Five-0 Redux: Stoking the embers
BY WENDIE BURBRIDGE / Special to the Star-Advertiser
When I think of fire, I imagine it as more of a representation of passion and desire. The fire in your belly, the heat of the moment, the kind of love that burns so deep nothing can quench it.
This week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-0” dealt with both the literal and metaphoric fire. “Nānahu,” or embers, can be stoked in order to rekindle what was once lost, but it can also be used to start a blaze that can be deadly. While poetically fire is a beautiful thing, literal fire is nothing to play with, for it does more then just burn — it kills.
Not to state the obvious, but usually on “Hawaii Five-0” the team deals with what kills, and this week is no exception. McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and crew worked with ATF Agent Kathy Millwood (guest star Melina Kanakaredes) to catch a serial arsonist (MMA fighter and former UFC champion Randy Couture) who targets young couples and watches them die after setting fire to their homes.
Couture’s character, Jason Duclair, is a seemingly charming man who gains access to his victims’ homes as an exterminator. Agent Millwood tracked him from California, where she worked the same case, and came face to face with him when he burned her house down and killed her husband. She came to Hawaiʻi after HPD entered the burn patterns from two fires on Oʻahu into a national database and she recognized his work. The arsonist had since upped his game, killing two couples in their homes and watching as they died — first via live feed from a nanny cam, then standing in a burning home dressed in a flame retardant suit.
I’m sure if someone wanted to experience the burning passion of love, there is a better way, right? Thankfully, this episode did not air on Valentine’s Day weekend. Still, love was definitely involved when dealing with Danno (Scott Caan) and Amber Vitale (Lili Simmons).
As much as I was hooked by the case and enjoyed watching McGarret, Grover (Chi McBride), Kono (Grace Park), and Chin (Daniel Dae Kim) work the arson case with Millwood, the secondary storyline involving Danno and Amber was just as engaging. Danno sure knows how to pick romantic spots; meeting Amber at the Mai Tai Bar in the famous pink hotel, The Royal Hawaiian, was classy enough, but to then whisk her away to a romantic beachfront hideaway secured his leading man status.
Danno knows how to stoke the embers of love, so I was thrilled he got to have a few happy moments before trouble showed up at his door. Amber, who came into Danno’s life in “O Kēlā me Kēia Manawa” (“Now and Then”), said she was making a new start in Hawaiʻi. Little did Danno know it was to escape a violent husband who seemed intent on getting her back this week.
I loved how protective Kamekona (Taylor Wily) got of both Danno and Amber when the ex-husband, Frank Simpson (David Hoflin), showed up at his shrimp truck. Kamekona wouldn’t give anything away. Not a table, not a shrimp, not even the idea that he knew who Simpson was looking for. Kamekona may pinch shrimp tails and pennies, but he’ll never scrimp on his love for his ʻohana.
And I know we all sighed a little when Steve jumped into action to find out who Simpson was and what he wanted with Amber. I never thought Amber was “stepping out” on Danno, and it didn’t seem as if McGarrett thought she was either. But he knew something was up, and when Chin found out about the abuse Simpson inflicted on Amber, they moved as if a fire had been lit under them. Even Sgt. Duke Lukela (Dennis Chun) added to the investigation with details about where Amber and Danno could be staying and warning Chin that Simpson had been by Amber’s office asking about her. All in the ʻohana when it comes to helping a friend.
The scenes between Amber and Danno were sweet and romantic. Still, one moment made me pause. Danno seems to be having dreams about killing Reyes. I know he feels guilty, but about what? Letting his brother Matthew get on the plane that led to his death? Shooting an unarmed man?
Or perhaps he just feels bad, because even though he has closure, he is still a bit tortured by the whole situation. Whatever Danno is going through, I love the conflict it creates for Caan’s character.
Conflict is definitely something that surged though this episode. Conflict of interest with Millwood and her desire to catch the arsonist. Conflict with Amber’s ex-husband finding her with Danno. Conflict all over Steve’s face when he learned Danno was hurt. Thankfully, it all wrapped up nicely — except for Simpson, who was used as a speed bump as Amber drove an injured Danno to the hospital. But the fact Danno accepted Amber’s explanation for hiding who she really was and why she left New York was a nice way to end the episode.
There was a lot to really like about this episode. The story by Akeba Gaddis Lynn and teleplay by John Dove included guest stars who were well-developed. Simpson was overly obsessive and scary, as he was supposed to be.
Director Joe Dante handled the pacing and tension with familiar expertise. I loved the golfing scenes with Hawaiʻi LPGA golfer Michelle Wie (who needs to teach McGarrett every week, she was such a natural!). I enjoyed how they were a great show of McGarrett and Grover’s growing friendship. The light-hearted scenes were a perfect balance for all the tension-filled scenes this week, especially after the scene where Duclair kidnapped Millwood and doused her with an accelerant.
It was so scary, and Kanakaredes’s fear was almost too realistic. Couture was so eerie as he coolly explained how he was ready to die with Millwood. When McGarrett and the team break in and take Duclair away, Millwood telling him he was going to burn in hell seemed a tad redundant. Or perhaps she was thinking he would last a little longer before sending himself there once he got to Halawa?
Still, McGarrett’s farewell to Millwood as she left the team was perfect.
“Don’t look back,” he said. “You can’t change the past. Trust me on that.”
And we know he’s right. If McGarrett has learned anything since starting the Five-0 team, stoking the embers doesn’t get you anything but burned.
REDUX SIDE NOTE
I love when my pre-show prep reveals little bits of info that connects the dots between the “Hawaii Five-0” cast and crew to special guest stars and other television shows. Perhaps one day there will be a trivia game for “Five-0” fans which would make this kind of intel be of some use. It also reminds fans that the theme of ʻohana exists on more than just one level with this show.
Guest star Melina Kanakaredes is probably best known as Detective Stella Bonasera from “CSI: NY.” “Hawaii Five-0” executive producer and showrunner Peter Lenkov also helmed “CSI:NY” in the same roles before rebooting “Five-0.”
Guest star David Hoflin played the ageless prisoner Tommy Madsen on “Alcatraz,” a short-lived series created by “Hawaii Five-0” supervising producers and writers Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt that also starred Jorge Garcia. Lilien and Wynbrandt also wrote and produced on “CSI:NY.”
And co-executive producer John Dove, who wrote this week’s episode, was a co-executive producer on “CSI: NY” before joining the “Five-0” staff.
And if we needed more ʻohana reminders, Hawaiʻi actors were great and plentiful this week. Michael Hake, who has been in on “CSI:NY” and in the independent film “The Sensei,” played Hagen Mahoe, the husband in the first fire at the start of the episode. Haley Williams played Sabina Mahoe, his wife.
Scott Stevenson, who played the homeless man who gave Kathy the arsonist’s pictures, is a professional singer and entertainer who has preformed in Hollywood and Las Vegas. Antonio Anagaran, Jr., who played Kala Lono, the husband in the second house fire, is a former Honolulu Theatre for Youth actor and was last seen in “Godzilla.”
Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright and teacher. Reach her via Facebook and follow her on Twitter.