Hawaii Five-0 is, of course, a police procedural. A task force run by a Navy SEAL, whose command includes two seasoned detectives with decades of police experience, a second Navy SEAL and an, albeit rookie cop, who’s as bad ass as they come. There are shoot outs, car chases, explosions, hand-to-hand combat and take downs that would make American Sniper proud. It’s a show full of action, suspense, and excitement.
Then there are episodes like this one. And, that’s not a bad thing. Pretty much all shows which have a tried and true formula like to shake that formula up occasionally. Take for example a situation comedy where the writers decide, for one episode, to tell a very serious story. These types of episodes are usually a showcase for whichever actor is designated to take the lead. Sometimes they go down as fan favorites and other times they don’t. What they do manage to do, is show a different perspective on the familiar formula for a show and usually teach us something about a character we either didn’t already know or was never fully explored before.
Of course, we know Lou Grover and we’ve already heard this story. Seven years ago, when Lou was heading up SWAT in Chicago, he was the lead negotiator in a hostage situation. A man named Jorge Molina, had taken his two-year-old son, Christian, hostage in a custody dispute with his ex-wife and was threatening to kill not only himself but the boy as well. Lou had known Jorge, believing he’d earned his trust after several calls to his parent’s house for domestic disputes over the years when Lou was in uniform. Because of this, Lou felt certain Jorge would listen to him over the customary hostage negotiator.
Things looked to be working out. Lou felt he had Jorge ready to give himself up and let the boy go but something went wrong. Something set Jorge off. As the situation rapidly deteriorated, SWAT kept informing Lou they had “the shot”, all they needed was the “green light”. They could have taken him down and rescued the boy. But Lou held them back, determined and convinced he could get Jorge out of there peacefully. Unfortunately, he waited too long. A shot rang out, followed by a second. Finding Jorge and, worse, finding that little boy dead affected Lou so profoundly he just couldn’t let it go or, to be more precise, it wouldn’t let go of him.
Lou couldn’t stop feeling that he should have done something more. The official investigation cleared him of wrong doing but no matter how many times he tried to tell himself there wasn’t anything else he could have done, he just couldn’t get past it. I went back and re-watched the scene in Episode 4.15 (Pale ‘la – Buried Secrets) where Lou told Steve the story. I wanted to make sure I got Lou’s own words down correctly:
“And I’m fighting with my wife and I’m yelling at my kids. The best friend I had in the world, I get into a little argument with him and I end up punching the guy. And I spent so many nights, late at night, pacing the floor in my living room, on my eighth beer, my ninth beer, my tenth beer, and I’m angry and I’m trying to…. I’m counting all the people that pissed me off that day. And I’m asking, “What the hell is wrong with everybody?” Well, eventually, I figured out what the problem was. And it was me. And unless I wanted to ruin my career and wreck my marriage, I had to get the hell out of Chicago, man. Because driving down those streets, every little kid I saw, was Christian Molina.”
It was a riveting scene, and at the time, we believed a scene being used to setup the start of a PTSD story line for Steve. The PTSD story line didn’t pan out and that was the end of that. It never occurred to me we would be seeing the story of little Christian Molina resurface all these years later and in such a profound way.
Now, let me get this off my chest before I go any further. I love Lou Grover. I bless the day Peter Lenkov and whoever else was in on the casting, decided to add this character to the team and Chi McBride to the cast. For as much as I love Lou, I love Chi even more. This man is one hell of an actor. He can scare the living crap out of me with his intensity, he can make me laugh with one liners thrown out as casually as you toss socks in the laundry and he can make me cry. Oh, my Lord. How that man can make me cry.
Having said that, I also have to say, I am not a fan of the Chicago/Clay Maxwell story line. I loved the first episode, when Clay killed Diane and Lou was so sure he’d done it. It was a great episode and Chi really shined. But after that, it’s left me cold. I didn’t like the “house destroyer” episode at all and the one where Lou and Will traveled to Chicago was kind of unnecessary. I mean, what did we learn? Chicago PD is pissed off at Lou? We already knew that. The death row guy was mildly interesting until they flipped the switch and then it was just incredibly horrifying.
So, even though Chi was absolutely incredible in every single one of the Clay Maxwell themed episodes, I was trilled beyond measure to see this episode, while still having a “Chicago” connection, had nothing to do with Clay Maxwell. I truly hope we’re finally done with that story.
And while we thought we were also done with what seemed like a throw away story about the reason Lou left Chicago, here we are. I have to admit, I wasn’t all that excited about this episode. Like I said, I’m not overly fond of most of the Lou-centric episodes in the past (again, not due to any failing on Chi’s part) and I thought this one was going to be similar. Boy was I wrong. This story, written by Sean O’Reilly, directed by Roderick Davis and showcasing the amazing talent of not only Chi McBride but Devon Sawa, as Brad Woodward was riveting.
The episode starts off light enough. It’s a beautiful day and a welcomed day off for Five-0. Steve and Tani are enjoying a morning of stand-up paddle boarding. This scene was fun for a number of reasons. First off, it’s great to see Steve connecting with Tani on a level outside of work. This is how Ohana is built and, with it, the strength of the team.
I loved their discussion of how “no matter how far away we go, this island always draws us back home.” Personally, I could have done without the Chin Ho reference (yes.. I admit.. I’m still bitter) but the sentiment was very sweet. I’ve only vacationed in Hawaii, and I always feel like it’s calling me back. I can only imagine how people who truly call it home must feel when they leave.
It was also a hoot to remember Chin being locked out of his hotel room in nothing but a towel and hearing how Duke’s wife, Nalani, having been treated to the sight of Chin’s stellar abs, bought Duke a gym membership! What a great fun update to what was a really funny scene from the past.
I also got a real kick out of Tani asking Steve if the reason he felt Danny would never leave Hawaii is because Danny doesn’t want to leave or because Steve wouldn’t let him. “Brothers from another mother”. HA! It’s not the first time we’ve heard them described like that and it’s always been dead on accurate!
But, I got my biggest laugh out of Steve telling Tani he’s not the competitive one between he and Danny. Oh yeah…right! And obviously, not between himself and Tani either considering the way he had nooooo problem with her trying to beat him into shore (insert good humored sarcasm here! LOL) Um… yeah Steve. You’re not competitive at all (as images of a wheel chair race down hospital corridors springs to mind! LOL).
Lou is enjoying his day off by spending some time with Will. Seems Will and Gracie are having a little bit of a tiff because Will was foolish enough to try to give her some unwanted advice. Lou gives Will some advice of his own; some very prophetic advice at that, about the art of listening. An art that Lou will demonstrate he is quite proficient in very shortly.
That’s pretty much all the lightheartedness we’re going to get out of this episode. From the moment Will and Lou came upon the wreck of the car HPD has been looking for in connection with a murder case and Lou approached that car to find Brad Woodward behind the wheel with a gun to his head, it became a tour de force performance piece for both Devon Sawa and, of course, Chi McBride.
The story of Brad Woodward very much reminded me of the case from Season 1 (1.07 Ho’apono – Accept) where ex-SEAL Graham Wilson took hostages on board the USS Missouri when he was accused of killing his wife. Just like back then, when Five-0 was able to unravel the case and prove Graham innocent, they’re able to do the same here. Brad did not kill his wife any more than Graham had.
But the “case” was a minor plot point in this story. Only the catalyst that set up the meat of what this episode was all about. This episode was about despair. When events in a person’s life become so overwhelming, so crushing and feel so incredibly daunting, the only way a person feels they can escape the devastating pain is to take their own life. Pretty heavy stuff for a shoot-em-up police procedural.
But this episode was also about life and hope. Hope that there is always help out there. That all is not lost. There are people out there to help you. You are not alone. Life can go on.
The performances from both Devon and Chi were incredible. The range of emotions from them both spellbinding to watch. Fear, anger, desperation, hopelessness, resignation, determination, acceptance. All played out within the confines of the front seat of a car and I found it hard to breath through most of it.
Despite numerous domestic disturbance calls to the couple’s apartment, it turns out Brad didn’t push his wife, Tracy, off a 15th story balcony to her death. Tani and Junior were able to prove, by use of an ATM camera across the street, that Brad had left the building before she fell. She had jumped.
But Brad is still crushed by a heavy burden. It seems no one ever knew that Tracy had battled severe depression for most of their marriage. Brad had always tried to protect her, especially from herself. The day she died, she threatened to kill herself by taking a bunch of pills. The defensive bruising she sustained as well as the (DNA matched to Brad) skin under her fingernails was from the struggle when Brad tried to stop her and took the pills away.
Finally reaching a breaking point himself, Brad left. I can only imagine what dealing with that type of situation can be like, let alone doing it for years with no breaks and no backup. He’d had enough and just needed some space. Unfortunately, without Brad there to stop her and with the pills taken away, she jumped.
Brad blames himself. If he’d just stayed. If he’d just done more. If he’d gotten her help. If he’d asked for help himself. If… if… if … if. Devon was incredible with every line of dialog and every moment of Brad’s devastation. His pain was palatable. It reached out from beyond the screen to grab and break your heart.
And Brad’s pain grabbed at Lou’s heart as well. Brought him and all of us back all those years ago, to the death of little Christian Molina. We always knew, from the day he told the story to Steve how horribly effected he was by the death of that child. How he always blamed himself, just like Brad. Always questioned every step he’d taken and always thought he should have done more. So much so, he had to get out of Chicago to escape the pain. But we never knew just how desperate Lou had become.
Brad’s story resonated with Lou because Lou had been there himself. When the scenes shifted back to seven years ago, back to Chicago, back to Lou’s darkest moments, it was mesmerizing. Watching Lou slowly fall apart, how his anguish and his turmoil brought him to a moment when he took a gun, put the barrel to his heart and almost pulled the trigger, was scary as shit (sorry!).
Another thing that made those scenes so powerful was the performance of Michelle Hurd as Renee Grover.
I was thrilled she was included in the episode because not only do I love Michelle and adore Renee, having her there made Lou’s actions in the flashbacks all the more heart wrenching. Listening to Lou’s sobs from behind a locked door while Renee is frantically trying to get him to open the door was incredible to watch.
As was the ultimate moment. Lou, with that gun to his heart, having laid all the family photos flat as if to protect his family from seeing what he’s about to do, is about to pull the trigger when he hears a crash from the kitchen. Immediately entering into “cop mode” he moves out into the house to confront the intruder. Only to find nine-year-old Will in the kitchen, broken bowl at his feet. Chi is such a spectacular actor you can see several realizations play across is face almost simultaneously.
Fear that he had a gun trained on his own son. Shock at the fact Will was in the house at all when he was supposed to be at school and finally, horror in the knowledge that if Will hadn’t dropped that bowl, he’d have heard the shot, he’d have been the one to find his dead father.
Even though he’ll never know it for as long as he lives, Will saved his father’s life that day. He’ll also never know how the memory of that day helped his father draw on those memories to gather the strength needed to help Brad.
The fact that Lou was able to use his story to desperately try to help Brad was what was truly wonderful about all of this. That he was able to reach back and pull forward the most painful moments of his life to help another person. To try, once again, to talk someone out of doing something there is no coming back from. To try, this time, not to fail, as he felt he did the first time.
The rest of the team were, obviously not as involved as they would usually be, but everyone contributed something important. Tani and Junior, of course, were the ones who found the evidence to clear Brad of Tracy’s murder. In the only light-hearted moment in the heart of the episode, they call Steve from HQ to report their evidence. Steve looks down at his phone, sees its from either Tani or Junior, and knowing they are together says to Danny, “It’s the kids”. It was an adorable moment amid all the high tension and I can’t tell you how much I loved it.
It was also great to see that Duke was leading the HPD officers who were on scene. He filled in the Five-0 team on the history of all the domestic disturbance calls made to Brad and Tracy’s home and the inability of HPD to make an arrest. During the standoff, Duke kept Steve up-to-date on sniper positions just in case it became necessary for Steve to use them.
Please, refresh my memory. Have we ever seen Duke pull his gun and shoot someone before? If we have, I can’t remember.
It was really kind of sad that the one time I can remember him taking someone down, it’s Tracy’s grieving father, John, who, believing Brad did indeed kill his daughter attempts to take justice into his own hands. While it was sad that a grieving father had to be taken down like that it was good to see Duke take control of the situation, as Five-0 was pretty preoccupied at that moment with Steve approaching the car and Danny keeping a watchful eye.
The only problem I had with this wonderful episode was the limited amount of screen time Danny had. It didn’t make the episode any less enjoyable for me, and I was very happy that Danny was there pretty much by Steve side the entire time but there were lines of dialog that were given to others that I thought could have very easily been given to Danny. It didn’t bother me enough to diminish my enjoyment of the episode at all, just that I wish they’d given Danny more to do.
But he was there to help calm down John when he showed up hell bent to take his revenge on Brad for killing his daughter. Daddy Danno always comes in handy in situations with grieving parents, especially fathers grieving over their little girls. It’s unfortunate his calming words didn’t resonate deep enough to keep John calm long term.
The faith they all had, especially Steve, in Lou’s ability to handle the situation was wonderful to see. Especially because Steve knows the story of Christian Molina and how it affected Lou. He shows great faith in allowing Lou to handle the situation, even though Detective Keegan, the Official HPD Hostage Negotiator insists it’s a bad idea and knowing it was that same scenario in Chicago that went so wrong.
It shows how much he respects Lou and his judgement. It couldn’t have been easy for Steve to basically stand by while someone else was in control of the situation. When Lou entered the car to deal face to face with Brad, I thought Steve was going to have a stroke.
It was also an interesting parallel to what happened back in Chicago all those years ago. Duke informs Steve that the snipers have the shot, can take Brad out and end the standoff. But Steve doesn’t give that order, the same way Lou didn’t give the order back then, convinced Lou wouldn’t let the outcome be the same this time. Thank God it was not the same this time.
All in all, I thought this entire episode was extremely well crafted. The subject matter was handled very sensitively and in no way dismissively. I really liked how they didn’t try to portray any of this as something a person can just “get over”. Lou came to Hawaii four and a half years go. The Christian Molina death was seven years ago. So, Lou struggled with his demons for a very long time before he left Chicago and, as we can see here, it’s still something that affects him deeply. And at no time do they ever portray that Brad will simply hand over his gun and all will be well. No, Brad has a long recovery ahead of him before he can even remotely begin to recover from this. The addition of the PSA from Chi after the episode ended about the Suicide Prevention Hotline was an extremely nice and much needed touch.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
(800) 273-8255 (TALK)
For an episode that I wasn’t overly excited about, an episode I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy as much as most and an episode I was concerned about because I knew there would be little Steve and Danny time, it was an exceptional episode. Well written, extremely well-acted and one that will go down as one of the best of the series, in my opinion.
That’s it for this week my friends. I hope you all have a fantastic week to come. Aloha. Malama Pono.
All screen caps are mine.