Remembering Jack Lord

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Quite Possibly the Most Underrated Episode

Posted by H5O 1.0 FOREVER on January 25, 2017 at 1:05 AM


Too many viewers write off the Season 2 episode "To Hell With Babe Ruth" as being inferior. They object to Caucasian Mark Lenard portraying the mentally troubled Yoshio Nagata and are put off by the insanity he portrayed. I challenge them to take another look, not only at Mr. Lenard's portrayal, but at the episode, itself.


In the premise of the episode, a pro-Japanese group planned to participate in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, by blowing up the oil storage depot at Sand Hill. Inasmuch as no Japanese-Hawaiians actually participated in assaults against either the Hawaiians or the Americans on that date, we are left to assume that Yoshio Nagata's group abandoned its plans. Is that what sent Nagata over the edge and into a world of insanity? We are not told, but it stands to reason that, whether the insanity came before or after that Day of Infamy, it left him with a lifelong determination to fulfill what he felt was his obligation to his homeland. Another thought on this later.


Mr. Lenard's Portrayal. It cannot have been easy for Mark Lenard to put aside his own personality, which we have been able to gleen by finding the common denominator in his appearances in other episodes of Hawaii Five-0, as well as in his work on other television programs. Here is a character, reared in Japan, highly educated, not only in the martial arts, but also in the literature of his homeland, a character who lived with his beloved Komiko in what once was an honorable home said to be located on the windward side of O'ahu, although it appeared to be located in the Upper Makiki neighborhood of Honolulu.


Mark Lenard captured this tormented soul to perfection. He displayed the love of homeland, the martial arts skills, and the inability to realize that time had marched on without him. He could not rationalize that, in a period of twenty-eight years, he would have aged and his daughter would have become a young woman. For that matter, he could not rationalize that the young woman was his daughter and not his wife. He briefly realized that automobiles had changed drastically from the time he last had driven, but he did not seem to understand that, if they had changed through the passage of time, so must everything else have changed. Quite insanely, he made room to pull the stolen car from its parking place by ramming the cars parked before and behind it. He did not realize that other members of the group were not joining him atop the oil storage tank. Nor did he realize that, when the four airplanes flew overhead, they were not World War II-era Japanese planes, but 1970s-era American ones; not propeller driven ones, but jet powered ones; not armed for battle, but devoid of armaments.


History Portrayed. No doubt, the Black Dragons had planned their attack on Sand Hill well, for Yoshio Nagata possessed the appropriate costume for a Ninja and knew exactly where to find the dynamite he would need for his bomb. Appropriately, it was not a construction site, but an American bunker at Battery Harlow. He knew when the attack was due to begin, and he was in position, ready to do his part for the cause, as he saw it. He knew the direction from which the Japanese Zeroes would approach, coming over the Ko'olau Mountains, although it should be noted that, when the American fighters flew overhead, they came from the sea, not the mountains. And he knew how to read a Japanese battle map and determine that the intended target was Sand Hill and not the control tower to which the arrows pointed.


We are not told why the Black Dragons did not carry out the planned attack or whether there ever was such a plan or whether the plan existed only in Yoshio Nagata's imagination. That, perhaps, is the greatest feature of this episode, the skillfully crafted look at paranoid schizophrenia. It far exceeds all other such studies seen in the series, even including Cal Anderson's (John Vernon) dual personality in "Force of Waves" (Season 3).


When McGarrett interviewed Dr. Lukens (Bruce Wilson), the psychiatrist at the mental hospital, he learned that Yoshio Nagata had a very slim chance of recovering from his schizophrenia. We have to wonder whether, with the newfound information about him, he might have stood a better chance of recovering after his rampage across O'ahu. Certainly, medications were better in 1970 than they were in 1941, and they have become still better since then. Perhaps, just perhaps, Nagata would be able to control his condition and to enjoy knowing his daughter, Heather, in his later years. But, of course, this is all fiction, so we will never know.

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2 Comments

Reply Steve's Girl
11:48 AM on January 25, 2017 
Mahalo for speaking so favorably and in great length about this episode, H50!
It may be true that it's hard to believe that some of the actors are meant to represent Japanese - and as far as I know that's what critics criticize most - but this episode has always been one of my favorite ones because of the history part.
And I always found it very sad when it became more and more aware to Nagata that everyone and everythig, even the car, was against him.
Reply Honu59
7:47 AM on January 25, 2017 
Very interesting observations and thoughts. While this episode is not one of my favorites, it doesn't seem to bother me like it does for so many others. I've read a lot of criticisms online. I do like Mark Lenard in many of his roles and I think he did a good job with the part of Nagata. It must have been a challenging part!