This week’s episode of the CBS drama Hawaii Five-0 featured depictions of President Barack Obama and the United States Secret Service that turn reality on its head.
(Spoilers ahead …)
Friday’s Hau’oli La Ho’omaika’I (Thanksgiving) episode, including a guest appearance by Carol Burnett (as McGarrett’s aunt), began with the remains of a Secret Service Agent named Russo discovered in a barrel of lye, floating off the Hawaiian coast.
The Five-0 team informs the head of the President’s personal protection advance team. McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Williams (Scott Caan) are told that the president is due to touchdown in Hawaii in six hours for his Thanksgiving vacation, and that Russo was clearing houses near the one the President will be staying in.
Obama is not name-checked in the episode directly, but audiences are told the president is visiting his home state of Hawaii (where Obama was born).
They also discover that texts were sent with the agent’s phone after he was already dead, leading the advance team’s leader to be concerned that sensitive information, including the POTUS’ itinerary and Secret Service emergency contingency plans, may have been compromise because they are stored on the agent’s phone.The assumption is that with this information compromised, and the agent’s murder apparently being a professional job, the President could be the target of an assassination.
The Secret Service team leader says he doesn’t have the manpower to investigate this imminent threat, so they ask Five-0 to find out who killed their agent and is planning to assassinate the president.
McGarrett and Williams retrace the dead agent’s movements back to the house he was clearing the night before. There they find an empty house and a .762 NATO sniper cartridge on the ground. In addition, a neighbor who looks after the house for the owners gives them a description of the man that is renting the home and tells them that after the agent interviewed the tenant, he left and was followed shortly thereafter by the renter.
With the threat apparently confirmed, McGarrett tells the Secret Service they need to cancel the President’s arrival, but is informed that the President won’t cancel his trip. Shocked that the President would be unwilling to change his vacation plans despite the threat, McGarrett demands to know why the President is really coming to Hawaii since it’s obviously not just to spend Thanksgiving in his home state.
He’s informed that the President will be meeting with a small group of North Koreans and that this meeting could lead to “nuclear disarmament or even regime change” in North Korea.
Video surveillance footage shows agent Russo being followed, attacked and killed. Using that video the Five-0 team is able to run facial recognition and identify the killer as a gun for hire name Barkov. That information leads to a “cleaner” named Moreno that Barkov has used in the past whose modus operandi is using lye to dispose of bodies.
After capturing and interrogating Moreno it becomes clear that the President isn’t actually the target, but that the Secret Service agent stumbled upon the hired killer who is actually targeting someone that lives next door to the house he was renting. Of course Five-0 saves the real target at the last minute and catches the assassin and the cleaner.
What’s remarkable and ridiculous here is the way that the President is depicted as brave enough, despite the apparent threat to his life, to go to Hawaii to meet with this fictional North Korean group that might somehow get North Korea to give up its nuclear arms and/or change the regime there.
In real life, Obama only seems to be interested in regime change when the regime in power is an ally of the United States, like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Obama had the opportunity to stand up for the people of Iran during the Green Revolution and wasn’t even brave enough to speak out as unarmed student protesters were slaughtered in the streets.
The other disturbing element in the episode is the way the Secret Service is depicted as under staffed, unable to prevent the President from changing his itinerary in the face of an imminent threat and supposedly keeping sensitive information on something as insecure as a smart phone.
But this is par for the course for a show that once showed Williams berate a gun shop owner for not keeping records of ammunition sales (which isn’t required by law) and also made it look like child’s play to infiltrate North Korea and get back out without ever encountering a single North Korean soldier.