“He Puhe’e Miki” covers personal pain of all kinds: from losses to relationship spats to lost love, the episode leaves nothing out. It’s mixed in with some diamond smugglers and some unlucky “Fix-A-Flat robbers”, though these aspects are far from being quite so important.
The opening scene of Steve running was the most powerful. At least, to me. We see his feet first before we see Steve as a whole. I found that to be a perfect shot – it signifies Steve is racing away from something, but if you look beyond the obvious, it signifies that no matter how fast he runs, or how far, his pain will catch up with him.
Steve grits his teeth, a look of pain and anger crossing his features, his eyes shiny as he finally comes to a halt. He can’t stop reliving his greatest losses, which are all shown in chronological order, from his father to Joe White (who was like a father to Steve) and to his mother, who died only a few months before. He hears their voices in his head, the things they said to him. It’s clear that he’s overwhelmed. Perhaps his mother’s death was the last straw, and it’s all catching up to him.
It may be the key to Steve’s undoing. It’s something that will clearly be addressed in the final episode. Steve’s suffered a lot in his life, having lost some of the people he loved the most in the cruelest of ways. Steve was there for two of the deaths, and for his father’s, he was forced to hear the gunshot that killed him over the phone, as he was in another country, helpless to save him. In some way, Steve may have been burying that pain all along, trudging through it because he didn’t know what else to do.
Steve gets focused and buries himself in work. He doesn’t take much time for himself to reconfigure after he’s suffered. All of that catches up with a person. Given the final scene in this episode, it’s not over yet. Ironically, he’s listening to an old recording of his father’s, about how the life of a cop is “not easy” and how Steve’s father had told him to be anything but a cop. Perhaps this is a hint that Steve is considering hanging up his law enforcement career in favor of a simpler, more peaceful lifestyle. Steve gets a call while listening to the recording, learning that his mother apparently left something for him. What that something is we don’t yet know, but it’s surely going to be important. Either it will help Steve heal, or it will send him in a downward spiral.
In any case, I appreciated Alex O’Loughlin’s (Steve) performance in “He Puhe’e Miki.” Steve rarely allows himself to be vulnerable, especially around others. However, we saw him break down a bit while running out on his own, and again out in public as he talked down Cynthia (Andrea Bogart) as she held a gun to her husband’s killer. He connected with her, emphasizing how he understood the weight of her pain, but that killing wouldn’t make the pain cease. Something in his tone, something in his face, makes her lower the gun. Even if I didn’t know Steve’s history, I’d have believed him based on his performance alone.
Tani’s performance was also admirable. She’s busy helping recurring character Gerard Hirsch (Willie Garson), a former art dealer/con artist turned professional crime scene cleaner, throughout most of the episode, but there’s still time to cover her own self-destructive tendencies.
Junior sweetly makes her breakfast after spending the night, but instead of being thrilled, Tani admits that she fears they’re moving too fast. Dejected, Junior cleans up and spends the rest of the day, with some help from Lou, trying to get to the bottom of what’s really troubling Tani, given that it’s not breakfast.
Of course, there’s more to the story. Tani’s voice cracks as she confesses to Junior that she has a tendency to wreck relationships, given she’s afraid the other person will leave her. Her insecurity stems from her mother leaving when she was young, and when things are good, Tani sabotages it. It’s heartbreaking, the way Tani’s still broken because of her mother’s bad choice, but Junior may just be the one to break down Tani’s walls and prove that she is good enough to be loved, which definitely makes Junior a keeper, especially if his heartfelt embrace is anything to go by.
Gerard Hirsch has been one of my favorite recurring characters since his first appearance in Season 5. He had a major crush on Kono and though Five-0 got annoyed with him, Gerard grew on them. A former criminal, Gerard has turned his life around, though his actions are still sometimes questionable, making for amusing moments. In “He Puhe’e Miki” he breaks into Steve’s house to ask for a favor, acts as a counselor for Tani, and attempts to teach Lou the fine art of appreciating wine, and given his criminal past, is tempted to sell an old antique he found among his uncle’s things. Hirsch is right, caring for his elderly uncle isn’t cheap. In any case, I was glad to see Hirsch one last time before the final episode.
Hirsch’s performance was more heartfelt than usual this episode. His desire to clear his Uncle Oscar (Michael Nouri) of a 1978 murder is thoughtful and genuine, fueled by Hirsch’s love and respect for him. Hirsch notes that his uncle was a big part of his life as a kid and made an impact on him, and means the world to Hirsch as a result. Hirsch goes the extra mile, with help from Tani, to figure out what really happened in 1978 and manages to help solve a cold case and reunite his uncle with his one true love. Not bad for a day’s work, and a suitably special storyline to bid a beloved character like Hirsch farewell.
I loved that Oscar, despite his wrongdoing, had fallen for one of his “targets” back in his conning days and reunited with her, the two of them never having found true love since. It gives both the opportunity to truly heal and forgive, and to perhaps reignite the old spark and allow them to find real happiness.
Going back to the episode’s theme of personal loss, Steve, Tani, Oscar and Gerard all share one major thing in common: fear of loss. It’s for different reasons, but nonetheless, it’s the same fear. For three of those four characters, they are given a happy reassurance. Gerard will not lose his beloved uncle to jail time, Oscar may have a second chance with his one true love, and Tani is reassured that Junior won’t abandon her.
The thing is, the three brought their fear of loss upon themselves. Gerard was the one to discover the antique among his uncle’s things, which potentially implicated him in a murder. Oscar left and for years never found real happiness, missing out on time with his one true love. Tani is self-destructive because she never worked through something tragic from her past. The three have to learn the hard way, but at least they get what they need in this episode: reassurance.
Steve doesn’t have that happy ending. Or at least, not yet. Steve instead gets a mystery of what his mother left behind, but whatever that item is, it may help Steve get through his loss, and fear of loss, once and for all. If he does that, perhaps he can find a happy ending and have a family of his own – that’s my hope.
I found it interesting that Adam was let back onto the team after all. We don’t see what led up to it, it’s just a given that Adam’s suddenly back and we can do nothing but accept it. Adam gets a few acknowledgements from people that are happy to see him back, like Noelani and Junior, but otherwise it’s not really a discussed topic.
I have to wonder what changed Steve’s mind, or if Steve just wants to keep an eye on Adam. He and Adam shared a nod at headquarters, acknowledging one another’s presence, and even went out together to confront an inside man. There doesn’t seem to be any lingering hostility, but it could be the two are putting work first and personal lives second, which makes sense. Nonetheless, it appears that the Adam drama is over, but I’m not quite sold on that. It seems too easy for Adam to return to law enforcement after everything.
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Personal pain of various kinds was the main theme of “He Puhe’e Miki.” Steve’s, Tani’s, Hirsch’s and Oscar’s performances stood out given their portrayals of vulnerability throughout the episode, which provided the plot with powerful emotions and significant drive.
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