Keith_Sato Keith Sato

    Always enjoy your insights, history, & cultural perspective!  And I really your paragraph mentioning the positive light in which Hawaii Five-0 sheds upon Hawaii and Hawaiian culture. They may not be able to get every detail right but the interest & curiosity it sparks within the show’s fan base is a tremendous gift. Thank you Wendie! :)

  • Anonymous

    There are things to like about the show and I appreciate it when they try to work local knowledge into the script. It is not just a gift to us, but it makes the show more interesting to their viewers. But the portrayal of the opponents of the SuperFerry as Al Qaida wannabes was extremely offensive. I was a bit stunned, it was so over-the-top reactionary.

    It was nice seeing the reenactments in this episode, but the storyline was pretty weak and formulaic. As soon as the business partner appeared on screen, my friend and I turned to each other and said, “He did it.” I also predicted they would do a room to room search through a house with guns drawn and would interrogate a prisoner in the dimly lit dungeon of Five-O headquarters. I don’t know if they use the same writers or if they use different people, but the writing is one of the weakest elements of the show. If they do not improve, I doubt the physical beauty of Hawaii (and the stars) will be able to save the show.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PYTWUNNG7PPBGVBTLCMBWMVEOY Diane

    I loved this show.  We got a hefty dose of the cargument/bromance between Steve and Danny.  The final scene with the whole gang there for Danny, even if they did not know it until they got there, was priceless.  I also hope Danny catches a break has a good relationship with Gabby.  This one truly felt like a season 1 episode.