On “Hawaii Five-O,” surviving hemorrhagic flu doesn’t seem enough of a battle for the elite crime-fighters. Just as Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin), Danny Williams (Scott Caan), Junior Reigns (Beulah Koale), and Tani Rey (Meaghan Rath) are feeling well enough from their exposure to biological weapons to start squabbling over Steve’s new haircut and the cuisine in quarantine, another deadly encounter bursts onto the scene.

An unknown shooter breaches the area where few souls would even dare to enter, and he knows just who he’s after, without anybody knowing his motive.

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The team helped each other to survive sickness at sea, and this week, in the December 16 fall finale entitled, “I ka wa ma mua, I ka wa ma hope,” meaning "The future is in the past," the task of saving Danny's life, after the gunshot, rallies McGarrett and every member of “Five-O,” more than ever before, faced with circumstances that have no playbook.

In the second episode of the Christmas “Hawaii Five-O” block, McGarrett and company take on support from veterans to track some swindling Santa’s, while Danny weaves the tale into a perfect police dad’s Christmas bedtime story for Charlie. This “Hawaii Five-O” night is one that no fan will want to miss, and one destined for the archives. Never has “all for one” been so purely or powerfully demonstrated in the police drama’s enduring “ohana.”

Ambush in illness

The writing, the acting, and the crafting of the opening moments of the first episode exude everything that has made “Hawaii Five-O” a lasting television treasure in its second incarnation. Directed by Peter Weller, who has brought his deft touch to other past episodes, the opening scene depicts Danny and Steve on a bustling Friday night at their restaurant.

Danny is relishing the chef’s treatment of his family’s classic dishes, and Steve is working the crowd at the “front of the house.” The mood is so tender and touching until a news story flashes across the kitchen television about a detective shot and killed at Kings Hospital. Danny is asking “Who is it?” until Steve reminds him that, “It's you, Danny,” and the camera pans down to a growing blood-red stain on Danny’s starched white shirt.

The recovering members [VIDEO] of the force are expecting their usual physician, Dr. Keller, in a hazmat suit, entering quarantine. Instead, they are greeted by a gun pointed by a man whom none of them recognize. He orders them to lay down their phones, and tie their own hands in heavy-duty zip ties. As they kneel, Steve and Tani explain that the protective suit is not sufficient to save the gunman from the virus. Soon, they see that makes no difference, as he asks “Remember me?” of Danny. Danny responds that he does not remember, asking whether he should.

In only seconds, a shot is fired into his chest, and while his partners are still reeling, the assailant shoots himself dead.

Fighting for every breath

While Steve and Junior spring into life-saving action, applying direct pressure, and putting Danny on a monitor to track his condition, Tani sees another grave problem — the door to the area is rigged with a bomb. She panics at first, and Steve exclaims, “Figure it out, just figure it out!” For a newbie, it doesn't take her long to think of something to bring to the rescue. She beats the walls with a fire extinguisher until water pipes are exposed, and then disconnects them so the area will flood lower floors, necessitating help.

When help arrives, Steve directs just what he needs, but every minute is vital to Danny’s survival. There are beautiful interludes featuring "stream of consciousness" scenes in Danny's mind. Scenes of him calming his daughter, Grace, before walking her down the aisle. Later, the scene shifts to the entire team attending Charlie's graduation from the Police Academy, and getting an offer for his own “Hawaii Five-O” stint. The most endearing of the vignettes is one with the future, retired Steve and Danny, discussing a third-generation rookie joining police work, and poking and needling each other just as they begin each day together, and just as connected as ever.

A surgeon finally arrives to guide Steve through some delicate, improvised surgical procedures in order keep Danny alive until rescue is possible. The tensions of these scenes are palpable, and here, Alex O'Loughlin brings a sense of vulnerability to Commander McGarrett, who doesn't know how to fix things in this life or death battle. Tani echoes the frustration at one point, exclaiming “there's not even aspirin in here!” Steve pledges to do all he can for the partner who gave him the liver keeping him alive.

After a plan to blow a wall down with dynamite charges doesn’t yield a wide enough opening for a child, much less a critically-ill patient, Lou Grover takes a sledgehammer to the matter, and makes rescue happen. Danny is fondly cherished as Steve is chided for daring to try a “chrome dome” hairstyle. Danny crashes in surgery more than once, but the team soon celebrates the news that he “pulled through.” Not everything is rosy because Steve and Tani search a hotel room charged to the alias name of the shooter. They find a photograph of Danny, captioned “He deserved to die.” This story isn't over.

Christmas cheer

Danny is still on the mend and being doting stay -at- home dad to Charlie (Zach Sulzbach) in the second episode for the night, “Oni kalalea ke ku a ka la’au loa” (A Tall Tree Stands Above the Others). It's Christmas Eve, and Danny decides to tell Charlie the real-life story of how Steve and the team stop a robbing shopping mall Santa ring with the help of real -life, recent war veterans. He assures it is a tale of miracles, friends, and angels on earth.

Of course “Hawaii Five-O” solves the case, getting their guy, but what makes this story so satisfying is the natural rapport between Scott Caan and his on-screen son, and how the two “act out” the unfolding story with toy props and childlike belief. Steve is portrayed as a donkey. Eddie has some sweet canine cameos, too. The cookie [VIDEO]-snatching scene between Danny and Steve before the credits roll is a keeper for future Christmases. Topping it off is the surprise of a lifetime for Junior, who gets his official “Five-O” badge from Steve, not as a gift, but because he “earned it” through “stepping up” for the whole team. The feeling of legacy runs strong in Season 8.

New episodes resume January 5.