“It’s just a TV show”. We hear those words all the time. Whether it’s because someone thinks another person is taking it too seriously, or for the love or disdain for a particular character or because some people just can’t understand why it means so much to someone else.
They’ll ask: “How can you get so wrapped up in it?” “How can you feel like you understand, even know these people as if they’re real?” “How can you feel so happy when something wonderful happens to them in a story line or be so sad for them when something bad happens?” “They are not real!”
They just don’t get it. Because, TV show or not, these people come into our homes every single week. For many of us, it’s even more than that. We watch the episodes, watch the re-runs, have them downloaded on our computers via iTunes or Amazon or CBS All Access, have bought the DVDs and whatever other means we’ve taken to make sure we can watch and re-watch as much as we want. Hell, these people are in our homes more than most of our relatives are.
Then there is social media and the wonderful opportunities we all have, to actually interact with the actors who bring these wonderful characters to life. For those who choose to interact with the fans, they give us insight into the characters, behind the scenes pictures and videos that show us life on set and the friendships that have formed there. We feel like we’re part of it, that we belong, just a tiny bit to the shows we love. How can we not begin to feel like they are family?
Of course, we know that it’s not real. We know they’re not really family, but still, when one of them leaves, it’s bound to strike a chord. Sometimes, it’s a happy chord, when we’re more than thrilled to see the back end of a particular character. Other times, like right now, with the departure of Masi Oka and the wonderful character of Max Bergman, it’s hurts like hell.
By the time, Monday, October 18, 2010 rolled around, many of us were already good and hooked on the new version of Hawaii Five-0. We’d met our wonderful new team and had already fallen in love with the bromance between Steve and Danny, the loving familial bond between Chin and Kono and the wonderful Ohana they were beginning to form between them. But on that night, five weeks into the first season, we were about to meet the most unique of characters. Dr. Max Bergman.
It’s funny to think about now, but Max was only in four of the twenty-four episodes in Season 1. E1.05 – Nalowale, E1.11 – Palekaiko, E1.14 – He Kane Hewa’ Ole, and E1.19 – Ne Me’e Laua Na Paio. He was very much a recurring character and one we didn’t see very often at all. And yet, those few short appearances were enough to make everyone fall in love with Max. His shyness, he’s quirkiness, his humor, his cutting wit, his professionalism, his good heart. Just those four episodes and it became obvious that Max added so much to the show, recurring just wouldn’t cut it. When Season 2 premiered, Masi had been elevated from recurring to main cast and Max would forever be Ohana.
I, like pretty much everyone else, knew coming into this episode it was going to be a tear jerker. How could it not be? It started when Peter Lenkov began sharing editing videos and then when the sneak peeks came out and I realized they really were going to devote a major part of this episode to Max and his memories….. our memories of things that have happened over the last seven years. I sat down with my full bottle of wine and my brand-new box of tissues knowing both would be pretty much empty by the time this episode ended. I wasn’t wrong.
It was a wonderful touch to have Jerry “helping” Max pack up his office. The first thing that caught my eye was a wonderful subtle nod to when we first met Max. Although we haven’t seen him play it in quite some time, having the first thing we see be Max moving his piano was a very nice touch. It was at that piano we first met Max all those years ago.
Having Jerry find Max’s journals was also the perfect way to take us all down memory lane since Jerry wasn’t there for any of those memories. It was much better than just having Max looking reminiscently at the journal alone. Having Jerry there to react to the stories and give Max some advice was perfect. Jerry and Max are kindred spirits and have formed a wonderful friendship. I really loved all their scenes together, in this episode and in the past.
Jerry never knew, for instance, that Steve was once a fugitive from the law and sought out Max’s help after he’d been shanked in prison. It was very touching to hear Max tell Jerry how that day was a real game changer for them. Up until that point Max had looked at Steve as a respected colleague. But Steve didn’t need a colleague that day. He needed a friend, one who wouldn’t only help him with his injury but one who wouldn’t feel obligated by his “duty” to turn him in. It was that day, Max and Steve became Ohana.
And it was Kono who, as only Kono can, gave Max the kick in the pants to “man up” and ask Sabrina out. After weeks of Friday paycheck deposits at the bank just so he could see her, it was Kono’s pushing that gave him the courage to finally make his endearingly clumsy move. Jerry was absolutely right. Max owes Kono a lot!
But my favorite recollection was Max telling Jerry why he sold his prehistoric fossil collection and DS9 action figures to buy his “Bumblebee” Camaro. It was because of his respect and admiration for Danny. I want to get this right so I’m going to quote right from Max’s mouth:
“It was because of Detective Williams. Well, I guess, in some ways, I’ve always looked up to him. Detective Williams may have a gruff exterior, but underneath is a very caring individual. I mean, considering the sacrifice he made for his daughter by moving out here, or the fact that he gave up a piece of his vital organ without hesitation in order to save Commander McGarrett. And, at times, he can be quite witty.”
It’s this last remark that has Jerry asking Max if he’s ever actually told the others how he truly feels about them. Has him telling Max that this is the time for him to open up, as uncomfortable as it is for him to do so, because he’s going to be working with the living now and it’s important to let those you really care about know it.
Which brings us to Max’s farewell party and, damn, did I need those tissues now! After starting off with the usual things people say at these things, like thanking Kamekona for hosting the event and assuring his now former colleagues that the M.E’s office will be in very capable hands now that Noelani has been promoted to head M.E. He also made it known that if they ever needed his help on a case, he’d be available. I was so happy to hear that actually written into the dialog because that means there is a chance, even if it’s a slim one, that we’ll get to see Max again someday, even if it’s just on Skype or the other end of a phone call.
When it looked like Max was ready to wrap up, giving the usual “it’s been a pleasure to work with you” type of closing, a glance and small encouraging nod from Jerry gave him the courage to say what was in his heart.
“But what I will miss the most, is my adopted family. And, by that, I mean… you.
Commander McGarrett… as you know, I grew up as an only child, and I always wanted a big brother and when I started working with the Five-0 I finally got one.
Detective Williams…. this might be a surprise to you but I always considered you as something of a role model. I’ve always been on the receiving end of your sarcasm but, truth be told, it never bothered me. I always took them as a token of affection. I’m going to miss your little quips. I hope that you would consider texting me one of those from time to time.
Lieutenant Kelly… nobody understands the meaning of Ohana more than you. And for that reason, among many others, you are going to make an amazing father to little Sara. And, from what I’ve already seen, you already are.
Kono…. without you, I would have never married my beautiful Sabrina. Detective Williams is my role model as an individual but your loving relationship with Adam is something that Sabrina and I hope to emulate.
Sergeant [sic] Grover…. I’ll miss your smile…. yes, that one. I know a part of you will always belong to Chicago but Hawaii has claimed you as one of its sons. And I truly believe that the islands are a better place because you are here.
Jerry…. thank you for being a friend and all your counsel. You’ve changed me in many ways and allowed me to grow in ways I never could have imagined.
All of you will be Ohana to me.. forever. I love you!”
It really is a shame Rumer Willis couldn’t be there. It would have been so great if Sabrina could have been at Max’s side for the farewell but at least we got to see her in what was the most wonderful sendoff for both Max and Masi. It was awesome how the entire Ohana was represented at the party. How the writers included everyone who is important either by them being there, or in Max’s words or in some of the best Max moments of the last 7 years we got to visit via flashback clips.
From Max and Sabrina’s bedside cuddle to their beachside “Time Warp”. From the M.E office reveals to Max’s wonderful Halloween costumes. From Max & Jerry as Elvis & “Colonel Tom” Parker to Max and Lori as “Danny and Sandy”. All accompanied by a wonderful rendition of Jackson Browne’s “All Good Things” by Cousin Flippa, Shawn Garnett. I can’t imagine there was anyone who wasn’t in full blown tears by the time it ended.
Of course, there was a crime of the week, as usual. It was a good story, full of twists and turns like we expect from a H50 case. Honestly though, I must admit, I was so wrapped up in Max, I needed to go back and re-watch to get a good grasp of the case. A few points:
The Police Convention: Other than a short flashback to cops acting like fools at a previous “spring break for cops”, not much was made of this event. One thing I liked a lot was seeing Duke Lukela leading the HPD morning roll-call. It was great to see Duke in this position of authority instead of just the senior cop at a crime scene. I also really enjoyed the fact that Dennis Chun actually got a nice big chunk of dialog to deliver, and deliver very well, I might add.
I’m going to date myself here but I couldn’t help but think back to the 1980’s and another Sergeant at roll-call. Sgt. Phil Esterhaus on “Hill Street Blues”. Listening to Duke caution his cops on what to expect I was really hoping the writers would pay a little homage to that old show and have Duke end the briefing with “Let’s be careful out there”.
The Victim: Miles Barton, a good cop from Milwaukee, who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. How do I know he was a good cop? Because, he did something he didn’t have to do. Something first responders do all the time. Even on what was essentially a vacation, he ran toward what everyone else was running away from. When the building exploded he, along with other cops from all over the country, ran to the site to help search for survivors. He stumbled across a crime and gets murdered for being a good guy!
The Crime: Like I said, in usual H50 fashion, our crime is a bit convoluted. The explosion was caused by a crew of burglars trying to retrieve a knife which was used in a murder. The knife was being stored in the vault and the burglars accidentally hit a gas line while trying to drill into it. Our victim came upon our thieves when they went back later to try to get into the vault and got knifed for being in the wrong place.
The vault belonged to a shady lawyer, Brian Hadley, who was trying to protect a client who had murdered his girlfriend and asked his lawyer friend to get rid of the weapon. The lawyer, knowing he couldn’t destroy evidence, simply hid it away and hoped the entire sordid business would just go away. Dude, don’t you know stuff like that never goes away?
Alan Mayfield, the dead girlfriend’s brother had hired the crew, originally for a noble cause, to get justice for his sister. Because the knife had never been found, the killer was never charged. But justice turned to vengeance. In Mayfield’s grieving mind, his life was over. His sister was dead and because of his actions, an innocent man had died as well. He decided his only option was to kill his sister’s murderer himself. Thankfully, Steve was able to convince him not to go through with it.
Some fun stuff – The Proper Dunk: Steve sure has come a long way from the days when he wouldn’t touch a malasada “without bypass surgery” to actually dunking them in his coffee and enjoying the hell out of it too. It was hysterical listening to Lou trying to educate Steve on the proper way to dunk and how double dunking is a definite no-no. Lou is absolutely right, of course. Having whatever you’re dunking in your coffee break off and sink to the bottom is not only icky it’s heartbreaking. One less wonderful mouthful of deliciousness to enjoy becomes a soggy casualty at the bottom of the cup. Not good!
Frank Bama: It’s always wonderful when we get to visit with Frank but I was a bit confused as to the purpose of him being there. Apparently, he’s crashing on Steve’s sofa for a bit of R&R after a run in with a “client who turned out to be a budding war lord”. Ok, whatever, but it seemed the only reason he was there was to mention the missing uranium from last week’s episode. The uranium was also mentioned by Chin at the building explosion (no evidence of radiation means the uranium wasn’t involved). We already knew that little cliffhanger would be coming up again eventually but these little mentions make me think we’ll be seeing it’s return sooner rather than later. Perhaps Frank will stick around and be able to help out in whatever chaos I’m sure is coming.
Gerald Hirsch: I knew, of course, that Hirsch was going to be in this episode but I was a bit surprised at the amount of time he actually was on screen. I always get a kick out of him and I, unlike others, like the interactions he has with Kono. She gets him and has no problem with putting him in his place. Trying to sell his services at the Police Expo was classic Hirsch and using his nefarious past to help with the investigation wasn’t a big surprise either. But, damn man, you crashed Steve’s new truck! Poor Steve. Not having great luck with his trucks this season. Well, the Camaro has taking its share of hits over the years. I guess this year it’s Steve’s trucks turn! I will say, though, that I could have done with less of Hirsch at Max’s farewell. His slightly drunken toast was fine, it just went on too long. I would have preferred if someone else had gotten that time.
The very best part of the COTW: We actually got a long ….. very long… overdue “Book ‘em Danno”. Yes!!! Do you realize the last time we heard that was way back in the Season 5 premiere?? Two and a half years ago! My dear H50 writers! Please guys! I realize it’s overkill to use this iconic phrase too much but two and a half years is so incredibly long. Can we get to hear it at least a couple times a year? Please? Mahalo!
I have to say I enjoyed this episode very much. The COTW was mildly enjoyable but, honestly, I would have been thrilled if the entire episode had been about Max. If we could have had all 42 minutes of stories and flashbacks and goodbyes. I know, probably not feasible but one can dream. Also, because, while the onscreen Ohana were saying goodbye to Max so was the real-life cast. It would have given them all more time to interact with Masi on a one-on-one basis.
Oh yes, all those tears and all those hugs, they were real. Great actors that they all are, there was very little need for acting there. Honestly, only those with the coldest of hearts wouldn’t recognize that all those emotions on that screen were 100% genuine! They’re all going to miss Masi as much as we’re all going to miss Max.
Thank you Masi Oka for six and a half years of your talent, your smile, your enthusiasm, your behind the scenes pictures and videos. Thank you for bringing Max to us. I hope what Max said during his speech holds true and we will one day see him again. We’re going to miss you but we all wish you all the success in the world in all your ongoing many endeavors. Aloha `oe. A hui hou kakou.
Have a wonderful week my friends! Aloha. Malama Pono
All screen caps are mine unless otherwise noted.