Follow TV Tropes


Series / Hawaii Five-O

Go To

"Book 'em, Danno. Murder one."
Steve McGarrett

Hawaii Five-O is a detective show set in Hawai'i, centered on the fictitious "Five-O" elite state police unit (a reference to Hawaii's status as the 50th state admitted to the United States) led by former Navy officer Steve McGarrett, as played by Jack Lord.

Running from 1968 to 1980, this show is synonymous with Hawaii, and its iconic theme song (which became a hit single for The Ventures) is regularly played by the University of Hawaii marching band at home games for Hawaii sports teams. Appropriately, the overwhelming majority of the show was shot on location in Hawaii, only occasionally using studios in Los Angeles or other locations as called by episode plots. The show is currently available via various broadcast stations on syndication, on DVD, or streaming from CBS' website. As a testament to the show's influence, "Five-O" is still a widely used slang term for "police".


A pilot for a prospective revival series (produced by Stephen J. Cannell and starring Gary Busey, with James MacArthur's Danny appearing as the new Governor) was produced in 1997 but never aired. A completely re-imagined series, titled Hawaii Five-0 (with a zero, not an "O"), ran for a decade, 2010-20.

"Danno, I want the book on these Tropes..."

  • Absentee Actor: James MacArthur, Zulu and Kam Fong are all absent from "Once Upon A Time, Part II" (which is set entirely on the mainland); the latter two are also missing from "The Ninety-Second War, Part II" and Zulu is further gone from "Good Night, Baby, Time To Die!" Jack Lord did not miss a single episode in the entire run.
  • Affably Evil: Wo Fat, and to a lesser extent—in that he's more affable than evil—Lewis Avery Filer. The former moved to Faux Affably Evil from the season nine premiere onward.
  • And Starring:
    • Everyone other than Jack Lord. Seriously. The opening credits for the first few seasons: "Starring Jack Lord" (from season six onwards he had this billing on the end credits as well) "With James MacArthur as Dan Williams; Zulu as Kono; Kam Fong as Chin Ho." This was maintained, with adjustments for cast changes, for the entire run.
    • Similarly, Kelly Bishop gets "And Introducing" credit on "Oldest Profession - Latest Price". Donna Mills gets an "And" credit on "Murder - Eyes Only," as does Juliet Millsnote  on "Termination With Extreme Prejudice.", ditto, Jo Ann Harris on "And the Horse Jumped Over the Moon."
  • And This Is for...: "Bomb, Bomb, Who's Got the Bomb?", "The Bells Toll At Noon." Among others.
  • Artifact Title: "The Flip Side Is Death," the plot involves 8-tracks, not L Ps.
  • Artistic License – Biology: "A Bullet for El Diablo" has a dictator's daughter substituted by her twin half-sister. Even Stephen Hawking couldn't calculate the odds on that.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Lester Cronin in "Paniolo". He's a crooked real estate developer that Five-O has been trying to bust. He pays a visit to a native Hawaiian and shows him that he now owns the deed to the native man's property. The native man (played by Frank Silvera) gives him a hard shove and walks away, not noticing that Cronyn has succumbed to Death by Falling Over... he fell backward and struck his head on a tree stump.
    • Also, it is doubtful anyone was sorry when Travis Marshall was bumped off in "Honor Is an Unmarked Grave".
  • Belly Dancer: Whenever a hula dancer appears, although this is usually limited to the opening credits.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: "East Wind, Ill Wind."
Big "NO!": Toni lets out quite a big one in "Thanks The Honeymoon" when she discovers a mobster's attempt to kill her and new husband so she can't testify against him only partially successful.
  • Big, Screwed-Up Family: "One Big Happy Family". The daughter is the most sensitive and the only real innocent (she steals a telephone book cover, while the others go for money) whereas the father and son are murderers, the daughter-in-law is a Ms. Fanservice who's used to scout for targets, and the mother (and leader) is a heartless racist who in the denouement says they only kill people who aren't family... and only rob the people they kill because their victims won't be using the money. Writer Alvin Sapinsley based this on a real family, yet!
  • Book-Ends: "Up Tight" starts with Danny trying to keep a young woman high on LSD from jumping off a cliff, and ends with McGarrett trying to keep the professor who turned her onto drugs from jumping off the same cliff. The woman jumps, but the man is rescued and arrested.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Annie Carter in "Image of Fear." Spoilered because she isn't revealed as this until the third act — in fact, she turns out to be The Chessmaster.
  • Busman's Holiday: Danny has one without even leaving Honolulu in "Double Exposure" - which takes place on his day off.
  • Catchphrase: "Book 'em, Danno." Also played straight in later episodes with scenes on the mainland.
  • Chick Magnet: McGarrett.
  • The Chessmaster: The team frequently maneuver baddies into confessions by insanely complex plots, anticipate traps and seem to walk into them, only to reveal backups (and tape recorders) in place right when the baddies inevitably tell all before shooting, etc. Example, Season 4 "Good Night Baby, Time To Die!": a woman who is frightened because her framed boyfriend is said to be escaped from prison and coming for her, so she starts confessing to crimes (the framed prisoner is not really loose; he's doing it all under Five-O supervision in order to be absolved.) Bad guys sometimes seem like Chessmasters, but of course their insanely complex plots always come a cropper after baffling the team for about 40 minutes. Sort of exception: although Wo Fat's scheme in "The Ninety-Second War" is counteracted, it's done so in a way that he thinks it worked.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Cal Bellini goes way, way over the top as a revolutionary in "Voice of Terror."

  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Kono and Danno. Sadly averted with Chin Ho.
  • Circus Episode: "Presenting—In the Center Ring...Murder", in which Wo Fat enlists the aid of two brothers who are acrobats to carry out a hit on a visiting dignitary.
  • Clear My Name: On a number of occasions, most notably with McGarrett in "Man in a Steel Frame."
  • Crazy-Prepared: Addison Barlow in "Invitation to Murder."
  • Creator Cameo: Theme song composer Morton Stevens played a jazz drummer in the third season episode "Trouble in Mind".
  • Daddy's Little Villain: "Yes, My Deadly Daughter."
  • A Day in the Limelight: Dan Williams takes charge in "For a Million... Why Not?" and "Charter for Death" when McGarrett is sidelined by a trial and quarantine respectively (although he still appears in both episodes). "Cry, Lie," meanwhile, is a rare episode to focus on Chin Ho.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: "Why Won't Linda Die?"
  • Destination Defenestration: "I'll Kill 'Em Again" and "Stringer."
  • Disco: With a vengeance in the season 11 two-parter "Number One With a Bullet," thanks to the plot involving mob activity around a discotheque.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Chin Ho on occasion. But never at work.
  • Driven to Suicide: "Up Tight," "To Kill or Be Killed," "Death With Father," "Is This Any Way To Run A Paradise?", "I'll Kill 'Em Again." The beginning of "Invitation to Murder," and "Small Potatoes." "One Born Every Minute" and "Murder Is A Taxing Affair."Dominick Vashon in "V for Vashon: The Patriarch."

  • Downer Ending:
    • In "To Kill or Be Killed", a soldier on leave from The Vietnam War falls to his death, and his brother (suspected of being involved) is bidding to avoid the draft and flee to "Trudeau turf" (alias Canada) because while he's willing to fight he doesn't believe this particular war is justified, to the disgust of his father — a military man. It turns out that the soldier committed suicide because he couldn't face returning to what he also felt was an unjust war; not only is the would-be draft-dodger caught, but his father disowns him by saying "Then I have two dead sons."
    • "Three Dead Cows at Makapuu, Part II" has a scientist aiming to release some shortlived but very deadly bacteria to protest chemical warfare being persuaded (partly due to a telephone operator who falls in love with him) not to do so, but the vial he stole is taken... and cracked. He manages to control the spread of the germ, and the vial is incinerated along with the shack where it was kept, but he himself is infected and succumbs as McGarrett and the woman he loves watch.
  • Dull Surprise: Some of the guest players...and a frequent offender among the regulars, Jack Lord.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: Chin Ho, after being revealed as a Five-O plant, immediately slugs the leader in the face and then attacks the other two thugs. While he's ultimately unsuccessful at trying to escape, and the leader mocks him at what he did being a mistake, he replies that it was worth it and he doesn't think he has much left to lose. Sadly, he's right. Also Kert in "Thanks For The Honeymoon" when he gets the cyanide away from his new wife - he's breathed in too much by that point, but he does manage to save his soon-to-be widow.
  • Everybody Lives:
    • "A Touch of Guilt". The plot involves a waitress who's raped by three college football players and stabs one of them — he survives, and does hold the other two at gunpoint in the climax, but she doesn't shoot.
    • "The Last of the Great Paperhangers" is not only an Everybody Lives episode, but also has no violence at all.
    • "Tread the King's Shadow" goes even further with no violence and not even any crime. The daughter of a wealthy haole and the poor native boy run off — her racist dad wants her back. They get married, and she'll be having the guy's child.
  • Everything Is Online: Otherwise there wouldn't be the episode "Computer Killer."
  • Evil Cripple: The villain in "Target - A Cop."
  • Evil Laugh: A Tony Alika specialty, see "Stringer" and "A Lion In the Streets."
  • External Combustion: "Blind Tiger". It temporarily blinds McGarrett.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Agnes du Bois has one of these moments in "Horoscope for Murder, " when she and friend/fellow astrologer Mel Burgess are discussing the suicide of Rick Makulu, who looks like he was to Driven to Suicide after the serial killings. Then Agnes realises she's alone in a room with the real murderer...
  • Evil Brit: Savage in "A Gun For McGarrett." And Marni Howard.
  • Fan Disservice: "The Box" opens with a shower scene in prison. Not so bad you say? Big Chicken's taking the shower.
  • Fanfare: The iconic theme music.
  • Fanservice: It's a show set in Hawaii. What do you think? (Not to the extent of the new show, mind you.) Although the directors can be drawn to some of the female guest stars — witness the loving shots of Kathleen (billed as Kathy) Beller in "The Waterfront Steal" — and most of Simone Griffeth's camera time in "A Very Personal Matter" screams this trope. And they don't waste any time getting Maud Adams into a skimpy bikini when she turns up in "Deep Cover" as a Femme Fatale Spy after tech info for the KGB.
  • Fiery Redhead: Liana Labella in "My Friend, The Enemy."
  • Final Season Casting: While Zulu (the original Kono) left the show in 1972, James MacArthur and Kam Fong hung around until 1979, with William Smith (as Kimo), Sharon Farrell (as Lori) and Moe Keale (as Truck) as the new regulars.
  • Forensic Drama: It wasn't primarily this, but Che Fong showed up an awful lot. As did the frequently forgotten Doc Bergman, the coroner.
  • Forgotten Theme Tune Lyrics: The song has lyrics.
    If you're feeling lonely
    You can come with me
    Feel my arms around you
    Lay beside the sea
    We will think of something to do
    Do it 'til it's perfect for you
    And for me too
    You can come with me!
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: In "Tricks Are Not Treats", the writers apparently weren't allowed to refer to the pimps as pimps, but managed to work in Lolo's nickname for them: "pimples".

  • Good Job Breaking It Hero: McGarrett gets a huge one in "Bait Once, Bait Twice" when he tries to talk inside a woman who's Driven to Suicide (Well, how was he supposed to know it was all part of a plan to flush out a witness in protective custody so the witness (the woman's fiancé) can be killed by a sniper? By the way, she survives the episode.)
  • Heel–Face Turn: Rosalie turns on the Fergusons in the denouement of "One Big Happy Family.". Having had just about enough of her mother-in-law's contempt for her and them not letting her do her own thing.
  • Hidden Depths: Of all people, Wo Fat in "And a Time to Die...". It's heavily implied that he lost his family long ago during uprisings in China, and he really didn't want to kill the girl he'd taken hostage, of whom he was surprisingly kind and forward with. The problem was, according to him, is that to be taken seriously on both sides he had to live up to his word, so he would have had her killed if her father didn't do as he'd asked. That was the only episode that showed Wo Fat as still someone human and not a Card-Carrying Villain.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In "Nine, Ten, You're Dead," a former boxer shatters the hand of a novice to keep him from ruining his health and life, causing the mobster backing the young boxer to put out a hit on the older man. A hitman arrives... and takes out the mobster, as his bosses felt he was out of control. The former boxer is left unharmed, because the hitman assures him he doesn't kill anyone without getting paid for it.
  • Hook Hand: The villain in "Hookman", as played by real-life double-amputee J. J. Armes.
  • How We Got Here: "Nine Dragons."
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: "Though the Heavens Fall."
  • Idiot Ball: Held tightly by Kimo and Lori in "Though the Heavens Fall" Sent to keep Meredith Howell safe when Five-O (correctly) suspect that Mr. Howell is the next target of a Vigilante Militia and just sit outside....even though there's rear access and they could have stayed indoors. So Howell is kidnapped right under their noses
  • Infant Immortality:
    • Averted in "The Listener," in which a psychiatrist is targeted by a man who's bugged not only his home but his office — the villain averts Even Evil Has Standards by among other things playing a young boy a taped conversation between the doctor and the boy's mother, where she reveals he has a fatal brain tumour. The doctor tells the boy the tumour is shrinking... and later tells McGarrett that the boy really is dying.
    • Also averted in the two-parter "Once Upon a Time", where McGarrett's sister is in thrall to a quack doctor who claims she can cure her baby, who has cancer. The child passes away long before the end of part one.
  • It's Personal: "Once Upon a Time", in which McGarrett is determined to take down fraudulent doctor C.L. Fremont after what happened to his sister's child.
  • Jerkass: Dr.Grant Ormsbee in "The Defector" and "To Kill a Mind."
  • Joker Jury
  • Killed Off for Real: Chin Ho.
  • Large and in Charge: Big Chicken, played by pre-WJM/pre-Pacific Princess Gavin MacLeod.
  • Lighter and Softer: While had a reputation for being straight-laced and serious, but do the odd lighter episode - but "The Bark and The Bite" was the only full-on comic episode; with the Lewis Avery Filer episodes (and the one with Suspiciously Similar Substitute M. Bordeaux), "Welcome To Our Branch Office" and "The Last of the Great Paperhangers" having a lighter touch than usual but not actually played for farce.
  • Long Runner: Let's put it this way, Hawaii Five-O is the only scripted, prime-time U.S. series to have debuted during the 1960s and made it all the way to the 1980s.
  • Made of Iron: McGarrett. As the series went on the script writers actually had some fun with Lampshade Hanging. One episode has a would-be killer fire at McGarrett several times with no effect until she screams, "What are you made of!?" McGarrett's response? It's not him but the bullets, which were blanks.
  • Manchurian Agent: Wo Fat's spy ring makes use of them in "A Bullet for McGarrett".
  • Master of Disguise: Lewis Avery Filer.
  • Master Forger: One case involves a man who was a professional counterfeiter for the mob in his youth, before he faked his death to escape the lifestyle. Now a happy retiree, he learns that his facility is going bankrupt. Attempting to save it, he unearths two steel printing plates for $20 bills that he'd made in his younger days. One of his "test" printings is only detected because a bank has a policy of checking older bills with specialised computer-assisted imagine scanning. Unfortunately, the teller informs a news crew about this, which alerts the man's old mob boss that his lackey is alive and well. The man's friends are held hostage while two thugs coerce the man into printing more fake $20s.
  • Multilayer Façade: "Highest Castle, Deepest Grave."
  • Not So Different: The whole point of the 1969 episode "Not That Much Different".
  • Omniscient Database: An early example, possibly the first for cop shows. The Honolulu Police Department computer was frequently called upon for information, sometimes for things that in real life weren't available in digital format until the 1990s or later.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Albert Paulsen's Ecuadorian accent shows up quite a bit as gangster Edmonds in "Nine, Ten - You're Dead." Australian Murray Matheson's British accent wavers a tad as Lord Charles Danby in "Termination with Extreme Prejudice."
  • Pilot Movie: While the pilot movie has the same name as the series, it runs in two parts in syndication as ''Cocoon" (with the standard opening title sequence changed to remove the shot of James MacArthur, as he didn't play Dan in the pilot).
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: A hitman disguised as a doctor to his hospitalized target in "Death with Father":
    Hitman: Time for your shot.
    Patient: What shot?
    Hitman: This one. [kills him with a silencer-equipped gun]
  • Obvious Stunt Double:
    • For Jack Lord and Walt Davis in the crane chase climax of "The Skyline Killer" (Davis plays "The Killer"). Indeed, the doubles are so obvious that Walt Robles and Chuck Couch get separate billing in the end credits.
    • For the final fight of the entire series it's blatantly obvious that Lord and Keigh Dheigh are using doubles for the big McGarrett vs. Wo Fat battle. It might have helped if Dheigh's stuntman had had a moustache...
  • Product Placement:
    • If a plane is seen flying or landing in/leaving Hawaii, more often than not it'll be one of the United Airlines fleet.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Five-O is supposed to be an elite unit of the Hawaii State Police. The closest thing Hawaii has to a state police is the Sheriffs Division within the State Department of Public Safety, and they're limited to specific duties such as acting as process servers and providing security at state facilities.
  • Really Gets Around: Walter in "Chain Of Events." He winds up giving syphilis to a girl who does volunteer work for a senatorial candidate. The girl ends up giving it to the politician... who ends up giving it to his wife.
  • Recycled Premise: Season 2's "Fifty Feet High and It Kills!" and season 10's "Tsunami" both involve a scheme to carry out a tsunami hoax to cover up a crime.
  • Rogues Gallery: Wo Fat; Tony Alika; Honore Vashon; Lewis Avery Filer; Big Chicken.
  • Scenery Porn: Yes.
  • Sequel Episode:
    • "The Bomber And Mrs. Moroney" features the brother of the boy Danno seemed to have killed in "...And They Painted Daisies On His Coffin," seeking revenge. He didn't do it.
    • "The Case Against McGarrett" picks up where the three-parter "V For Vashon" left off, with Honore Vashon and other convicts putting Steve on trial.
    • "The Spirit is Willie" sees author (and the Governor's friend) Millicent Shand return following the events of "Frozen Assets" as she suspects her niece's fiancé has faked his death in a scheme with a fake psychic to get the niece's money. She's mostly right. Except for the bit with the fiancé.

  • Serial Killer: "One for the Money", "I'll Kill 'Em Again", "Wednesday, Ladies Free" and others.
  • Series Continuity Error: Chin Ho's oldest daughter is called Alia in "Engaged to Be Buried", but in "A Death in the Family" she's Suzy.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Lori Wilson is the only female regular in all twelve seasons... and she didn't arrive until the final season (and only appeared in ten episodes at that, disappearing before the Series Finale "Woe To Wo Fat").
  • Spell My Name with an "S": In the end credits for "Face of the Dragon," guest star Nancy Kovack is billed as Nancy Kovak.
  • Split Personality: In "Bomb, Bomb, Who's Got The Bomb?", a senator is being terrorized by a bomber. Unknowingly, he's the bomber — because he accidentally shot and killed his own father as a boy and has never forgiven himself.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute:
    • Monsieur Bordeaux in "30,000 Rooms and I Have the Key" for Lewis Avery Filer. Both characters came from the same writer, and the three episodes — Mr. Filer was in "Over Fifty? Steal" and "Odd Man In" — even share music ("Over Fifty? Steal" has an original score by Morton Stevens, the other two have tracked music).
    • In "The Sign Of Ram," literally has Jessica Humboldt standing in "Horoscope for Murder"'s Agnes Du Bois (They've traded practices, so she's in Albuquerque).
  • Syndication Title: McGarrett
  • Taking You with Me: "Death with Father."
  • The Teaser
  • Television Geography: Mostly subverted, since most of the series was filmed on location in Hawaii, and locations were rarely specific enough to reveal obvious mistakes to most viewers.
  • Temporary Blindness: McGarrett in "Blind Tiger", when an assassination attempt failed to kill him.

  • Ten Little Murder Victims: "Invitation to Murder," with a deceased artist's family, who hated him, seemingly killing each other to get his estate. They aren't. The will states that who's still alive after a year gets everything. The killer is... The late artist. He hated them as well, and arranged it so all but one of them would be murdered, with the remaining one framed for all the other killings. McGarrett figures it out before the remaining family members kick it.
  • Title Drop: "Strangers In Our Own Land," "One for the Money," "Just Lucky, I Guess," "A Bullet for McGarrett," "Why Wait Till Uncle Kevin Dies?" and "The Last of the Great Paperhangers" all work their respective episode titles into the dialogue.
  • The Vietnam War: Many of the early season episodes revolved around the war, ranging from naval personnel smuggling drugs out of Southeast Asia, screwed-up veterans committing (or being victims of) crime, to con men taking advantage of military personnel on leave.
  • Title Sequence:
    • The opening titles are legendary.
    • The canoe-paddling end credits bit (introduced in Season 2; the first season has a flashing police light) is also very well known.
  • Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: played for tragedy in "Diary Of a Gun."the gun of the title, part of shipment of Saturday Night Specials that McGarrett and the team are trying to crack down on; which a street tough used to shoot a tourist and dumped in a mailbox before the police caught him; the mail carrier on that route finds the gun when he mpties the box - and he keeps the gun. When he gets home he finds his wife getting dolled up to go out.... it's strongly implied that she's making extra money via The Oldest Profession. He follows his wife to a hotel, finds her with a football player. He ends up killing both of them.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Elliot Bancroft in "Use a Gun, Go to Hell" really wants his dad to proud of him. Shooting and killing a senator in favour of strict gun controlnote , and throwing the gun away probably wasn't the best way to do it - since it leads to all the trouble in the episode.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The 2-hour pilot,(which has an intro fitting its TV movie status) is shown in syndication as a two-parter titled "Cocoon", has Nancy Kwan playing Rosemary Quong, a mildly hippie grad student with a penchant for miniskirts. Kwan gets second billing in the opening titles, right after Jack Lord, and they have several scenes together, including a beachfront cookout, playing up the contrast between the free-spirited Rosemary and the buttoned-down straight-laced McGarrett. The ending suggests that Rosemary is going to be McGarrett's recurring love interest. She's never seen again.
  • Yellow Peril: McGarrett's Chinese nemesis, Wo Fat.
  • {Zeerust: Quillan's mention of the shilling in "Murder With a Golden Touch" from 1974 (i.e. three years after the UK had decimalised its currency. In fairness, many Brits had difficulty getting their heads around the new coinage.)

McGarrett: [to the villains at the end of "3,000 Crooked Miles to Honolulu"] Aloha. Aloha, suckers!


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: