By Wayne Harada
Despite a script which resonated with an older audience with detailed historical wartime memories, CBS’ commendable “Hawaii Five-0” episode with a cold case link to World War II internment camps was the season’s best. The program triggered painful memories for some but failed to lasso viewers.
The episode, entitled “Ho’onani Makuakane (Honor Thy Father),” drew more viewers (8.9 million) than ABC’s “Shark Tank” 7.12 million ) in the same Friday night hour (8 p.m. here, 9 p.m. Mainland), but tanked in the key 18 to 49 demographics (1.2 rating for “Five-0,” compared to 2.0 for “Shark Tank”). This plateau — No. 1 in viewers, No. 2 in demo — has been the M.O. in the overnight Nielsen figures for the Hawaii-based procedural, which this week reflected a demo drop of 20 per cent from 1.5 on Nov. 22 while “Shark” was steady, maintaining its 2.0 ranking.
For the creators of “Five-0,” the dip and the lack smallish viewership must have been disappointing, since this episode reflected a laudable effort to create a particular brand of storytelling in a cop show’s rigid 42-minute running time. It’s this level of craftsmanship the hurls “Five-0” up a few notches.
The prologue — a fictional recreation of what might have actually happened on the fateful morning of Dec. 7, 1941 — is swift and newsreely, with bombs falling and GIs scattering and Japanese aircraft in the air.
Yes, there’s the use of the “J” word, common during the war, and the recreation of the Honouliuli interment camp, properly described as “Hell Valley,” was prison-like with guard towers, barbed wire and armed soldiers... and innocent Japanese natives unjustly placed there.
The episode, crisply directed by Larry Teng, hit the target with superb writing, though with some obvious and crafty coincidences unlikely in real life, matched by spot-on casting led James Saito as the central figure, David Toriyama, who remembers seeing what he believes was the murder of his grandfather by a wartime soldier and Pearl Harbor survivor Ezra Clark, played by Jack Axelrod.
This was a show with one cargument, and a mild one, between Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Danno (Scott Caan), but absolutely no car chases.
Many familiar local faces appear, like Luke Hagi, son of weather man Guy Hagi and Aloha United Way honcho Kim Gennaula, as Young David; Mary Gutzi, as the daughter of George Rigby, a wartime cop; and Eric Manke, as the grandson possessing the sword previously owned by the murderer of the soldier James Toriyama.
Honor is the working word throughout the show; the script is rich with complications and specifics, tradition and some torment, fuzzy recollections and snappy resolutions. A favored Japanese katana sword has a big role and is key evidence in the cold case; the humiliation of arrest and POW-type treatment reflect the tenure of the times; the early suspect, the solider Clark, has faded memories but while he hated the WWII enemy, he says he didn’t hate Japanese and married a Nippon woman and had a hapa daughter.
Too contrived, however, was the photograph album shot of McGarrett’s grandfather, Steven McGarrett, who was in the Navy during the war; and the ease with which shredded court documents and boxed, arcived evidence, can swiftly solve the case.
Not a spoiler, but yes, the bullet that killed the soldier Toriyama is found when his remains are examined.
A scene with Saito and Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim) had a personal, revealing and humane tone, with Chin always bringing a sense of calm and resolve to the table.
And McG’s declaration to the older David Toriyama, “Soldier to solider, I need to hae you tell me the truth,” was the defining moment of this episode, which made McG go for broke and solve the 70-year-old crime.
Too bad the visibility — which will improve with delayed viewing — was moderate for such a meaningful and wrenching episode. Saito should be Emmy-nominated for this guest appearance.