Five-0 Redux: Promises kept

Apr. 16, 2013 | 15 Comments

BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser

There’s a saying that goes “promises are made to be broken.” This most likely refers to the fact most promises are often difficult to keep.

Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin, second from left) heads back to North Korea in this week's episode. (Courtesy CBS)

Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin, second from left) heads back to North Korea in this week’s episode. (Courtesy CBS)

During this week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0,” McGarrett finds that often a promise is more than just a unspoken vow — it can sometimes save a life and give someone purpose. Something to believe in. Something to fight for. Much like the oath McGarrett keeps to his SEAL brother Freddie Hart (Alan Ritchson) by returning to North Korea to bring him back to his family.

It may have taken McG three years, high-level negotiations and putting his Navy and Five-0 careers on the line, but he is one who doesn’t believe that a promise he has made can ever be broken.

In Hawaiian, “ʻōlelo” means “language, speech or statement,” so the episode title, “ʻŌlelo Paʻa” which means, “promise,” seems to be based on the idea that a promise is spoken aloud so others will hold you to your word.

For McGarrett, when he makes a promise, it would take more than a hostile country and being outgunned and outmanned to stop him from keeping his word to a friend. Even if it means heading to North Korea — regardless of the fact that Kim Jong-un might see two Navy officers sneaking into his country as an act of war — all to find his friend.

This episode was promoted as a prequel to the pilot episode, and as some of you may know, that episode also started in North Korea with McGarrett transporting prisoner Anton Hesse (played by Norman Reedus, a few months before he entered the zombie apocalypse in “The Walking Dead”). Anton’s brother, Victor, was tracking his brother’s movements (in order to kill McGarrett and free his brother) and in the ensuing battle, McG is forced to kill Anton.

Jimmy Buffett, left, makes another cameo appearance in this week's episode. (Courtesy CBS)

Jimmy Buffett, left, makes another cameo appearance in this week’s episode. (Courtesy CBS)

In turn, Victor kills McG’s father, Jack, who Victor was holding hostage. It was a nice treat for the scene between McG and Anton was re-used in this episode. I had forgotten that Anton was the one who said to McGarrett, “Funny, you don’t look Hawaiian.”

Yet the events in “ʻŌlelo Paʻa” not only take place in present day, but also in two different flashback scenes. One flashback happens in 2000 when McG and Hart attend BUD/S (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) training, and then in 2010 when they are tasked to apprehend Anton Hesse in North Korea; the flashback scenes happened all before McG’s showdown with the Hesse brothers, international arms dealers McGarrett had been tracking for five years. He thought Victor’s execution of his father was related to his tracking them as a Navy SEAL — not because of their ties to Wo Fat — as we found out later in the season.

The present day scenes were mostly with McG and Catherine Rollins (Michelle Borth), who acted as McG’s aid in his mission to bring home the remains of his SEAL brother. Little did she know this would include a kidnapping, a fractured rib, a gunfight, being captured and setting up a booby trap in order to escape (poor Vince Shin had to be the one to remind us why Steven loves grenades).

She didn’t seem to blink an eye.

“It only hurts when I breathe,” she says at one point during the episode, as if she could stop doing that as much as McGarrett could. If nothing else, she held her own with McGarrett, which explains why they seem to really care and love each other. She’s a tough girl. You’d have to be to hang out with McG — or you’d at least have to have a much bigger gun.

McGarrett, left, must find another way into North Korea after discovering his buddy's helicopter was permanently out of commission. (Courtesy CBS)

McGarrett, left, must find another way into North Korea after discovering his buddy’s helicopter was permanently out of commission. (Courtesy CBS)

This episode also featured a revelation about Michelle Borth’s character as we got to see how the Cath and McG relationship started. All we had seen before this season was that Cath was an intel contact, as well as a romantic link, that McG kept from his Navy days. But we know from the bromantic scene between Hart and McG before they dropped out of the sky into North Korea that Lt. Rollins has been in McG’s life for at least three years. And it seems as if he’s taken Freddie’s assessment of Cath being “the real thing” to heart.

This week’s episode was highly anticipated for many reasons. Any chance to see McGarrett in uniform, as well as more information about his life before “Five-0″ is something fans are dying to see. I thought the episode was an interesting meld of flashbacks, as well as a good way to bring back two very popular characters, Joe White (Terry O’Quinn) and Frank Bama (Jimmy Buffett).

Buffett seems almost too perfect as the former Vietnam pilot who now spends his days drinking snake blood and rice wine and hoping for some pretty lady to show up so he can explain what “aphrodisiac” means in English. O’Quinn plays another great character, and I’m glad he came back even for a short stint as McG’s SEAL mentor.

Whatever issues McG and Joe had last season, seems to have been ironed out, as McG reaches out to him for help in their unauthorized mission to find Hart’s true remains. It would be nice to see him return in other episodes next season.

I know many folks will complain they didn’t see enough of the team, but there were a few moments — Danno promising McG a huge plate of wings from Side Street Inn when he returned from his trip, the team around the magic table ready to help McG in his unauthorized stop into North Korea, and then quite poignantly at the end when they are present at Hart’s long awaited funeral. The stunts were pretty amazing; we see McG and Hart dropping out of an airplane, a parachute drop, a car crash, throwing knives, and two gunfights (one in present day and one in flashback). Lots of action and movement really helped keep up the pace and tension in this week’s episode.

McGarrett says goodbye to his friend after bringing his body back to the United States from North Korea. (Courtesy CBS)

McGarrett says goodbye to his friend after bringing his body back to the United States from North Korea. (Courtesy CBS)

The ending was a tearjerker for me, but I don’t suppose anyone can watch a military funeral and not be moved by the ceremony and tradition portrayed by a 21 gun salute and the presentation of a U.S. flag to the widow. It would have been appropriate for McG to slap his SEAL trident on the casket, but I didn’t really see a moment for them to capture that. He had too much to do in order to fulfill his promise to his SEAL brother.

The promise McGarrett made to his friend wasn’t just that he would return to get him, or that he would take care of his family; those were all unspoken promises McGarrett made to Freddie. These are the same type of promises he has made to his fellow Navy shipmates, his SEAL brothers, and to his “Five-0″ team. This is the kind of man McGarrett is, one who would would keep those promises even if he had to face a hard road or even, risk his life.

But the promise the title alluded to was one Freddie made McG say out loud, that he would tell Hart’s unborn daughter her Daddy loved her. And when he did, I doubt there were many who were watching who didn’t get at least a little lump in their throats.

Perhaps the episode was a little hard to believe with all that is going on in North Korea, or perhaps a little too sentimental for some, but I did appreciate how they worked to tie McGarrett’s past to his present. And it better confirms the promise McGarrett has made to the “Five-0″ team, that he is here to serve and protect Hawaiʻi no matter what the cost. It is a promise that will not be broken.

Redux Side Note:

As a tribute to our active duty Navy sailors and officers, two real life Navy Captains played themselves in this week’s episode. Capt. Jeffery James, commander at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) played the Naval officer who hands the funeral flag to the widow. Capt. Sal Aguilera, Navy Region Hawaii command chaplain at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH), played the Chaplain who conducted the flag folding honors during the funeral services.

Next Monday, April 22, will be the last repeat of “Hawaii Five-0” before the race toward the season finale begins. We’ll be having a “H50 Fan Wrap Party” at Big City Diner Pearlridge that night starting at 7:00 p.m. to watch “Mōhai” and to celebrate the end of shooting for season three.

If you’d like to join us, RSVP here.
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Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher who lives and works in Honolulu. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

  • http://twitter.com/LisaLisa98 LisaLisa98

    Great blog, Wendie! I Loved this episode! Definitely a new favorite of mine for this season. And yes, it was the “McRoll” show with not much team interaction, but it was THE backstory that we were all waiting for! I loved how it tied into the pilot and we got to know more about Catherine & McG’s past. Michelle Borth, being the fiesty chick we all love, kicked some major booty in this episode! Alan Ritchson also did a great job! It was also nice to see Rick Yune, another addition to the hawt asians on this show. ;) But Alex definitely knocked it outta the park on this one! Kudos to Joe Dante (previous Halloween ep) for directing a stellar episode once again!

  • http://www.facebook.com/robin.j.bridges Robin Jane Bridges

    Ditto, Wendie!

  • http://twitter.com/hedwig2212 Dina

    yes Ditto Wendie !

  • http://www.facebook.com/FabFourLover Linda Stein

    OMG Wendie! I thought Danny’s 911 story choked me up but this? This was just incredible. I didn’t think I could ever be thankful for commercials but I was this time. It was the only time I was able to take a breath from beginning to end. The writing, direction, music, action, acting… everything was done exceptionally well. If this episode AND Alex are not submitted for nomination for an Emmy it would be a crime. There is nothing in this world that crumbles my emotional defenses more than seeing a strong, grown
    man cry. Alex was incredible. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that he really enjoyed making this episode. Full of action, of course, but the emotions he was able to play. As an actor I’ll bet he just drank it up. He was superb!

    I know there will be those that will complain that there was not enough
    “core 4″ and, of course there was ZERO “core 4″ but I think in this case
    it was totally justified and very appropriate. Cath checked in with Danny, Kono being the “grown-up” and reminding Steve of what happened the last time he ventured into Korea and how the team showed up at the funeral. WOW. It so reminded me when the team showed up for Meka’s funeral in Season 1 not because they knew Meka but because they knew Danny. Same thing here. When Steve said to Freddie’s little girl “now where ever you go he’ll be with you” THEN looked up and saw his team….Damn… I was so choked up I could not swallow the lump in my throat. Yeah…where ever
    he goes, THEY will be with him. Those few seconds spoke VOLUMES!!!!

    And I can’t say enough about Michelle Borth. What a powerhouse Cath is. She is more than an equal match for Steve in every way and Freddie was 100% correct. She is the real deal. It’s good to know that Steve is more than aware of that even if he does, initially try to keep her away from danger. Notice he didn’t do the one thing that would have succeeded. He did not pull rank. He knew she was right from the start.

    All in all this will go down as one of my most favorite episodes of Five-0 ever. Yes, I missed the team but the drama of this story more than made up for it. Just…..WOW!

  • http://twitter.com/H50BAMF ESS

    Thank you for this recap Wendie! It was a wonderful episode. Even before I knew the names of anyone in the cast, this show was always about the McGarrett family story to me. It’s what kept me involved in the show and this episode tied a few loose ends up and came full circle in several ways for McG and it was very satisfying.
    I don’t think this episode was any more sentimental than watching the event episodes of Danny with Grace. Just a different kind of sentimental and it’s about time they really let their lead go all out in that dept and Alex truly shined. Those of us that watch his other works know what he’s capable of when the writing is there. I think he got to be a little bit of everything in this episode and he killed it. just absolutely killed it.
    One thing I learned about the McG character that I loved is that the SEALS didn’t make him the honorable, loyal, giving and compassionate man we know him to be, they just made what was already within him stronger. The way he ‘saved’ Freddie from himself early on was truly a heartfelt moment. I didn’t know what to think about this Freddie character or Alan Ritchson but I came away a big fan. He really made that character a stand out.
    Michelle held her own in this episode for sure. I have to admit I lost her a little bit sometimes because Alex was just so powerful in his scenes, I never doubted she was right there, behind him, supporting him and doing her thing. That’s the sign of a great character. She is strong, stubborn, dependable, loyal and truly compassionate….she makes the transition between all those with ease. Just like a true, strong woman IMO.
    I’ll be rewatching this episode over and over.

  • KAD1228

    I loved this episode, it was compelling, emotional and powerful. It gave a lot of insight into the man Steve is now and was before. Like ESS said, the SEALs only strengthened what already lived within him. Alex’s acting, his range of emotions, was absolutely EPIC. He knocked it out of the park. I would want Steve behind me in everything I do – his love and loyalty is remarkable. He’s a man of honor and strength, not afraid to stand up for and believe in the courage of his convictions. And Catherine matched step-for-step. Michelle was excellent last night. Bubba knew what Smoothdog has (finally) come to realize that Lt. Rollins is the real deal!
    I’ve never seen Alan Richardson before, but he’s become a new favorite of mine. He was excellent as Freddie and there was a great chemistry between him and Alex! Its’s a shame that he died. I’d truly love to see Steve interact w/a friend from his past on occasion (and not like the other guy – who Danny hated on sight – who wanted Steve dead).
    There were some funny moments. I loved when Kono told him, “I hate being the adult here, but remember what happened the last time you went to North Korea”! The fact that the team showed up at the end was priceless. O’hana at its best.
    This episode will be a definite favorite w/many re-watches. HOO RAH.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=605261427 Donna Shannon Marie

    I’m not ashamed to admit I cried like a baby especially at the end where Freddie made Steve promise he would tell his unborn daughter he loved her.

    This was the McRoll episode and I loved it, loved Cath checking in with Danny and him asking how his boy was aka Steve. To Cath going all BAMF on the bad guys.

    Alex obviously stole the show with the way he played Steve. How in one scene he was laughing and joking with Freddie, to the next eyes looking slightly vacant as things get harder. His tears when he saw what they had done to the body of Freddie, my tears started then with him, seeing and feeling his anger, revulsion at what they did. I dare anyone to watch this episode and say he is wooden.

    I’d never heard or saw Alan Ritchson in anything but he was amazing, his chemistry with Alex was spot on, and he fell into the role like he’d been doing it for 3 seasons not just one episode. I tweeted him to say how much I enjoyed him and was actually crying while typing as I said it’s such a shame he can’t come back. Would have loved to see him interact with Danny, see if Danny got jealous.

    Anyway, thank you Wendie for your article, as usual fantastic xx

    • http://twitter.com/H50BAMF ESS

      I agree Donna, would have loved to see how Danny reacted. Would his gut be correct this time or would he be jealous?

  • http://www.facebook.com/gina.fontillas Gina Fontillas

    Each time I try to think on what I liked & felt about the weekly episodes, I read your blog and you state it perfectly! I really enjoyed the “McRoll” scenes. I appreciate the writers’ continuously showcasing Catherine as a soldier; not just the gorgeous love interest. Being from a military family, I also liked the care & attention given to the “final good-bye,” honoring a promise, and the relationship of a brother/sister in battle. Finally, as a local girl, mahalo to YOU for your insights and always linking the episodes to life on our ‘aina.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ed.mattes.9 Ed Mattes

    Excellent review Wendie. One very minor quibble – the Pilot episode began once McGarrett had gotten Anton across the border into South Korea. It was identified as “Pohang South Korea” both last night and in the Pilot.

  • Diane

    Hi Wendie. I absolutely loved this episode. I’ve always been a McG/Cath person, but this showed how much more than just a girlfriend she is. I know that there was not much of the core 4, but they played such an integral part. Danny asking how his boy was, to Steve learning to letting his team know at least part of what was happening (thats may not have seemed like much, but was a big step for our Steve), and then ending of Steve looking up at his team standing there are supporting him. Every time I see Alex in an emotional scene, I am amazed at how he pulls people in with just a facial expression. Giving the little girl her father’s dog tags, and finally keeping his promise of telling her how much he loved her daddy and how much he loved her, just sent me right over the crying edge.
    Michelle was amazing, and the hate on the others sites just baffles me. Catherine is absolutely perfect for McG. People keep looking at her as just a girlfriend, but she is in the military, and said she had 3 tours in Kabul. So of course she should be able to handle herself. Great episdose. Thanks for your review Wendie. Looking forward but also dreading the end of the season.

  • BT

    I LOVE HAWAII FIVE-0, but I cannot believe all reviews I’ve read here and elsewhere that this was the best episode.
    It was boring to me and cartoony. There was next to no humor and I totally missed the cast. And the bromance. I could have done without the torture (which the team seem to rely on more and more) and could not believe that Steve would actually put a grenade under a living human being AS A TRAP? — Didn’t really care for that.
    Just a side note:
    The reason I love Hawaii Five-0 is the bromance, the scenes of Hawaii and the humor. The show has a heart of gold.
    It was missing for me here, despite the emotional scenes with Alan Rickman and the funeral and all. (I did cry but still.)
    Hope the show returns to form the next few episodes.

  • mcgreggl

    Another great review Wendie. No Five-O is complete without your insider column.

    This was an ambitious episode that required all of us to kind of put their sense of realism on hold for an hour. I did manage to do that and I enjoyed the show but it was hard at times. Two Americans in a gun battle against countless bad guys on North Korean soil? And they managed to find the remains of another American and then get away with relative ease? And, to borrow from Austin Powers, “…isn’t it funny how North Korea looks nothing like Oahu?”.
    Regardless, any episode that features Cath is a winner with me and the closing scene at the cemetery was first rate. It was also good to have some of the back-story filled in and the use of the footage from the pilot episode was very cool (I wouldn’t have known that scene was from the pilot if you hadn’t mentioned it above).
    Again, thanks for the great review Wendie. Look forward to it every week.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ed.mattes.9 Ed Mattes

    Hey Wendie, do you know the name of the little actress who played Freddie’s daughter? I didn’t see her name in the credits. Mahalo!

  • SaintsMeachum

    It was cool to see into McG’s past as a Navy SEAL and have it link to
    the first episode, but I just really didn’t care about anything that
    was going on. I mean you could get the feeling that maybe he gets
    captured and something bad goes wrong, but then that’d be going in a
    totally different direction than what is going on in the main plot of
    the show.

    I just didn’t really like how they showed the
    resolution already of McG getting revenge on Ji-woon, and then showing
    the flashback of what happened to McG and Freddie cause by then, I don’t
    care about Freddie.