Five-0 Redux: Honoring our fathers

Dec. 14, 2013 | 21 Comments

BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser

To say this week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0” was the most emotional and thought-provoking of the season might be the understatement of the year. Just watching the previews of the opening scene of “Hoʻonani Makua Kāne,” (three words, not two) which is Hawaiian for “Honor thy Father,” gave me chickenskin as I watched Ford Island, circa 1941, exploding on my screen.

After reading about the reenactment of the attack, as well as the Honouliuli Internment Camp, I was ready with my box of tissues to watch a fictionalized version of December 7th and some of its aftermath.

The December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was recreated for this week's episode of "Hawaii Five-0." (Courtesy CBS)

The December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor was recreated for this week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0.” (Courtesy CBS)

Writers Peter Lenkov and Ken Solarz, along with director Larry Teng, did not disappoint. The episode started off with a scene straight from the history books, using a newsreel from the 1940′s about servicemen enjoying the sights and sounds of Oʻahu. Yet after the hula dancers, Diamond Head and the Royal Hawaiian Hotel flashed by, we’re taken right to Naval Air Station Ford Island (part of today’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam) and treated to a Sunday morning soldier’s breakfast of friendly wisecracks and a plate of S.O.S.

The attack officially started at 7:48 a.m. at Naval Air Station Kāneʻohe (currently Marine Corps Base Hawaii-Kāneʻohe Bay) and as the men start to see bombs being dropped and enemy planes flying overhead, the entire scene erupts as men try in vain to shoot down the bombers as they run from strafing bullets. We follow one young man, Ezra Clark, (Jarod Einsohn) who picks up a dead soldier’s weapon and begins his own version of shooting flying ducks in a barrel.

All this action in the first five minutes had me holding my breath, wondering what was going to happen to this young man. Would he make it? I mean, we all know what happened later that day — the sinking of the Arizona, the Oklahoma, the West Virginia, the California, the Utah, and the beaching of the Nevada.

Another scene of the December 7, 1941 attack recreated for this week's episode of "Hawaii Five-0." (Courtesy CBS)

Another scene of the December 7, 1941 attack recreated for this week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0.” (Courtesy CBS)

So when we return to present day and find that young man now 72 years older and sitting in a wheelchair on the bow of the USS Missouri during a Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremony, we are grateful he has made it and lived so long.

But then — in true “Hawaii Five-0” fashion — we get the twist. And this comes not only with a tug on the heartstrings, but it also starts what becomes an intriguing, amazing case.

McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) is also sitting on the bow of the Mighty Mo, with his best gal and now teammate, Catherine Rollins (Michelle Borth), and sees an older Japanese man watching the ceremony from the pier. As he and Cath leave, he sees the older gentleman following the former soldier in his wheelchair and pull out a gun. McGarrett disarms him and the man confesses he was going to kill the person who killed his father and dishonored his family.

Extras mill about between shots during filming of "Hawaii Five-0." The scene depicted the Honouliuli internment camp during World War II. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino)

Extras mill about between shots during filming of “Hawaii Five-0.” The scene depicted the Honouliuli internment camp during World War II. (Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino)

With me so far? All this action and drama and we’re not even to the first commercial break. The Pearl Harbor survivor in the wheelchair, of course, is a much older Ezra Clark, played by Jack Axelrod, who I swore was one of the survivors who talked to me and my son the last time we were at the Arizona Memorial. But no, Mr. Axelrod is a seasoned film and television actor.

The older Japanese man is David Toriyama (actor James Saito, aged nicely to look like a pretty sprightly 82-year-old) who claimed when he and his family were held at the Honouliuli Internment Camp, Clark shot and killed his father in order to steal their family katana, which had been handed down for centuries.

Forgive me for going through that first scene in such detail, but this episode was one I could write about for a few days. Not only was the story so good and the visuals truly awesome, but the story was one I completely bought. The episode was called “a bit melodramatic” by critics, but for someone who grew up looking at a lot of red dirt in a neighborhood where one neighbor was from Germany and told me stories about Nazis during World War II and another was from Hiroshima and would not say one word about surviving the war or the atom bomb, I was hooked.

And very weepy. How could you not watch the flashbacks of David Toriyama as a 10-year-old boy (Luke Hagi) playing catch with his still-proud father, a former teacher and pillar of his community, now imprisoned in a hot, dusty camp, accused of being a traitor to his own country because he was a different race? The scene when James Toriyama (Arnold Chun) is forcibly taken from his classroom at Punahou School made me so angry. When his wife and children are arrested and made to forfeit their home, I was left feeling so ashamed. And like knowing what happened to the Arizona and the other battleships on December 7th, I knew what was happening on my screen really happened in real life.

I find it funny some don’t really believe we interned our own citizens during World War II. Some think internment camps in Hawaiʻi were not as harsh as the ones on the mainland, as most of the Hawaiʻi community were not supportive of their neighbors and friends being imprisoned. But they still existed, and that should have been more than enough for all of us to feel ashamed.

Daniel Dae Kim, right, relaxes between takes with Luke Hagi during filming in October for this week's episode of "Hawaii Five-0." (Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino)

Daniel Dae Kim, right, relaxes between takes with Luke Hagi during filming in October for this week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0.” (Star-Advertiser photo by Jamm Aquino)

My apologies, “Hawaii Five-0” fans. I promise to get back to McG and crew in a minute. But I just wanted to show how completely awesome the show is to feature something more commonly seen in documentaries or briefly touched upon in movies that focus on Asian-American issues. Besides “Farewell to Manzanar,” which was a book and a television movie about the Wakatsuki family interned in Manzanar, Calif. (Saito played Richard Wakatsuki in the movie), I can’t think of many television shows brave enough to tackle such a sore spot in American history and present it with dignity and genuine sincerity.

So while we perhaps missed “all McG all the time,” we still got a bit of a cargument when Danno asked McG the obvious question: “Why did we just leave a guy who almost committed premeditated murder at his house while we investigate a 70-year-old murder?”

Danno’s response when McG tells him that they owe Toriyama, a Korean War Veteran? “You’re a big softie. Maybe you’re becoming a human being.”

I know I’m not alone in loving the treat of some of the usual “Five-0″ humor from our beloved Danno. I especially liked his quip about arresting Toriyama at a “Bingo Brawl.” All of the small bits of humor helped to break up the heartbreaking scenes. The added twist when we found grandpa Steven McGarrett in the Toriyama family photo album was heart-wrenching, as McG tells Toriyama his grandfather died onboard the Arizona. When Toriyama claims to not know why the picture was there, more sadness was added to the intrigue.

David Toriyama (James Saito, right, and Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) share a common bond they didn't know they had — McGarrett's grandfather. (Courtesy CBS)

David Toriyama (James Saito, right, and Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) share a common bond they didn’t know they had — McGarrett’s grandfather. (Courtesy CBS)

Yes, McGarrett finds the man who killed Toriyama’s father, and it took a lot of leg work and a bit of modern technology. Turns out it was a career criminal named Joseph Archer, who died serving a life sentence in prison. Fortunately for the Toriyama family, Archer’s grandson (Eric Manke) had the sword hidden in plain sight, and McGarrett and crew returned it to a grateful and visibly moved Toriyama. The scene when McGarrett presents the sword to him — “on behalf of the U.S. Government and a grateful nation” — was enough to make even a hardened sailor choke up a bit.

But the scene to end all “Five-0” episodes has to have been this ending. When McGarrett and Toriyama meet on the pier of the USS Missouri and look over at the USS Arizona Memorial, Toriyama presents McGarrett with his baseball glove, the same one we saw the younger David using in flashback scenes. It was a gift from a young ensign who had been to Toriyama’s house in 1941 for tutoring by his history teacher father. That ensign was McGarrett’s grandfather, who gave Toriyama the glove on the night of December 6, 1941.

So David Toriyama may have been the last person to have seen McG’s grandfather alive. And once again, McG has another piece of his past handed to him in such a strange, yet beautiful, way.

The title of this episode also connotes the fact that when we honor our fathers we never forget. And that is something “Hawaii Five-0” did a good job with, reminding us about the sacrifices many fathers made, and continue to make, in times of war and struggle.
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Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

  • KAD1228

    There aren’t enough words to describe this episode. Riveting. Emotional. Powerful. Epic. Amazingly acted by Alex and James. If this episode doesn’t win any awards it will be tragic. This should be required watching for all American history classes. It moved me to tears from when Chin asked to shake his hand to the end when David handed Steve the baseball mitt. Hats off to Peter and Larry. Mahalo nui loa for bringing a small piece of a hidden (and far from pretty) part of American history to light.

  • Dina

    Yes Wendi a great tribute to our “fathers”- I am still waiting to hear from my FIL- a Korean War Vet himself to hear his thoughts on episode- it was also his first time watching H50 ;=)

  • Angela Gerstner

    After watching the episode twice, I was still left in tears at the end. I’m glad to have chosen that special moment with Steve and Mr. Toriyama at the end as the central motive for my weekly collage (fansite/FB) because it stood for what made this episode so special – forgiveness, justice, friendship & understanding between people of different descent, and great emotions, in general.

    Right before Steve was shown on that pier, I thought to myself that he just had to find out the connection between his grandpa and the Toriyama family, and the H50 writers didn’t disappoint me – just as they didn’t with this entire episode which was, indeed, one that everyone involved in can be very proud of, as it stood out for many things: The bravety of its producers in tackling such a delicate historical subject, the excellence in writing and presenting a reality-based story in such a sensitive manner, the fantastic acting (especially by James Saito), the truly beautiful and fitting score, and the outstanding cinematography in the opening sequence that could easily compete with a movie. Since I mentioned the movie “Pearl Harbor” last week, I would like to say that I liked this H50 episode even more because the portrayal of the historical events was much more sensitive and better-balanced than in the movie.

    Wendie, there’s no need to apologize to us “Hawaii Five-0″ fans. We all got our fair share of Steve and his team this week – both in your blog and in the episode. And thanks to Danno, we even got a touch of humor amidst all the heart-moving, dramatic and highly emotional scenes. By the way – you are not the only one who was moved to tears (or made “weepy”) by this episode. It just shows that H50 did an absolutely awesome job and that Peter kept his promise when he told us earlier that we’d need a box of tissues.

    PS: I don’t think we need to be ashamed for what former generations in our countries (I’m German) did wrong BUT we must never forget and must always strive to prevent history from repeating itself.

  • FIVE0JOE

    just want to know how peter and co is gonna top this episode -it was great – and it was the best ending ever. also great to get some steve and danny time – loved this ep – belongs in its own catagory!

  • MagdaImmelvanTol

    Outstanding history lesson intertwined with a great touching story. Everything in this episode was truly amazing. It was so well made and the acting, the writing, the beautiful music. Kudos to cast and crew for a superb job! This will go down as possibly the very best episode of the serie.

    The story David told about his family and what they went throught was very moving . Plus the connection for Steve and his grandfather was wonderful. It was wonderful to see how humble and with lot of respect Steve handle this case. Danny was right it made him softie almost human

    One of the best moment was when Chin wanted to shake David hand for what he went through as a soldier it brought tears to my eye’s

    This episode showed us that people like David also were victims of that horrible war. I didn’t even knew about the internment camps ……… James Saito was just amazing as David give that man a Emmy. They did a great job of aging him for the role in real life he is 58 years old.

    A wonderful tribute to the remembrance of that tragic day on December 7th 1941. Which we never should forget.

    Thanks Wendie for a wonderful review.

  • alavenia

    Amazing episode, I had tears in my eyes at the end, brilliant performances, well written and directed, beautifully done, great job!!

  • Diane

    No country’s actions are always right. That is why we should never forget, so as to not repeat the same wrongs. Americans did a great deal of good during WWII, but they also did some wrong, and a lot of Americans who happened to look like the enemy were wronged by their own country. H50 did a wonderful job with the entire episode, and tying it into the modern day. There won’t be too many more opportunities, to bring things to light, because the ones who were there are at the end of their lives. Loved the little bit of bromance, and the respect this show showed to both sides.
    Thanks for a great article. Truly one of the best episodes.

  • Robin Jane Bridges

    I loved the episode.

  • jlopie1

    For once, I’m completely at a loss for words, Wendie! This episode moved me beyond the power to articulate how I feel. It was wonderful, reverent, insightful, and obviously a work of pure love from the producers, writers, director, cast, crew – all the way down to the lowly intern. Melodramatic? What happened at Pearl Harbor that December day, and the following weeks on the island and all around the west coast as thousands of Japanese Americans were rounded up and herded off to internment camps for the duration of the war, was nothing short of real life drama. This was perfection.

  • URMR

    Seems that everyone is forgetting about the touching moment where McG brings Ezra Clark to the Toriyama residence so David can personally apologize to him. It’s forgiveness and understanding that helps us move forward.

  • https://twitter.com/FanmisaN Fanmisa (Nadia)

    Amazing review !
    nothing to had except that i LOVE the episode
    it’s my fave episode so far of the show and I think it’s one of the best if not the best of the history of TV shows
    the honor gaven to Pearl Harbor, the perfect writing and the brilliant acting made it be a 5 stars episode ! and movie-like quality for sure !

    Thanks Wendie ! :) xx

  • Amy Denton

    What an episode! I was waiting to see what you would say Wendi. My grandfather served in World War II in the South Pacific and I heard some stories from my mother as a kid but not too many.
    I teach U.S. History at a local community college and we had just finished discussing the attack on Pearl Harbor and the internment of the Japanese-Americans. My students were shocked. “Our government did what?”
    So, knowing that this episode was coming, I suggested they watch. Not for extra credit or anything like that. Just to watch and learn.
    I hope they did. The semester finished before the show aired.
    This was GLORIOUS.
    I was in tears at the end with Steve and David and the baseball glove. Wow.

  • LindaStein

    Sorry I’m so late today Wendie….busy busy with holiday stuff…you know how it is. Anyway, great review as always. This episode was really, truly amazing. I mean, where
    do you start with an episode like this one? How many emotions can one episode bring to the surface? How can you describe sitting on your sofa and alternating between chills, outrage, sadness, amazement, warmth and tears? This episode did all that and more. A truly memorable experience whether you are a long time Five-0 viewer or just decided to give it a try this one time.

    The character of David could not have been written nor acted any better. The emotions he portrayed were palatable. His happy youth, his fear and humiliation at being herded into trucks like animals, his rage over what happened to his father as well as all the Japanese who were interred and finally his happiness at the resolution to his father’s murder, the return of his family heirloom AND his contrition to the man he wrongfully accused. Sheer perfection from beginning to end.

    One scene in particular really struck a nerve with me. When David was
    describing his neighborhood growing up and we see him and his brother
    walking home from school. They wave to “Mrs. Kennedy” across the street
    as she calls out to them “Aloha boys” and waves back.
    But later as the family is being herded into the truck that same Mrs.
    Kennedy is looking at them with such disdain, mistrust and hatred as she clutches her daughter to her as if she needs to protect her. She’s acting as if these are people she hasn’t known and lived beside for years. Really gave me chills.

    Like you I could go on for days about all the things that were wonderful about this episode. I can’t find one thing wrong with it. The ending between Steve and David, with the baseball glove and David telling Steve he recognized him because he has the heart of his grandfather finally brought the tears to my eyes I had been fighting all night. An incredible achievement from top to bottom for everyone involved in bringing this to our screens!

  • Terry FiveOs

    Thanks, Wendie, you had me reaching for the kleenex again. ;-)

    This was undeniably a special television show. I was impressed with the quality of the flashback scenes, and the detail given to them. And watching the bombing scenes felt like watching a movie. The visual elements were perfect. James Saito’s, “David,” was moving as a man who had been carrying a heavy burden and a horrible grudge since childhood. And in spite of how his country treated him, like many who really did live in these camps, David went on to serve it with honor.

    I grew up in Miami, Florida, but was an adult living in California before I found out the United States had sent it’s own citizens to internment camps in the name of national security. I was stunned, and reading comments about this episode, I see that many other Americans still were not aware of this shameful period in our history. Our government was convinced that Japanese-Americans, as well as foreign born Italians and Germans were going to commit treasonous acts, and so gave themselves the right to treat these law-abiding folks like criminals. And the really frightening part is that there are people in this country today, who I believe would be willing to treat American Muslims in a similar fashion.

    One off note for me; I found the scene where Chin Ho says he wants to shake Toriyama’s hand a bit odd. Like David, I didn’t understand why. Even if he didn’t try to kill a man, he went through the motions. Yes, he was a war hero, but Hawaii is full of those from a variety of wars. I didn’t find him all that admirable, but he had my empathy and understanding. But still, that isn’t going to make me say, “Can I shake your hand?”

    I hope everyone involved with this episode is proud of it. It wasn’t perfect – Peter Lenkov tends to lay the sentiment on a bit heavy for my taste, (the old softie) – but it was a important one. I was disappointed to see that the ratings were actually down from those of the last new episode, so I hope it gets heavy DVR viewership, because it’s not only an effective episode, but an educational one.

    And as manipulatively sentimental as it was, the scene with Toriyama, Steve, and the baseball glove may have actually rung a few tears from these eyes. May. I’m not ready to admit to anything.

  • edmattes763

    I too think this would be a good way for a history teacher to give his / her students a lesson. As a student, my history classes told us the story of Pearl Harbor but the fact that we imprisoned our own citizens was glossed over. As David told Chin when he shook hands “our children must not forget!” And not just children of Asian heritage, but those of all races.

  • Sam

    Great review, Wendy. Again I have to say. It is always a joy to read your thoughts about an episode. And I totally agree with you, one could fill pages about the greatness of this episode.
    Five-0 did an outstanding job tackling this subject. Amazing work all around.
    Thank you for pointing out all the important parts. Hopefully your review will be read by many.

  • badgerly

    Your review is great, Wendie. Thank you. This HF-0 episode was phenomenal and impactful. I’m happy that it educated people about history of which they were previously unaware.

  • BigKahunaOC

    Wendie:
    Thank you for the wonderful review. You are a terrific writer. This episode is simple magnificent. Delivering an outstanding connection between the actors and the viewers. Mr. Lenkov and the Five-O cast and crew should certainly be recognized by the television arts and sciences community here in Hollywood for this dramatic and heartfelt work of genius. For me the scene where McGarrett is respectfully reviewing the contents of his grandfather’s footlocker is quite gripping. The old black and white family photographs, the worn uniforms, the folded American flag. My father served in the US Army and was stationed at Schofield Barracks then. He was in the Tripler Army hospital with a bout of severe malaria when the attack occurred. When he was well enough to travel he was shipped back to the mainland for armored cavalry training in Kentucky and Louisiana before being shipped off to England for the great invasion. That scene certainly connects the generations with love, respect, and admiration for what the greatest generation accomplished to protect our freedoms we enjoyed today. The storyline is as all these commenters have said absolutely heart-rendering. I have had the privilege of having the USAF as a customer for more than 30 years. This episode is a wonderful tribute to our service men and women, the Hawaiian Ohana (family), and Five-O fans worldwide. Wendie, please thank your husband for all of us for his Navy service. We are proud to know these heroes. Looking forward to seeing all my Hawaiian Ohana very soon in the New Year when I ‘Book’Em’ another trip to Paradise! If you get to LA give me a call – I’ll pick you guys up in the green Five-O machine, ha! Mele Kalikimaka to all of you and Happy New Year 2014! Mahalo Wendie!

  • pauldunn1

    Wendie,
    Excellent review that captures not only what the ep is about, but also the connection with local history that all of us know about with the parts that most do not know about. It was done with consideration both of the facts and how those continue to impact us today. The quality of the production was similar to a movie.
    Paul

  • june77

    This was a perfect episode, and did a wonderful job of being sensitive about the camps – a shameful episode in US history. Is it too soon to hope that the producers submit this episode for Emmy consideration? I also hope McG stays in touch with David, who is like an uncle due to their connection through Grandpa McG; sad that David has no family left, no grandkids.

    And who dared to say that this episode was “a bit melodramatic”?? It was about a concentration camp and people getting killed, which happened in real life!

  • Rick Barnett

    the only downside to this episode was that there was no Steve McGarrett on the roll call at the USS Arizona which was disrepectful to all who really perished.