‘Hawaii Five-0’ Treading Water in Season 3

Seven episodes into Season 3, it’s fair to ask whether CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 has lost its way.

Since the action-packed season premiere, most of the episodes have been self-contained, with plots that have ranged from procedural to cartoonish. Meanwhile:

  1. The show hasn’t advanced the McGarrett family story line since Episode 4.
  2. While Episodes 5 and 6 (below) showed Danno (Scott Caan) bonding with his young daughter, Grace (Teilor Grubbs), his looming custody fight hasn’t been addressed since it became the weakest cliffhanger in the Season 2 finale.
  3. The romance between Kono (Grace Park) and yakuza heir Adam Noshimuri (Ian Anthony Dale) hasn’t come up since Episode 3.
  4. The last time viewers saw Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim) grieve for his late wife, Malia, was at the “paddle out” memorial in Episode 2.
  5. Season 2’s cast addition, Masi Oka as coroner Max Bergman, no longer was walking with a cane this week, but I can’t remember why he was using it in the first place.
  6. The show’s writers have Navy Lt. Catherine Rollins doing pretty much the same thing she was in Season 1 – using her status in Naval Intelligence to magically provide information that Five-0 can’t plausibly obtain on its own – despite the fact that actress Michelle Borth was made a full cast member this season.

McGarrett paterfamilias Jack was killed in the 2010 series premiere, and most of Season 1 was devoted to finding out why. (Whatever happened to that mysterious toolbox full of clues?) Other ongoing stories included Danno’s rapprochement with ex-wife Rachel and the team’s efforts to clear Chin Ho of corruption allegations.

Season 2 focused mostly on the identity of the mysterious Shelbourne, as well as the search for McGarrett nemesis Wo Fat and plots hatched by disgraced former cop Frank Delano – ongoing stories that came together in the season finale.

Season 3? Well, it’s hard to say where this season is going. With the revelation that Shelbourn is the presumed-dead Doris McGarrett (Christine Lahti), clearly the family saga has turned to Mom and her secrets. But it’s moving glacially. We still don’t know what went down between her and Wo Fat and the end of the season premiere, or what pictures were on the film she retrieved from the floorboards of the McGarrett home in Episode 4.

 Sister Act 2: Back in the Five-0

After installments that included a satanic Halloween and a lame terrorist plot (recapped below), Season 3, Episode 7 of H50 finally got back to the McGarrett family saga but didn’t advance it much.

Baby sis Mary Ann (Taryn Manning), still unaware of Mom’s rise from the dead, returns to Hawaii at Steve’s behest. (After discovering in the season premiere that Doris wasn’t really dead, Steve tells Catherine that it’s not something he could tell his sister over the phone. Mary Ann was 3 years old at the time of her mother’s supposed death.) When he meets Mary Ann at the airport, she has in tow a wheelchair-bound elderly man, Morty (longtime character actor Shelley Berman).

Mary Ann (Taryn Manning) kneels at her dad’s grave. Morty (Shelley Berman) observes from a respectful distance.

  • Steve: “Why is he here?”
  • Mary Ann: “Because I can’t leave him.”
  • Steve: “What are you talking about.”
  • Mary Ann: “Oh, I’m his caregiver.”
  • Steve: “You’re his caregiver?”
  • Mary Ann: “Yeah, the flight attendant thing didn’t work out so well.”

Morty offers comic relief on two levels – not only in his attire and dialogue, but also to emphasize the running gag that the rudderless Mary Ann has a different “career” each time she returns to Oahu.

“So,” Mary Ann asks her big brother, “what’s this big secret you can’t tell me over the phone?”

“It’s about Mom,” Steve says.

Cut to the McGarrett home, where Doris waits nervously. When Steve returns alone, she is visibly upset.

  • Doris: “She’s not coming, is she?”
  • Steve: “Well, you can’t blame her, Mom. She thought you were dead.”
  • Doris: “Where’s she staying? [No response.] Fine, I’ll track her down myself. Acquiring target locations is actually a specialty of mine.”
  • Doris: “Mom, Mary’s your daughter. She’s not a target.”

Steve tells Doris to give Mary some space. “When she’s ready, she’s going to come to you,” he says.

Doris’ response: “And what if that never happens?”

Later, Doris tracks Mary Ann to Oahu’s famous “Punchbowl” military cemetery, where she is kneeling tearfully by her father’s grave, with Morty parked a respectful distance away. Mary Ann delivers a powerful monologue to her late father about how much she misses him, how she remembers him crying when Doris supposedly died; and how angry she is with her mother now. Doris retreats to her car, where she tears up herself from hearing about the pain she caused.

Near the end of the episode, Mary Ann and Morty are at the beach, watching families frolic in the surf. Morty relates how he and his wife had a disagreement with their daughter about a man she was dating. She dropped out of college and moved with the guy to San Francisco. Years later, he got a call from a highway patrolman who said the daughter – Morty’s only child – had been killed by a drunken driver.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I’d picked up the phone and called her,” he tells Mary Ann.

That night at the McGarrett home, there is a knock on the door. Doris opens it, and it’s Mary. They hug and cry while Steve watches from the landing. It was a dramatic ending, but – given that Wo Fat is at large and supposedly wants Doris dead – would she really open the door without first finding out who was there? Then again, no one really is sure what is going on with Doris and Wo Fat.

Can Five-0 Hack It?

In the midst of this family soap opera, Steve has a killing to investigate.

Before the show’s boffo opening theme, a teenage boy is released from prison. His family waits in the parking lot by their minivan. Mom gives him a hug. He lovingly greets his younger brother, who is engrossed in something on his tablet computer.

He looks at his father standing back by the vehicle. “Dad, I’m sorry,” he says. “Get in the car, son” is the cold reply, as the mother looks pained.

We next see the minivan on an isolated road. The youth again focuses on his younger brother, who appears to be autistic. Meanwhile, the parents bicker. The mother says they are lost; the father won’t admit it. “It’s impossible,” he says. “I’m following the GPS.”

Famous last words – in this case for the teen. A full-size van appears from behind and forces them off the road. Masked thugs emerge from the van, grab the just-released teenager, throw him into their vehicle and speed off.

When the Five-0 team tracks down the van, the teen’s body is in the back. Max pegs the cause of death as a heart attack brought on by torture. He also reports bruises consistent with CPR – signaling that the captors probably hadn’t gotten what they wanted when the boy died and tried to revive him.

To make a long story short – too late? – the teen was a gifted computer hacker who, before reporting to prison for hacking into government computer systems, had uploaded a mysterious file to an offline storage site. The team suspects the contents of that file may have gotten him killed, but he’d protected it with 1024-bit encryption, meaning the password would be 309 characters. Thinking nobody could memorize that, Chin Ho sends Kono to the family residence to ask the parents and search the victim’s room.

The younger brother walks in while Kono is searching the teen’s room. When she asks him about a password, he starts reciting chemical elements. She asks if his brother taught him those, and he says yes. She grabs a chemistry book from a shelf, flips to the periodic table and asks the boy to repeat the list of elements so she can write down their atomic numbers. The list of numbers totals 309 characters!

She notifies Chin Ho that she has the password, but the phone goes dead before she can pass it along. The masked thugs storm the house and take the family, fellow mourners and Kono hostage. She agrees to trade the password for the hostages. An armored truck is brought in at the captors’ request; the three men and Kono climb in and speed off.

Unbeknown to them, Steve is strapped to the vehicle’s undercarriage. In an effort worthy of James Bond, the former Navy SEAL scales the rear of the vehicle, works his way forward on top and reaches down to slug the driver and pull him from the cab. Danno and Chin Ho catch up in the Camaro and shoot open the rear of the armored truck. The remaining henchman is hit, but the leader tries to use Kono as a shield. They struggle, fall from the vehicle and fight hand-to-hand in the street before Kono prevails in a flurry of marital arts moves.

The thugs, it turns out, were mercenaries. The mysterious file contained information on a fugitive organized-crime figure they had helped get off the grid. He is on the island, and Five-0 arrests him.

Danno’s Good Graces

Episode 6 did nothing to advance H50‘s ongoing plot lines, but it did fill in part of Danno’s past and hint at how his daughter came to be named Grace.

Danno (Scott Caan) and salesgirl (Kendall Jenner).

In a scene written mainly to show off 17-year-old guest star Kendall Jenner (Keeping Up with the Kardashians), Danno and Grace are shopping for a dress she can wear to a big father-daughter dance that evening – an attempt to build upon the bonding that took place between them in the Halloween episode.

Boy band One Dimension’s “What Makes You Beautiful” sets the tone, and Grace emerges from a fitting room in a gown that takes her father’s breath away. Jenner plays the salesgirl, who is a foil for his banter at the checkout counter. Not much is demanded from Jenner, and she delivers – a win-win for the H50 and Kardashian publicity machines. Her best ironic line: “Kids grow up so fast.”

But the episode has a grittier side. Later, with Steve, Danno laments having to live, and raise his daughter, in the post-9/11 world – where it seems that danger surrounds us and we’re all living on borrowed time.

There are flashbacks to 11 years earlier in New Jersey, when Danno and then-partner Grace Tilwell (Sydney Tamiia Poitier, stunning daughter of Oscar-winning actor Sydney Poitier) were captured and beaten by drug dealers (Terrence Howard of Hustle & Flow and rapper T.I.) in a Newark warehouse.

Danno and Grace Tilwell (Sydney Tamiia Poitier) at mercy of an angry drug dealer (Terrence Howard).

The set-up for the flashbacks is that Danno and Steve are killing time during a stakeout. Five-0 is investigating a lame terrorist plot it stumbles upon after a would-be bomb maker blows up himself, along with an entire house. Turns out the dead man was Middle Eastern – imagine that – and his cell phone leads the team to a run-down residence. There Steve and Danno kill a second Middle Eastern man, and Chin Ho and Kono turn up a terrorist workshop.

How did they get information on the terrorist cell? Some gratuitous video of bikini-clad Catherine by the pool at the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort sugar coats yet another of case of Steve using his girlfriend, the naval (navel?) intelligence officer, to obtain obtain crucial information.

When will the writers stop using this lazy gimmick!?! They’re even making fun of it themselves. When her cell phone rings by the pool and she sees Steve on the Caller ID, she answers, “Lt. Catherine Rollins, assistant to Steve McGarrett, how can I help you?” [She’s on speaker in the Camaro, and Danno laughs.]

Of course, she comes up with the information and, after heading off a bomb attack on a military retirement ceremony where the secretary of Defense is speaking, Steve and Danno begin a stakeout for the remaining suspect. While they wait, Danno relates the tale of the 2001 drug bust gone bad.

Just as the story is getting good, Danno spots the suspect and a foot chase ensues. Danno shoots him dead but discovers a bomb vest on the body – with a proximity detector that’s already locked onto him. To calm Danno while they wait on the bomb-disposal technician, Steve gets him to resume the story and concentrate on the earlier near-death experience.

After a savage beating fails to elicit information from Danno, the head drug dealer played by Howard shoots Grace in the stomach. He figures this will break Danno. Instead, Danno bluffs that backup is on the way. When they are interrupted by the sound of sirens, Danno uses the diversion to get the drop on the dealers and shoots them.

Back in the present, the guy from the bomb squad arrives and checks out the bomb: “Oh darling,” he exclaims. “C-4, ball barings, nails. This thing was built to make a big mess.”

“My partner was just wrapping up a story here,” Steve explains. “Right Danno? … So you and your partner, I bet you didn’t tell anybody where you were going, right?”

“No,” Danno says, “of course not.”

Back in 2001, Danno checks Grace’s condition, but he’s too late. She’s dead.

He staggers out of the warehouse and tries to flag down a parade of police cars and ambulances, but they speed by him. He looks toward where they are going and sees smoke coming from the Manhattan skyline.

Back in the present, Steve is incredulous. “That was Sept. 11,” he realizes.

The moment is interrupted by a noise coming from the bomb. After a few moments of terror, it is defused. Danno rushes off to keep the date with his daughter.

The episode ends with them at the dance. She’s wearing the dress they bought earlier and they dance to the same One Dimension song that played at the beginning of the episode.


  • When Steve’s sister was introduced in Season 1, Episode 4, she was clearly identified as “Mary Ann.” More recently, H50 characters have been referring to her as simply “Mary.” I have stuck with Mary Ann to maintain consistency in the blog. But please don’t be confused by references to Mary in direct quotes.
  • The father of the teen victim in Episode 7 is played by Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Spin City, Bunheads). It’s a bit hard to believe anybody would so slavishly follow a GPS device when it was obviously leading them astray. Or that a criminal plot could be based upon that behavior.
  • Product placement in Episode 7 included a Hawaiian Airlines jet landing before Steve greets Mary Ann, as well as the new Windows on Kono’s laptop screen.
  • Actress Vanessa Marcil (General HospitalBeverly Hills 90210) will guest star in the next episode of H50. She was on NBC’s Las Vegas with James Caan, father ofH50’s Scott Caan and a guest star last season.


Stuart J. Robinson, a college friend of the TV Tyrant, is a writer, editor, media-relations practitioner and social-media guy based in Phoenix.