Forensic analysis of the Champ box
After six seasons of Lost, I watch TV in a very different way. Whether it’s Hawaii Five-0, The Young and the Restless or American Idol, I note every little detail, search for nuances and look up references, thinking that there’s some underlying meaning to it all. I *know* the way Simon Cowell places his Coke cup on his judges’ table will lead to a big reveal of one of the contestant’s mysterious past, somehow, someway. Likewise, I’m forensically dissecting the Champ box and the McGarrett family past… hopefully we can get some insight as to where the story is headed.
The Champ box
Under the gun, John McGarrett addresses his son Steve as “Champ”, something that he had never done before. Upon arriving back in Honolulu, he discovers the battered red tool box in his dad’s garage. “Champ” is the only readable word on the front of the obscured logo. The logo is that of the Champion Spark Plug Brand (Pilot).
In the tool box, Steve finds:
-a brass key
-microcasette recorder with John’s recording:
“I can’t continue the investigation in the police department from the inside, I don’t trust the people I work with, so I’m gonna have to do this on my own. It’s all about the key, I just don’t know what it’s for, I haven’t been able to…(garbled).”
In “Ohana”, Steve plays more of the tape:
“When he was five years old, I asked my son Steve what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I want to be a cop dad, like you.” I told him, “Be anything but that.” The life of a cop is not easy, it’s not that I’m not proud of the work that I did, but more than anything, I have…regrets. The toll that it took on my family, the way it hurt them, it’s something I think about everyday. Now I’m alone here. Losing my wife was almost unbearable, but giving up my kids, that…just broke me. I’m so proud of them, but they never know it. I missed so much of their lives, watching them grow up and all, but I guess that’s just the way it has to be, till I figure this out.”
Mary Ann finds the box in “Nalowale” and we see a lot more of its contents:
-a stack of business cards
-some type of coin
-a floppy disk
She comes upon three more significant things:
-a photo of a burned out car -At this point in time (up to Episode 12, “Han ‘a’a Makehewa”), Steve learns that his mother did not die in a car accident, but in a car explosion that led to a homicide investigation led by John (revealed to Steve by Chin). I noticed two interesting things about the photo: 1) The houses do not look like typical houses found in Hawaii and 2) the trees are bare, indicating the photo was taken in the fall or winter in a non tropical (i.e. mainland) climate. If this is a photo of Mrs. McGarrett’s crime scene, did it happen on the mainland or is this a production oversight?
-a cigarette butt – The butt is in a sealed evidence bag. John may not have had access to DNA foresnics if he was going rogue on the investigation and didn’t trust anyone in the HPD. Chances are, it’s Wo Fat’s butt.
-a postcard from Japan (Mary’s guess from “Nalowale”) with curious stick men on them – This card is probably the biggest mystery of them all… The card is addressed to John McGarrett at 404 Piikoi, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96821. 404 Piikoi was one referenced as Steve McGarrett’s address in the original series. Side note- back when that series ran, the building at 404 Pi’ikoi was a commercial building that housed a variety of stores, but no residential units. One of the stores I remembered was called “Jelly’s” which sold comic books, records, books, and my personal favorite, Dungeons and Dragons stuff. I remember buying Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now” on cassette single there… ah memories. In any case 404 Pi’ikoi at present day is a high rise condo that also houses the local FOX affiliate, KHON. 96821 it not the correct zip code for that area, but rather 96814. The card looks like it was stamped and postmarked from Japan, and I’d be content with that assumption. We do know that the McGarretts live at “2727 Pi’ikoi” (from “Po’ipu”). Was John really at a 404 address undercover, or in hiding? Or was it a simple misdirect, especially since the zip code is wrong, just in case someone other than John got their hands on it?
But the most interesting thing about the card is the stick figures holding out their arms in different positions. At first glance, I thought they were holding their arms to indicate the time of day. I also thought that they might be orienting their bodies to spell out letters. What I found was a little more complex than that. Long time Hawaii Five-0 fan and guru, Mr. Mike tipped me off on what the figures mean. First, the figures were giving hand signals in Navy semaphore (flag signals over long distances). This would make sense since John McGarrett as a Navy man himself would understand semaphore. But upon translation of the hand signals, I still come up with gibberish: NLWO/UCFU/RMY. When Mr. Mike asked the same questions months ago on his forum, a “Dalen Quaice” gave him this:
Follow the first wikipedia link to learn about the Sherlock Holmes story, and the second link to find out about a substitution cipher. To make a long story short, the “regular” alphabet is substituted for the “coded” alphabet. However, to know how the coded letters fall into the regular letters, one must know the key phrase that determines the substitution (“zebras” is the example used in the wikipedia link).
This leads me to my ultimate conclusion. The brass key in the Champ box that doesn’t appear to open any lock is somehow the key that will decrypt the substitution cipher…but in a figurative sense. Perhaps the keyword is “brass”. Perhaps the keyword is stamped onto the key itself. Unfortunately substitution ciphers come in so many iterations, that the postcard’s dancing men will only decrypt according to whatever rules the writers have determined. If I’m right about the key unlocking the cipher or if it the actually does open something, remains to be seen.
Tidbits from the Pilot, “Malama Ka Aina”, “Lanakila”, “Palekaiko”, “Hana ‘a’a Makehewa”
In the Pilot, John tells Steve “Listen to me Champ, I’m sorry that I lied to you,” and
“Whatever it is they want, Steve, don’t give it to them!”
We also learn that “it’s been awhile” since Steve has been home.
In “Malama Ka Aina” we find out that while Steve was still at Kukui High School, John was an absentee father. The Five-0 team ere watching vintage footage of Steve playing football. Steve reacts with surprise when Chin told him that his dad was there, cheering for him like crazy. My interpretation of that scene leads me to believe that John was not in Steve’s life at that point.
In “Lanakila” we learn that Steve and Mary Ann haven’t seen each other since their mother’s funeral. She missed her Dad’s funeral because “something came up”.
In “Nalowale” she tells Catherine she “just broke up with her boyfriend”. She also takes photos of the boxes’ contents.
In “Palekaiko” we learn that Steve’s mother was killed when he was 16 in 1992, and that John told him she died in a car crash. We also see Steve tell Chin about the box, and Chin discovers that the mysterious numbers noted on a piece of paper is actually the case number for John’s murder investigation of his wife…and the case file has mysteriously disappeared.
In “Hana ‘a’a Makehewa” we learn that John and Chin were the cops who brought in a $28 million in a huge bust 8 years ago, $200,000 of which went missing three years ago. Chin was suspected of taking the money, but Kono states that Chin didn’t do it since “he was protecting someone.” We also see Wo Fat asking Hesse how close McGarrett is to the truth…
Putting it all together
A lot of speculation, but like Lost, it’s always fun to have a theory…
John lied to Steve and Mary Ann about their mother dying in a car crash, when in fact she was murdered. The murder could have been in Hawaii or on the mainland.
John McGarrett probably has a background story of owing someone money, or crossing someone the wrong way. His wife was murdered 18 years ago either because John was the intended target, or the murder was a warning to John to settle his debt.
After the murder of his wife, John may have gone undercover, hid underground or went into some type of witness protection program to protect his children. Steve expressed surprise when he found out that his father was at his football games, and Mary presumably was sent away to school on the mainland.
The $28 million certainly has something to do with Wo Fat.
The missing $200,000 was probably taken by John to settle a debt or demand (like father, like son!). Chin Ho took the fall for it so that John can still work the investigation from the inside.
There may be more than one snitch in the HPD. Detective Kaleo (Jason Scott Lee, “Mana’o”) was revealed as one. Perhaps he or others were interfering with John’s investigation. John’s case on his wife is missing…
The brass key will somehow unlock the cipher on the postcard.
Here’s a stretch…why would Mary Ann take a photos of the Champ box? She probably knows a lot more than she leads on. Is she possibly Wo Fat’s girlfriend, or is she working for him, or is Wo Fat keeping tabs on her, still trying to get to the contents of the Champ box which could incriminate him? Mary Ann certainly didn’t take the photos for herself, so who did she take it for? Will she betray her own brother?
I think the writers can draw on a lot more of Alex’s acting ability as they reveal his family’s past. John told Steve “I love you son, I didn’t say it enough” indicates that John wanted to be there a hell of a lot more than he was. Steve may come to a slow realization that his dad was not the absentee dad that he and Mary thought he was, but a dad who couldn’t love his kids the way he wanted to, for fear of his children’s safety. The emotional transformation of how he sees his father will definitely lead to some dramatic TV. Unfortunately this realization will come to him long after his dad is gone.
How right/crazy/wrong am I? Can’t wait to see more episodes! All comments, questions and corrections are welcomed below!