Hawaii Five-O” raced into December with soaring action, twisted NTSB officials, and another heart-tugging storyline in Season 8’s December 1 episode, “He Kaha Lu’u Ke Ala, Mai Ho’okolo Aku” (The Trail Leads to a Diving Place, Do Not Follow After). The opening scenes show Alex O'Loughlin as Lt. Commander Steve McGarrett doing some “hot-dogging” aerial maneuvers like he probably was known for in his younger days, and shooting through pylons at the Hammerade Air Race. All of his “Hawaii Five-O” support team is there, cheering the boss on with enthusiastic awe for his skills.

Suddenly, he clips a pylon at full throttle, and his heroics turn to real fear and his plane trembling. Will Steve be the one who takes a dive?

Camaraderie and compassion go right along with the action in this episode, written by talented writers, Liz Alper and Ally Seibert. When an ace pilot is lost, along with his aircraft, at the same air show, the case gets pinned as pilot error, but those on the inside know better. “Hawaii Five-O” is called in to uncover the truth, and tender moments fill space in between.

Old friend suspects fiendish meddling

Steve and Danny pay a visit to aviation mechanic, “Rockin’” Ronnie Turner (Dohn Norwood). Danny is still dealing with his arm apparatus due to Scott Caan's real-life arm injury.

Turner has been a friend of Steve’s for 15 years, and he knows his planes and his pilots. He is certain that the “pilot error” being blamed for the loss of Jason Sachs and his aircraft is part of a setup. He requests assistance from “Five-O,” knowing that they can go “outside the lines” to dig during an investigation.

Turner has another, even more pure, motivation.

He knows that Sachs’ widow and son won’t receive any insurance benefits under a “pilot error” loss, and he, Steve, and Danny all feel compelled to find true evidence.

On another family front, Tani (Meaghan Rath) meets Junior (Beulah Koale) for a quick lunch and soon learns that his morning of family bonding doesn’t end in hugs and kisses.

His mother doesn’t show up after an hour, and he only gets disappointed stares from his father, who didn't approve of his Navy enlistment. Tani offers her full understanding of “different” family situations, and the teammates joke that her brother and his father would get along fine. They part with a hug before McGarrett calls Tani to the case.

Dismissive and diabolical

Steve and Danny don't get much satisfaction out of their visit to the NTSB investigation site. Agent Callahan (Ricardo Chivara) is committed to the “pilot error” attribution, and wrapping up the case “in a day or so,” despite missing parts, one of them being the plane’s trim tab. On a small aircraft, the trim tab is the manual rudder, essential to the pilot.

In only five years, Sachs had accumulated a huge record of wins in aviation racing as “the Shadow Barron,” not from any military experience, but with raw talent. That ability earned him his share of both detractors and devoted fans.

Tani is especially moved by the love story between Jason and his wife, Elena (Danay Garcia). The widow recounts a caring family man, who always put her needs above his own. He rescued Elena from an abusive relationship and even gave her his flight jacket to keep her from being cold. Steve reminds his new teammate that “it's okay to care” about the people behind the cases. Steve struggles with not having the trim tab as a key to the case and tries to go through official channels to obtain it.

He realizes that somehow, the crucial evidence has appeared on his desk. Only Tani knows this vital angle. Steve tells Tani that she’s “going to get along just fine around here,” after she relates that it is customary to not look a gift horse in the mouth.

Is there a real Jason?

Lou (Chi McBride) discovers another case element when a hotel manager, Norman Andrews (Chris Flanders) describes being swindled on an investment by Jason Sachs, except this man he knew as Jason was a much different height. That leads to digging regarding true identities. The team discovers that the real Jason Sachs died in a car accident six years earlier. The young pilot was actually Luke Nixon, as he was hiding from this father-in-law, a Mexican drug lord, and the DEA due to his involvement in a case.

Once free in the US, Jason/Luke could use his aviation persona, not only as his cover but also to provide for his family. It seems the case is all good when Ronnie Turner finds a technician who spills his involvement in tampering with the trim tab and the payoff scheme with Agent Callahan, who was compelled to find “pilot error” to avoid paying settlements or judgments to deceased pilots’ families. All is not well for Elena and her son, who is captured by henchmen of the Camilo drug cartel. When “Hawaii Five-O” finds them gone, they follow the trail to find the family, rescuing them, safe and sound.

Steve flies in the air show for his old friend, Ronnie, and to ensure that Elena and her son get proceeds from Hammarade and the insurance policy.

While hitting that pylon did cause some tense moments for the skillful pilot, McGarrett regains control and requests permission to buzz the tower! Jerry (Jorge Garcia) has a moment of getting caught up in love with his boss and gets called a few names. Danny compliments Steve by calling him “Maverick.” The humor in Season 8 is sharp, and the feelings are warm. Steve only has to deal with his 12th-place finish, the last. When Tani gets home, she and her brother, Koa, call it even after he retrieves that trim tab, and they go out for late-night munchies and some family mending at the Rainbow Drive-in.

Next week, prepare for some touching McDanno “couples” moments, as Steve nurses Danny after biological weapons exposure. “Hawaii Five-O” keeps dishing out the best for Season 8.