Literate Five-O, part 1

A collection of literary and clutural allusions appearing in episodes of Hawaii Five-O

Collected by Karen Rhodes. Copyright 1997, Karen Rhodes

Because of the size of my file of literary allusions, it is necessary to break this up into more than one page.

Part 1: Original Pilot Movie, First Season

Part 2: Second Season

Part 3: Third Season, Fourth Season

Part 4: Fifth Season, Sixth Season, Seventh Season

Part 5: Eighth Season, Ninth Season, Tenth Season

Part 6: Eleventh Season, Twelfth Season


Original Pilot Movie (Syndicated as Cocoon)

When Wo Fat leaves the Arcturus with fake information provided by McGarrett, the traitor Miller (Andrew Duggan) goes to the bridge and tells the captain (Wright Esser) he's ready to be paid. The captain says he will make sure Miller receives his "thirty pieces of silver." This refers, of course, to Judas Iscariot's price for turning over Jesus Christ to Pontius Pilate's forces for execution.


First Season

Full Fathom Five (#1) -- The poem murderer Victor Reese (Kevin McCarthy) recites as the 55-gallon drum containing the latest victim's body sinks beneath the waves is a parody on a passage from Shakespeare's The Tempest, Act 1, Scene II. Reese recites:

Full fathom five the widow lies,
And of her bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were her eyes;
Nothing of her now doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring her knell.
Hark! now I hear them,--ding-dong, bell."

In the play, Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples, thinks his father was killed in the shipwreck which lands them on Prospero's island of exile at the beginning. Ariel, a spirit, echoes Ferdinand's grief with:

Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes;
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them,--Ding-dong, bell."

Tiger By the Tail (#3) -- To have a tiger by the tail is an old expression meaning that one has grabbed hold of something which is beyond one's power to control. Certainly Bobby George (Sal Mineo), in staging a fake kidnapping as a publicity stunt, finds himself holding onto a tiger by the tail when his henchmen, their greed fed by Bobby's father's offer of big money for his return, decide to make the kidnapping real.

Samurai (#4) -- The title refers, of course, to the class of Japanese warriors which ruled from the 11th century until 1868. From 1603 to 1867, when Japan was relatively peaceful (the Tokugawa period), the Samurai lost their fighting edge and became scholarly Confucian bureaucrats. Bushido, the term used by Japanese hoodlum Tokura (Ricardo Montalban) to characterize the assassins who are after him, actually refers to the code of conduct of the samurai. Bushido means 'code of warriors.' The code emphasized martial skills and fearlessness in battle, but it also required honesty, frugality, loyalty, and kindness. Above all, it required obedienceto orders, even if they conflicted with statute law. That is the aspect emphasized in this tale.

Tokura tells McGarrett he was watching a Fu Manchu movie. Fu Manchu was an evil character in the mystery novels of Sax Rohmer (pseudonym of Arthur Sarsfield Ward (1883 - 1959)). The name Ward chose to write under, according to Julian Symonds in Mortal Consequences: A History from the Detective Story to the Crime Novel came from two Anglo-Saxon words. Sax, or 'a sharp blade', and rohmer, or 'a wanderer', could be translated as 'freelance'.

According to Symons, "The Fu Manchu stories are complete rubbish, penny dreadfuls in hard covers, interesting chiefly in the way that they reflect popular feeling about the 'yellow peril,' which in these books, as a character remarks, is 'incarnate in one man.'" It could be observed that the character of Wo Fat embodies a similar fear widespread in American society during the historical period in which the series ran, adding to the traditional haole suspicion of the Oriental the spectre of communism. It is a paradox of Hawaii Five-O, and perhaps of our society, that while the show emphasized ethnic diversity and brought more Asian and Polynesian actors to the tube than any other series before or since, there was this 'yellow peril' aspect embodied in Wo Fat.

And They Painted Daisies on His Coffin (#5) -- Drug pusher Big Chicken (Gavin MacLeod) has his hooks in Annie (Charlotte Considine), a young addict who has spirited away a gun needed to prove Dan Williams innocent of murder. She tells him she'll find another young man to support her habit (which helps support Big Chicken). Chicken says, "I believe, Peter Pan." Peter Pan was the marvelous flying 'lost boy' created by Sir James M. Barrie (1860 - 1937). When Peter's magical fairy Tinkerbell is dying, the reader is called upon to assert belief in fairies to save her life. "Do you believe in fairies? If you believe, clap your hands!" Peter says.

Television commentator Fred Vox (Joe Rose) blasts "King" McGarrett for failure to suspend the accused Dan Williams. Vox is Latin for "voice." There is a common saying, Vox populi vox Dei, which means "The voice of the people is the voice of God." Certainly Fred Vox considers himself the 'voice of the people' and the stridency of his pronouncements might lead one to believe he harbors delusions of godhood. The Latin phrase was coined by Alcuin (735-804), an Anglo-Latin poet, educator, and cleric, in a letter to Charlemagne in 800 A.D. Alexander Pope parodized the phrase in his Imitations of Horace, Epistle I, Book I (1733-1738) as "The people's voice is odd,/It is, and it is not, the voice of God."

Yesterday Died, and Tomorrow Won't Be Born (#10) -- The closest to this title is from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

Ah, fill the Cup:--what boots it to repeat
How Time is slipping underneath our Feet:
Unborn To-morrow, and dead Yesterday,
Why fret about them if To-day be sweet?

McGarrett knows at the end of this episode that today is sweet indeed, having come so close to death. Conversely, Emma Trinian (Vivi Janiss) is left with only unborn tomorrows and dead yesterdays as her luckless Joe (John Larch) lies dead on the stair landing of Iolani Palace.

Pray Love Remember, Pray Love Remember (#12), and The Guarnerius Caper (#53) -- Jim Demarest, one of the Hawaii Five-O repertory company, plays a character named Babbitt in each of these episodes. Both times, the character is a mouthy, thoughtlessly bombastic, blatantly materialistic businessman. In "Pray Love Remember, Pray Love Remember," the character wants to own the two expensive and beautiful stolen fish as a status symbol, never mind their beautyor their needs as living creatures. In "The Guarnerius Caper," Demarest's Babbitt is helpless to appreciate the exquisite music played by Dmitri Rostov (Ed Flanders), but is ardently interested in fixing a price on the precious Guarnerius. Sinclair Lewis's 1922 novel Babbitt gave us the archetype, George F. Babbitt. The word "babbitt" has passed into the common lexicon to mean (from Webster's Third New International Dictionary) "a person (as a business or professional man) who conforms unthinkingly and complacently to prevailing middle-class standards of respectability, who makes a cult of material success, and who is contemptuous of or incapable of appreciating artistic orintellectual values." From this same character of Lewis's we also get the noun "babbitry," which means "the attitudes, beliefs, and conduct characteristic of Babbitts." Actually, Lewis's George F. Babbitt did utter the occasional unconventional opinion, tried to break out of the conformist mold. But social pressures forced him back into line.

One For the Money (#17) -- The title comes from the poem or saying which is used (and expanded upon) by the killer:

One for the money,
Two for the show,
Three to make ready,
And four to go.

It is used by children in their play as a "starting gun." In the episode, the killer adds: "I might even make it a hundred or so," trying to convince McGarrett that he is a random serial killer rather than after a specific victim--his aunt.

Once Upon a Time (#19-20) -- When McGarrett confronts Dr. C. L. Fremont (Joanne Linville), the quack who is bleeding Steve's sister Maryann (Nancy Malone), he knows Maryann has told Fremont he's on his way. "My sister did the Paul Revere bit," he says. "Yes," replies Dr. Fremont. "The cops are coming...." Paul Revere (1735 - 1818) was a Massachusetts silversmith who was the principal rider for the Committee of Safety. On the night of April 18, 1776, he was one of three riders who set out to warn the colonial militia that "The British are coming!" Revere didn't complete his ride; he was detained by the British. William Dawes did get through. Revere, though, was the one immortalized in William Wadsworth Longfellow's poem "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," which made the cry "The British are coming!" part of the American folk lexicon.

Not That Much Different (#21) -- At the end, Manning West (Dennis Cooney) tells McGarrett, "It is better to command in Hell than to serve in Heaven," which is from John Milton's Paradise Lost, when Lucifer is cast out of heaven and established in Hell. He means, of course, that some people find power desirable over service no matter the consequences or nature of the power.

Literate Five-O, part 2 Literate Five-O, part 3 Literate Five-O, part 4 Literate Five-O, part 5

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