Hawaii Five-0 does its damnedest to break its formula this week, but that doesn't invigorate the show as much as you might think. Quite the opposite: it actually does a little damage.

As we start, Lori Weston's got a lot of blood on her hands...literally. She walks out of the bathroom and we find out that she's in a hospital, asking after Steve and getting in trouble with Lieutenant Governor Denning for causing an international incident. Denning reminds us that he assigned her to this task force, so perhaps he'll end up reassigning her elsewhere.

Eighteen hours earlier, everything is fine...and Steve and Catherine Rollins are at some black-tie fundraiser, along with the rest of Five-0. There's another surprise. When Catherine left in episode four this season ("Mea Makamae"), I figured we'd seen the last of her, and I thought that she and Steve had ended their relationship. If they were still together, what was up with all his flirting with Lori? Or did she and Steve just now decide to give things a second chance?

Another head-scratcher comes when Danny talks about finding "something for Gabby," by which I can only guess that he means Dr. Gabrielle Asano, who hasn't been seen since episode seven ("Ka Iwi Kapu"). Are they an item now? Considering these vague relationships makes my head hurt, so I'm glad when the Lieutenant Governor pulls Five-0 aside to discreetly investigate a murder on the premises.

The investigation begins in a hotel room registered to a Dennis Mack, which looks a lot like the primary crime scene. Steve follows a blood trail to the roof, where he finds Dennis talking about how "she's gone" before he jumps. Thankfully for Steve, there's a balcony below that catches them both. In a subsequent interrogation, Dennis spills that the victim was "the chick from the elevator" who helped him get back to his room when he was in a drunken stupor. Her name turns out to be Victoria Chase, and Kono and Steve have to break the news to her sister, who thought Victoria was waiting tables, not spending time at an expensive charity dinner.

Why was Victoria in a hotel room belonging to a New York-based company? According to a bouncer she was friendly with, she asked him to beat someone up for her after he messed with her sister, but disappeared before he could get there. The sister reveals that she once worked for said company but quit after she got mixed up with one of its executives, who raped her, resulting in her pregnancy. This understandably provokes Steve's angry face, and he gets the guy's name with the intention of making his life miserable.

Unfortunately for Five-0, the exec is a Russian citizen currently holed up at the Russian consulate, hence the international incident. Since he won't come out, Chin drives a van straight through the consulate's front gates to force him out. When the exec evacuates the consulate, Steve and Danny stop his car and then he and Steve get hit by another one, hence the in the hospital part. All Steve is worried about is getting a blood sample from his prime suspect.

That brings us back to the present time, where Chin is still in custody at the consulate, where the Lieutenant Governor receives confirmation that the exec is the perpetrator behind the rape and murder. Justice is done, and Lori shows up with two things for Steve: a Valentine's Day gift and her letter of resignation. Oh, and she finally admits that she has feelings for him, which leads to an awkward hug in his office, not unlike the alleged last time we saw Catherine, who's busy kissing Steve.

Normally, I am all for shows breaking the non-linear storytelling format, but I don't think it worked for Hawaii Five-0 with this story. Where non-linear storytelling works is that it creates a suspense and tension, and you can gradually see things come together. In this episode, things felt much too choppy for that. Just as I was starting to get concerned, we'd break the tension by going to another moment, and then just as I'd start to put the pieces together, we'd be going backwards again. For this particular plot, keeping things generally linear, or maybe opening with the teaser and then going straight through back to it, would have worked a lot better.

The episode also shines a glaring light on the Five-0 writers' continual problems with the characters' personal relationships. I've said for quite awhile that it appears as if the subplots are almost impulsive. We were asked to get involved in the Steve/Catherine relationship, only to see her written out. Then there was blatant flirting between Steve and Lori. Now, Lori's exiting and Steve and Catherine are back on...which would be fine if they hadn't reunited completely off-screen. Likewise, it's jarring to hear Danny talking about someone he flirted with in all of two episodes. Neither relationship feels real because we apparently missed huge chunks of them off-camera.

Then we come to Lori Weston. Is she really leaving? Are we to take her departure akin to what happened with Jenna Kaye - that her character didn't work with the fans as either a new team member or a potential love interest for Steve, therefore she's gone? Lauren German has been billed as an "also starring" all season, so I'm not sure if her departure is genuine or not. I was never a fan of Lori, so I can't say that I'm upset if she really is leaving. If it is for sure, though, it should be a caution to the writers to take care before further altering the show's core cast. It would be the second time they've brought on an alleged new regular (three if you count Taryn Manning as Mary Ann McGarrett), only to write them out within the same season.

It brings me back to something I've been saying all season, and I apologize if I sound like a broken record, but it really is true: this show shouldn't mess with what works. It has a fantastic core cast, and there's nothing wrong with being a straight-up police procedural. Yet when we've seen it add new elements like a non-linear episode or these personal subplots, the show goes off the tracks. I'd love to see it stop trying to appeal to everyone, and just take pride in being a solid procedural with a fantastic main team that told reliable stories. I know the Hollywood instinct is bigger and better, but in this case, it was great as it already was.

(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.