Hawaii Five-O” truly got off to a scorching start for Season 8 last night, September 29. Fan feelings and opinions were aflutter and sparked debate up to the minute of the premiere credits, too. Executive producer, Peter Lenkov, admits that he was not prepared for the heat of the backlash that hit the “Hawaii Five-O” universe in the wake of failed salary negotiations for founding cast members, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park. Lenkov remains adamant that the best is yet to come in the coming months. Meaghan Rath was made part of the team, without demanding any forced affection from her character, Tani Rey or faithful viewers.

Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan are destined to share even more time together as Steve McGarrett and Danny Williams, and fans are sure to be in for some tasty disputes that may turn into all out “kitchen wars” now that the partners are bound to the restaurant business.

Familiar foes from the past returned, with slightly differing identities, and McGarrett outdid himself with heroism that rose above last season’s 18-wheeler showdown.

Long title and no short farewells

Sparing all the vowels and the extended title of “Fire Will Never Say that It Has Had Enough,” the story begins with Randy Couture as arsonist Jason DuClair bidding farewell to his prison containment, straight out the front doors. The escape is thanks to a system hack from Joey Lawrence, who portrays Aaron Wright, brother of Ian Wright, who terrorized the team, and particularly the family of Captain Lou Grover (Chi McBride). While this nemesis is out to rekindle doing no good, Steve and Danny are talking to Tani Rey about her potential as part of “Hawaii Five-O.” She doesn't feel worthy of consideration, considering the broken nose that she gave her instructor at the police academy and an overall sense of “less than” under the circumstances.

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Steve and Danny keep pushing with their pitch, saying they have no interest in the past and want to rebuild a solid team again. This is the juncture when Chin Ho Kelly is first mentioned, since he, too, felt unworthy of wearing the badge when it was offered, and now is commanding his own squad in San Francisco. Peter Lenkov assures that the names of Chin Ho Kelly and Kono will often be mentioned through the season, and their stories will be told simultaneously as “telling our best stories” continues through the current season.

Lenkov says he will never say never as far as Grace Park or Daniel Dae Kim returning to the drama in some capacity. Regardless, his esteem for their talents hasn't diminished. He describes that “their characters were elevated” because both stars were “so good as actors.”

The producer feels that the incoming cast are part of “organic” changes needed to keep the long-running series going.

Another theme of the season will be the restaurant proposal for “Steve's” that Danny pitches in all sincerity to his partner.

Danny is smitten with the property and the dream, and Steve agrees to give the arrangement serious consideration.

Proving her metal

Getting back to recruiting Rey, she declines the initial proposal but takes it upon herself to go to Wright’s house, and sort prove herself, for her own sake and the team’s. She gets caught up in the capture, the shootout, and the melee as “Hawaii Five-O” finds themselves amidst a massive island blaze per their pyromaniac in custody, and still keeping Duclair at bay.

It is Captain Grover who seems most impressed by Tani Rey’s toughness at handling the arsonist through the blazing brush. She has no qualms about knocking him flat, and that goes over really well with the boss.

Steve insists that they take protection in a cabin, soaking towels and staying close to the floor to avoid the scorching heat as much as possible. He chooses to “go downwind” as much as possible and pursue a way out for them all. With limited time and more limited oxygen, seconds matter. DuClair decides to walk out on his own terms and naturally burns up in his own blaze of criminal glory.

Steve flags down a helicopter, and hovers over the cabin, summoning his team that they all will escape if they attach chords to the cabin, and he lifts them and the structure out of the fire. The concept is as far-fetched as it gets in “Hawaii Five-O” history, but naturally, McGarrett makes it happen, hoisting the shaking timbers and his team to safety. Heroes are hard to say “No” to, and Danny visits Tani again, retelling his story of meeting Steve, and saying “there's no one better” to have a team member’s back. She agrees to be part of the force.

Steve doesn’t hear that news until Danny finds him at the restaurant site, using no key and breaking into a “weak” back door. Steve presents Danny with a fully legal business contract, signed and dated in full from that day. This brotherhood component of “ohana” on “Hawaii Five-O” is sure to have a future. The deal is sealed with McGarrett affirming to Danny, “I believe in you, I believe in us, and that's all that matters.” Those words are enough to keep faithful fans on board.