NCIS: Hawai’i 1×01 “Pilot” starts out with a literal bang and coincidentally happens to be all about pilots! It opens with plenty of people having fun hanging out around the island, when a fighter jet crashes into nearby cliffs.
Hello and welcome to the fourth installment of the NCIS franchise, which recently saw NCIS: New Orleans cancelled, but still airs the original NCIS as well as NCIS: Los Angeles.
Cue our introduction to Special Agent in Charge Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey), already leading… as a soccer coach. This mama bear to two kiddos is simply trying to coach her daughter’s soccer game when naval officers order everyone off the field so Jane can be picked up by a helicopter and transported to a crime scene.
We get the feeling this kind of thing happens a lot.
This isn’t Vanessa Lachey’s first foray into military life either. Here’s what you need to know about her.
Tennant leaves her son, Alex, in charge of the team which, thank goodness, seems to be a neighborhood league, or he’d be clueless about helping at all. Tension is at the core of Jane and her son’s relationship from minute one. We’re dealing with a teenager here, one who clearly doesn’t appreciate being given the responsibilities of an adult simply because Mom’s job is special. In other words, a normal teenager.
As Tennant descends upon the crime scene, she’s met with someone already running point–Captain Joseph Milius (Enver Gjokaj). He’s there to declare an accident but Tennant is there to investigate a crime. Why? The pilot contacted NCIS 12 hours prior to file a report, but never got to do it before he was killed. We don’t have much of a standoff on our hands because Tennant makes quick work of establishing who’s in charge.
She’ll have to do that again very soon, when she meets her newest recruit, Kai (Alex Tarrant), at the jailhouse, finding out that he’d been arrested for crossing local police because he didn’t think they were behaving professionally. While exerting clear command over the situation, she also displays empathy and understanding toward “the new guy.”
I’m not going to lie. I thought I would immediately ship Tennant and Milius based on their character descriptions and the actors who play them. However, I can definitely see a Tennant and Kai angle being a possibility. We shall see.
Lucy (Yasmine Al-Bustami) and Jesse (Noah Mills) — also agents on the team — have clearly been around Tennant for some time. They are all finishing each other’s sentences. This will either be cute or get annoying really fast if no one is allowed to complete a thought.
Ernie (Jason Antoon) steps in as the token weird techie, as seen on literally every cop show ever. He’s pulling off sounding like he knows what he’s talking about, though, so we’ll give him a chance.
I’m not sure about the drama between Kate (Tori Anderson) and Lucy that was apparently established offscreen. Feels a bit forced, but not much time was allotted for either character, so maybe some upcoming backstory will help it along.
We do get to see some domestic scenes with Tennant, taking care of her kids between work emergencies, confirming she does get pulled away often, even from basic activities. Alex is left to look after his sister once again. Notating this isn’t meant to place blame, but merely to note that difficult and layered issues are afoot in the Tennant household–reminding us of real life families.
Let’s not dive too far into the NCIS: Hawai’i case of the week, because the character dynamics are more interesting. Suffice it to say, the teams’ search of the deceased pilot’s apartment and getting part of the autopsy leads Tennant to believe he was drugged or overdosed. We’ve also got a missing girlfriend and a reason to crack an old Lojack. Boy, does that take me back.
Following that trail means we’ve now got a dead pilot and a dead girlfriend, both with the same drug in their systems. The idea of an accident is out the window, and then things escalate quickly because BAM, spy ring. Big Luna has been running an operation for China and uses women to get close to officers to get information on experimental jets. Both deaths being investigated are on his hands. He’s pretty promptly taken out by a wave though, so there’s that.
The ring is broken up and Captain Milius even has a moment to give Tennant a “good job” before sending his pilot’s body back to family.
From a purely fictional standpoint, the atmosphere of Hawai’i is being fully integrated into NCIS: Hawai’i. From the get go, new Special Agent Kai Holman — an island native who’s clearly been running from his past for awhile — brings intimate knowledge to the case when he determines a suspect is faking his identity based on the way a local would answer casual questions about nearby establishments. This could be a big angle to differentiate the show from so many other crime procedurals.
(Note: I’ve seen some stray complaints online about how Hawaiian culture is being sold, and how anyone familiar with the island’s history isn’t buying. Given, I can’t comment on that directly, but if true, it’s both lazy and disrespectful. If not, people need to calm down, as usual.)
- “Can we talk for a minute? Privately.” “Will it end this conversation sooner?”’ “It’s worth a shot.” — MORE of the banter between Tennant and Milius, please and thank you.
- Kai has a long and storied past, both with the island and his family. It’s abnormal to be cold cocked in the jaw by your best friend as a hello. There’s also clearly more to his father’s illness.
- “You’re new, so you haven’t had the pleasure of my ‘we work as a team’ speech… but you can guess the bullet points.” Way to pack a lot into a little!
- “Never turn your back on the ocean.” Seems like that’s going to be a theme for both Kai’s journey and the team itself.
- “No. Harm, foul.” Just yikes. What an awkward response.
- I don’t know why the name “Big Luna” made me laugh, but here we are.
- Tennant. jumped. off. a. cliff. Kai followed her. No words.
- There are A LOT of characters introduced in episode one. While it actually makes pretty decent use of time to flesh out some backstory, it’s going to take a few episodes to get invested if it’s not quite clear who we’re allowed to get attached to.
What did you think of the episode? Are you in for the ride or do you need more convincing?
NCIS: Hawai’i airs Mondays at 10/9c on CBS.