Adrian Monk, the OCD Detective


"Mr. Monk Buys a House"  first aired July 18, 2008

During the break after filming season six, the actor who played Monk's shrink Dr Kroger dropped over dead unexpectedly.  This episode comes out as a creatively clever reaction to that.  Losing Dr Kroger was obviously going to be a big deal for the Monk character, and really had to be dealt with in some significant manner in the show.  Monk impulsively buys an actually very nice house from an estate in which the former owner's death turns out not to have been accidental.  He bought this house because he was that bothered now by the little girl all the way across the street who was constantly playing Chopin for her piano practice - a big favorite composer of his late shrink.  Monk literally bought a house to get away from the memory of the dead shrink.

This episode also introduces Hector Elizando as Dr. Bell, who was on shrink duty with Monk for the last two seasons.  Dr. Bell was never quite as good a character as Dr. Kroger, but that was somewhat inevitable.  Partly he only had two seasons, so there wasn't as long a time to work up the relationship. Also though, Dr Bell did not get emotionally wound up as did Kroger.  Thus, he was basically strictly a straight man, and not a particularly comic character himself.  Elizando was excellent in that somewhat thankless role.   Perhaps more importantly though, Monk himself became maybe a little bit less shrink dependent, especially in the last season. 

Ray Romano's old tv brother really makes this episode though as "Honest Jake" the handyman contractor who is renovating/destroying Monk's new home.  For a murderer, he still seemed to have a little empathy - and he was just hilarious with his contractor explanations to Monk as he's absolutely destroying the house.  There was great beauty in watching Monk's misery sitting on that lonesome staircase as chunks of wall and ceiling are landing at his feet and the drywall dust drifts over him. Honest Jake is especially good in the last scene where he's punchy from having had a wall knocked over on him.  He's hazy and drifting between killer and contractor modes in a most delightful way. 

It's a funny thing here how you'll remember this character as the comically horrible contractor rather than as a murderer, which is obviously the far more significant point about the character.  The splendid comic colors of his scam story are just much more powerful than his mundane criminal motivations.  I'd say the same thing about Andy Richter's character in the season five "Mr. Monk Makes a Friend" episode.

Often, Monk epilogues turn out to be the critical grace notes that really resolve the episode.  The murder has been solved and justice served, but the wordless epilogue showing Monk having made peace with Dr. Kroger's memory is what the show was all about.


"Mr. Monk and the Genius"  first aired July 25, 2008

Kudos to the writers for the opening scene, which is one of the creepiest damned moments  in the series.  A woman comes up to Monk with a check for $5000 to solve her murder that her genius grandmaster chess champion husband had promised was coming.  She was sure that the police couldn't protect her from the evil husband's promise because his measured IQ is 4 points higher than Einstein's.  "I'm already dead."  But she told Monk that she counted on him as the greatest of all detectives as the only person who could possibly hold her murdering husband accountable after her inevitable death.  Then she promptly goes home and dies of a heart attack - with her husband out of the country in a televised chess match.  That was some creepy stuff right there.

Monk takes this particular case very personally, partly on the grounds that the pre-murder victim had grasped his hands in the same way Trudy had done as she was dying a decade earlier.  So this chess champion is considered pretty much on the level of whoever killed Trudy.  Indeed, this led to a direct act of Monk breaking into this guy's house to plant evidence, which is a unique lapse on Monk's part in the whole series.  But like Dutch Wagenbach in a similar situation on The Shield, he immediately backtracks and takes back the fraudulent evidence. 

In fairness, you'd have to give the chess master some points for sportsmanship for sitting there long enough to let Monk withdraw the illegal move from their game.  The character was a subtle display of malice not through any crazy venting, but just through a gently expressed complete disregard for other people as anything but chess pieces for him to play.  Great evil chess metaphors.  Look for the poison pawn and the castling moves. 

In fairness though, did Monk really have the guy in "checkmate" at the end?  Seems like the worst you could say is that the first wife died with a poison from a very common flower that the chess master likes to grow in his garden.  Seems like that's at least a couple of steps from proving that HE gave her that poison.  Plus, I don't see how that in any way legally proves anything at all about the second wife who hired Monk.  Genius managed to cremate that evidence.  Could you seriously get a murder conviction based on just that - let alone two convictions?  I'd say at that point that it was check - maybe enough to get an indictment from a grand jury, but not checkmate - probably not enough to get a conviction.


"Mr. Monk Gets Lotto Fever"  first aired August 1, 2008

This would probably have to rate as one of the better episodes on a couple of critical counts.  For starters, this turns out to be one of the more interesting criminal plans of the series.  It was actually pretty clever.  I don't know how credible it would be as a real criminal plan, but it at least looked halfway to plausible.  Then that unforseen problem with the O-face guy from Office Space getting himself fired drives him to a perhaps even more clever counterplay with the Stottlemeyer ticket.  Well played, and well written.

The takeaway part of the episode though really comes from the Monk and Natalie dynamic.  She becomes the new lotto girl announcing the numbers on tv after the last one was murdered in the opening scene.  Suddenly she's a popular celebrity with adoring fans.  There's a bit of interesting shading as Natalie starts to get a somewhat big head and become something of a diva. 

But mostly, Natalie's newfound fame makes Monk miserable.  He can't stand being the Garfunkel of the team, even if he doesn't know who Garfunkel is.  Also though, contrast the adulation and love Natalie's getting from her lotto job versus the constant disrespect and thoughtless disregard she gets from working for the narcisstic Monk.  Monk really deserved to lose her here.  From one way of seeing it, Monk got very lucky that she lost her good job, and in such a way that Monk was able to be her hero.


"Mr. Monk Takes a Punch"  first aired August 8, 2008

This fighter was an excellent character with a dangerous but opposite of dark kind of secret.  Besides a couple of cliched phrases about having a lot of heart or something, I'm not sure what to say about Ray the boxer except that I find him really appealing.  This is definitely one character in the series I'd have liked to have seen more of - along with his old trainer with the cross necklace.

The most interesting thing really from Monk himself here was his decision not to expose Ray's secret and destroy his career.  Monk tends to display a hall monitor mentality, demanding adherence and enforcement of rules with no sense of discretion.  Sometimes that probably really is just as well, but it tends to be a pretty unappealing trait.  In this case, considering the motivation Monk figures that the guy has punished himself enough already and doesn't even tell Natalie.

Other than that, a lot of Monk in this episode is on the whining end.  I can't. In this case though, it was a little more justifiable in that what he didn't think he could do was pass a demanding police physical, on pain of losing his job.  Plus, this was leavened by the enthusiastic participation of Coach Ray, who was full of love to start with and particularly full of gratitude to Monk to boot.  Also though, Monk did come through physically when it counted, and their epilogue was really sweet.

The crime aspect of this was somewhat disappointing.  It was tense and thrilling to some extent with the hitman after Ray.  The opening scene with the bomb in the punching bag was excellent.  I also appreciate that it turned out not to be about what you would have likely thought.  I dig the sideways maneuvering, but the actual motive was not very plausible. 

Would this guy really be hiring a hit man to murder someone over that?  Rather than becoming a murderer, wouldn't this guy have just stashed those paintings somewhere else or something?  He could have easily enough bought or commissioned copies to hang on the wall in case anyone came looking.  Wouldn't that obvious although perhaps slightly aesthetically unappealing move have been a lot more likely? 


"Mr. Monk Is Underwater"  first aired August 15, 2008

For starters, this was one of the better crimes of the series - a locked room mystery with a fairly simple and plausible explanation that wasn't obvious.  Being on a submarine made it an extra well locked room.  Three or four witnesses heard the pistol shot from the door, and the commander kicks in the door to find his second in command with a pistol shot to the head and a gun in his hand.

Of course, being trapped on a submarine at sea for several days was a couple of steps past traumatic for Monk.  Not as bad as having been buried alive first in a coffin and then a car in earlier episodes.  The ship is totally actually safe and he knows this, for starters.  So he has just a nice little comic psychotic break, imagining that Dr. Bell is on the ship with him.  That made it alright.  They got a good amount of comedy with all the sailors watching his one sided conversations.  It was a nice moment in the epilogue when Dr. Bell actually shows up to meet the ship as they returned and picked right up when Monk expressed surprise that he needed stuff explained, as he'd been right there with him.  "My memory is fuzzy.  Maybe you can just remind me."  "It's funny how the mind works."

The ballast tank scene was simple but excellent.  The water filling the tank was real danger on ship, and the perfect way to get rid of these unwanted guests.  It would look perfectly reasonable later.  The idiot civilians who didn't know about submarines wandered off into a ballast tank poking around just as the ship was getting ready to submerge.  Plus, this gave Natalie's handsome young sailor the opportunity to rescue them.  What, and he STILL doesn't get any?


"Mr. Monk Falls in Love"  first aired August 22, 2008

What's more, this serious and utterly beautiful woman falls in love with him.  Layla's an immigrant from some place called Zemenya, where she has fled from an ugly chaos in which her father and brothers have been slaughtered.  Thus, she's in substantial part bonding with Monk through their shared senses of tragedy.  From that, she understands and overlooks his OCD behavior - which is much diminished in her company anyway.

But the wanted war criminal who had murdered her family comes up dead, having been working incognito as a cab driver.  All kinds of overwhelming physical evidence point to Monk's girlfriend as the obvious culprit, besides obvious motive.  Monk insists all along, however, that Layla isn't the guy. 

This naturally led to pretty good comedy amongst the cops, mocking his obvious prejudice - to the point that there was noise about a complaint being filed against Monk for obstruction through his very hard to justify continuing vociferous defense.  For that though, it can't have really hurt Monk's reputation when they finally came to arrest Layla and found Monk there dressed in only a robe.  Ohmygod, I about needed a moment there after that scene with her dancing to Tchaikovsky for Monk.

The final denouement of the relationship was excellent and serious - not any kind of play on Monk's dysfunctions, but on the integrity of his adult responsibilities.  He did what he had to do, "because she did it."  Layla couldn't accept this, and as gently as possible in that moment turns him away.  "Go back to your wife."  Layla says this with sadness rather than sarcasm.  This is one of the more beautiful dramatic scenes of the series.


"Mr. Monk's 100th Case"  first aired September 5, 2008

This scenario worked out pretty good.  The tv show In Focus is doing an episode devoted to Adrian Monk.  We're sitting in the bar with the gang watching the finished show in which Monk solves his 100th case as a police consultant.  (This is of course episode 100 of the series.) The case is solved and the serial killer is dead as we watch the broadcast.  But something isn't quite right about the final victim #4, with Monk puzzling it out even as he watches himself in the tv replay.  The solution to all that was quick and simple and somewhat ingenious. They made a particularly clever use of the show within a show conceit in their crime of the week.  It was an especially cute comedic grace note how Natalie counts this case against him in the epilogue.

The real payoff, however, was in the Monk bio pieces from the In Focus show.  Dig the old nanny who knows how crazy she sounds when she insists that young Adrian used to change his own diapers - then crawl across the room to throw them away.  This also gave us one more little curtain call moment for Sarah Silverman as the head of the Monk fan club.

But the payoff within a payoff for series fans was the in jail interview segment.  They assembled several former guest murderers in prison blues gathered together talking about their plans and congratulating each other over how clever they were - until Monk came along.  This includes the weed farmer, Andy Richter and Harold Kramer's cousin from the daredevil episode.  They were really all delightfully cheerful and good natured about it at this point, it seems.  It's really sort of a grace note for all of them.

But the payoff of the payoff of the payoff is the priceless minute or so in prison with Howie Mandel's cult leader character.  The explanation of that episode was that he was NOT the murderer, and had absolutely nothing to do with it, though he did seem to have fat bank accounts in the Cayman Islands or such.  So he shows up now in jail for unspecified "fraud" and wondering what the hell happened to him.  I'm wondering, too.  Talking gullible people into signing over their life savings to you generally isn't against the law.  He alone of these prison interviews seemed to actually maybe just the least little bit resent Monk.  The beauty of this is in him trying to repress all that and talk as the spiritual guru, explaining that he's finally truly achieved an inner peace sitting in prison. Riiiiiight.


"Mr. Monk Gets Hypnotized"  first aired September 12, 2008

This must be about the worst and least believable episode of the whole series.  For one thing, this was about the lamest crime setup in the series in terms of being any kind of mystery or being difficult to figure.  The basic hoax setup was obvious to me before the opening credits rolled, and it was supposed to be a trick.  It just wasn't. 

Far worse was the treatment of the Monk character under the basic hypnotism premise.  The entire execution of this was utterly ridiculous, as in deserving of ridicule - so here we go.  Seeing the apparent great success that his dreaded rival Harold had with a hypnosis therapist, Monk secretly goes to see him against every strong advice of Natalie for one.  He comes out having reverted to a mental state of about age 6, with ridiculous childish behavior that my 6 year old godson wouldn't dream of.  This was just not even vaguely humanly credible behavior.  Nor was it even vaguely credible that anyone would be allowed to spend five minutes at a major crime scene acting like that.  They would be flirting with commitment.

A basic part of the approach of most good drama is an idea of believable human behavior under unusual or heightened dramatic circumstances.  Inevitably, you have to go with the premises and suspend disbelief in the made up circumstances to see the human character in action.  Some realness of the human character is the dramatic nut you're after.  This emotional believability is generally particularly critical to anything like a police drama.  It doesn't matter for a spoof that does not intend to have emotional depth, Keystone Cops or Police Academy. 

But the Police Academy or Reno 911 were not carrying the dramatic weight of Trudy's murder.  For the show to work, you have to take Monk more or less seriously.  To take Monk from this episode as a real character with dramatic throw weight and not simply a spoof as we absolutely do in the series, you would have to say that this was a major psychotic break that would disqualify him in real life from ever getting a badge or a gun or a frickin' drivers license even.  This particular breakdown was non-violent, but who could tell about his next one?  Adrian Monk was out of his senses, and out of control.  Who exactly was steering the ship here?

Now, Monk has had psychotic breaks of sorts several times, but those were much more necessary and controlled.  Monk was still totally in control of his senses, for example, when he was buried alive in the Cobra episode.  Plus, you give someone a bit of slack under those severe circumstances.  Monk's much more limited and understandable break in "Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum" in season one was real and excellent drama.  Monk understood and felt fear and doubt, like a human being.  

Monk has been shook out of his phobias before in "Mr. Monk Takes His Medicine."  That led to serious dramatic re-consideration of the underlying personality of Adrian Monk, and at least some good comedy.  This led only to Monk chewing a piece of bubblegum off the bottom of a  shoe for five hours.  That nasty thing being the key piece of evidence was the most clever point of the whole episode.  I suppose I must credit them at least some for economy, tying the whole idiot Randy Disher Project of the week back into the solution of the case.

"Mr. Monk Gets Hypnotized" is numbered episode 101 of 125 in the Monk series canon.  I, however, am inclined to see it as an apocryphal episode.  Taking the episode for real would taint the credibility of the whole series.  But I fear that my denunciatory rant makes the episode sound more interesting than it was.  I'll just say that beyond anything else, this episode did not feature Monk at the peak of his sophisticated wit.


"Mr. Monk and the Miracle"  first aired November 28, 2008

Alongside his more obvious practical disabilities, Monk is also something of a spiritual cripple.  He's incapable of understanding much less feeling any exhiliration or any form or moment of transcendence or basic joy in just being alive.  He has not the least interest in a rare double rainbow.  When forced to look at it, all he could see is that the rainbows weren't even or exactly symmetrical.  So obviously, Monk's not taken in for a second even when he sees people drinking from this church fountain and being healed.  Monk knows there's no such thing as miracles.  The beauty of the episode comes from how they show Monk to be technically right, but wrong and missing out nonetheless.

Monk has a minor underlying religious ambiguity expressed in small bits throughout the series.  On the one hand, he's absolutely an avowed atheist who believes in what he can see.  He doesn't believe in God and has no desire to believe.  But repeatedly in the series, he can't quite seem but to act like he seriously believes or at least badly wants to believe in a vengeful YHWH type God whom he imagines punishing Dale the Whale among others.  He harbors no illusions of being with Trudy in heaven, but he can readily envision the Inferno.

Captain Stottlemeyer becomes the principal focus of interest in this episode, with a minimum of dialogue.  He begins the episode physically incapacitated, in great physical and spiritual misery.  We find that young Stottlemeyer had seriously considered the priesthood.  After being physically healed from a drink at the fountain, he quietly walks away from his life to become a monk and take a vow of silence at this monastery with the fountain.  They made a good gimmick from this to have Monk basically singing his "here's what happened" as a Gregorian chant.  Needing to stop a murderer pretty much snapped Captain Stottlemeyer out of his reverie.

Here's the thing though: This was a very good experience for Stottlemeyer.  In the epilogue, he specifically explains to Disher that he does not regret the incident.  They wisely avoid him making any kind of cheesy spiritual statement beyond a gentle smile.  It's clear, however, that this few days in meditation and contemplation of higher things has done the captain a world of good.  That the original impetus was a fraud didn't really matter.  Meanwhile, the episode ends with poor miserable Monk standing at the fountain in the night with a cup of water that he would never even consider sipping.


"Mr. Monk's Other Brother"  first aired January 9, 2009

Adrian Monk just flatly had a sorry excuse for a father, and thus a sorry excuse for a family.  Jack Monk abandoned them one day when Adrian was eight, only being heard from again briefly thirty nine years later when he needed Adrian's help.  In the meantime, Jack fathered and abandoned yet another family.  Dad described Adrian's baby brother as a worthless bum who lived in his basement and smoked weed all day. 

Showing up in Monk's apartment in the middle of the night smelling of sewage, Jack Jr actually seems to have been a little more ambitious than Dad had described him.  He's just broken out of prison where he was serving time for stealing cars.  Plus, they now want him for supposedly killing a very well loved woman at the prison as he was escaping.  Please help me.

The writers set this episode up perfectly to test Monk's attitudes, desires and resentments about family.  His baby brother, a self-described "lovable rogue" is a lowlife criminal who seems congenitally incapable of telling the truth.  He shows up for the first time ever at his big brother's home covered in the sewage he crawled through escaping from prison.  He lies to Adrian every step of the way.  Plus, the stick in the mud Adrian is committing a major felony himself now simply by hiding this wanted murderer.  It's no wonder that Adrian starts to call him in repeatedly. 

Against that are weighted two considerations.  One is that this is his blood brother in need of his help. Second, and probably more important to the Adrian Monk psyche, the guy's innocent of murder.  Monk susses the guy up pretty quickly, as he most often does with people, and feels quite certain that his baby brother is a half dozen kinds of thieving scoundrel, but simply not a murderer.  With some justifiable grousing second and third thoughts, Adrian gets his brother's back. 

There's some bonding in this mess, but it is kept to a good minimum by the constraints of the situation and the good judgment of the writers.  The main point was one late night watching a cheesy sci-fi movie, which they were both drawn to as a positive shared remembrance of their father.  But in the end, rather than running for Paraguay as soon as the murder charge was clear and he would thus be un-extraditable, he stayed and surrendered to the cops as he had promised Adrian he would.  Adrian as much as kind of hugs him as they're leading his baby brother off.  Adrian was proud of him.  That was some earned bonding.

The very last line of the epilogue a few seconds later re-spins it all beautifully one more time.  As the police van drives off, Disher's patting his pockets.  "I can't find my handcuff keys.  I must of left them in the other suit."  So Jack Jr wasn't planning to actually go back to prison, God bless him.  But he absolutely consciously put himself into police custody and a tough and risky situation to get back out of to make things straight for Adrian.  The no-count grifter ultimately did his brother solid.  Jack Jr stayed with Adrian and surrendered to police custody, thus clearing Adrian of any accusations of harboring him.  He wasn't planning on staying caught, but now it'll be on the cops' watch and clearly not under any responsibility of his brother.  Drop you a postcard from Paraguay.


"Mr. Monk on Wheels"  first aired January 16, 2009

This episode establishes pretty strongly that Adrian Monk is a jerk who earns a good amount of his own misery.  Now, Monk acts childishly here and there always.  But the whining and pettiness are far worse here even than "Mr Monk Stays in Bed."   What I as a viewer of the whole series find most absolutely objectionable about the character is his constant abuse of Natalie.  This episode may be the absolute worst of that. 

Monk wants to be miserable, for which point I have not sympathy.  A lot of this narcisstic love of misery gets covered up by the great misery and suffering naturally put upon him.  Fine, you get some sympathy chips. But then you make every bit of hateful gesture you can of running the evilest and worst entirely unearned guilt trip you can on Natalie.  This was just a seriously wrong thing to do, and it was most of what the episode was about.  He completely deserves to be left alone in his misery.  He doesn't deserve this wonderful, near perfect woman in his life. Stottlemeyer gave him a little talking to, but he really should have absolutely gone upside his head.  The distastefulness of the Monk character here makes interesting viewing.  How far is this jerk going to run his misery-loves-company crap?

There's a big thing here between Natalie and Monk about "karma chips."  She's cashing some in to get him to help her make right about this stolen bike when he gets shot and ends up in a wheelchair for a few weeks.  He's somewhere near the point of fear of losing her (with some prodding by Stottlemeyer) - and experiencing the explicit or implicit chastisement of both Stottlemeyer and the scientist who has to play doctor to her when she just physically collapses under his abuse.  Finally for just a moment, he acts a little bit like he's getting the point.  But damned if he's not right back in the worst of it in the epilogue, calling weakly for chips.  However, karma doesn't work that way, from what I understand of it.  You can't get the karma chips by bullying your employee out of them.  I don't think the karma fairy's going to be giving any chips to Monk.  Indeed, I'd suspect Adrian would get an ugly little basket full of nasty bad karma chips that he'll be paying for.

A couple of points about the experimental biotech lab jump out.  The square tomatoes were a very clever little line of humor for the Monk character.  I, however, was a little alarmed by these bean seeds that would germinate in 20 minutes.  I'm generally very pro-GMO, but those things scared the crap out of me.  If they do THAT in 20 minutes, what'll they be doing after a week?  They'll be doing experiments on US within the month.  It'd be the man eating Audrey plant from the Little Shop of Horrors.

They didn't go off into it at length, but these people in this lab just completely swim in a cultural sea of eco-nonsense, which was the source for some understated humor.  Of course the scientist has taken all that now important paperwork and recycled it.  The payoff of this though comes through perfectly when the culprit is fingered by those stupid eco-shoe tire tracks.


"Mr. Monk and the Lady Next Door"  first aired January 23, 2009

This episode started out so sweet and good for Monk.  He found him a perfect Mom figure who loved him unconditionally and needed him to dote on.  Besides being a widow, which point he could obviously relate to, she'd lost her only child at age three - which would make him about Adrian's age.  For awhile, this was positively idyllic for both of them.

Then Monk completely destroys this bond by accusing Mom of murder.  I found this scene fairly excruciating to watch, but it was really powerful dramatically.  On the one hand, he's accusing her of murder with no evidence.  But his theory made sense and was a plausible explanation, and he makes similarly not-yet-proven accusations against perps almost every week.  He's usually correct.  But this was not some random perp, this was his mother figure. 

You can understand how he screwed this up very readily.  This was not stupid childish self-indulgence, like the on wheels episode just before this.  He was suddenly overcome with paranoid suspicion.  Everybody who has ever buddied up to him wanted something from him, or so it seemed to him.  Think of the "Mr. Monk Makes a Friend" episode with Andy Richter.  On the other hand, one might invoke as counter-evidence Stottlemeyer, Disher, Natalie, Dorfman and of course Trudy.  Still, you can understand how he couldn't trust this woman in his gut, particularly with his issues of parental abandonment.  You can feel those mounting waves of feelings of fear and betrayal.

So he runs with an unproven but plausible story, but in a very personal and brutal manner with his mother figure in an interrogation room.  Monk absolutely unloads on this nice old woman, pushing her buttons in the worst way possible - dishonoring her dead son.  No, the son didn't die 40 years ago, he'd grown up to be the murderer next door that she's conspiring with now.  Could you possibly come up with anything more wicked or hurtful to say to this woman?  I don't know what it'd be.

Monk makes probably about his most careful and sincere apology ever, with flowers and explanation.  He's just so used to bad things that he has great difficulty accepting something so positive and good as her.  She's obviously an intelligent and sensitive person and understands, and she never really says anything against him.  But Monk has irrevocably broken a trust.  You can see why she would simply turn him away.  The modest reconciliation of the epilogue was as good as he could really have hoped for.

The principal robbery/murder that was the main criminal point was fairly simple and sensible.  This was good.  Rather than overloading the crime with exotic and arcane scheming, they set up the whole Togo and the freak museum sideshow for the comedy and crazy colors.  For starters, dig the short and exceedingly morbid appearance of the museum curator who wanted to leave the murdered security guard impaled on the exhibit to show to paying customers.  The missing robot of the world egg eating champion Togo led to an excellent scene with the white trash competitive eating champion, and his freaky family pride.  That was funny and unique.

But the Togo thing was also used as a Disher sideline, and in a problematic manner that works against the credibility of the character and ultimately a little bit undermines the basic underlying credibility of the series.  The conceit is that Disher theorizes that the robot has become sentient like in a science fiction movie.  His talk about that in the museum was funny, but a little problematic to accepting him as a credible police officer.  But it was really bad in the final scene when Randy walks in on Monk et al under fire from the bad guy, and attacks the stupid Togo robot instead of the actual killer with a gun - and doesn't even seem to get afterward that the robot wasn't alive. 

I'm happy to give a tv show a lot of creative leeway, but this was pushing it real far.  This series is not a farce, but in substantial part serious drama that requires some amount of believability for all the pathos to work.  There's plenty of perfectly good comedy in the series about ditzy Disher, which is great.  But usually you can more or less say that Disher always comes together from some primal level when they're under fire or in danger.  But here he walks into an under-fire situation, and responds by shooting up the damned robot and ignoring the actual shooter.  If you think about it for two seconds, that's a dangerous level of stupidity for a cop.  How could Stottlemeyer trust this guy with a gun after that, much less trust him with his life? 


"Mr. Monk Makes the Playoffs"  first aired January 30, 2009

I was really feeling Stottlemeyer's pain here.  By reason of an old favor, Monk comes up with two box seats to see the big football playoff game with Bob Costas in the broadcast booth - complete with all access passes.  But Monk really, really doesn't want to go to the game or be in the crowd.  But Costas expects him, and Stottlemeyer obviously is anxious to go.  But Monk has himself worked up into misery over just passing through the tailgate parties in the parking lot, and he's looking for reasons not to go in before a questionable explosion of a little barbecue grill.  It's exquisite agony watching Stottlemeyer just outside the arena missing the game to follow up on what appears to be some half-assed prank.  Stottlemeyer eventually takes his ticket and goes in, but he can't enjoy the game for thinking about his partner that he left alone outside.

However, they good and thoroughly pay off that agony with their own little football game with the stolen playbook. For not being athletic, Adrian Monk himself nabbed the stolen playbook from the opposing locker room during halftime and got it out of the building with cops and professional athletes chasing him.  Eventually, clueless Disher gets to make the, as it were, winning catch.  Winning that little murder game in the parking lot more than made up for Stottlemeyer's misery in missing most of the game.  Plus, he got to be on television with Bob Costas talking about solving the murder of this star athlete.

The high point of all this may have been Bob Costas explaining his indebtedness to Monk.  Seems that Monk had solved the case and saved him from a Calico kitten who was trying to murder him.  There was no way that Monk or anyone else was going to tell him that this cat was not trying to kill him.  "But you PROVED it."  "I just wanted to get out of there." 


"Mr. Monk and the Bully"  first aired February 6, 2009

This episode fascinates me in working against my expectations.  I have to wonder if I'm taking the show as intended, because by the end of this episode and more and more on reflection the nominal bully seemed like a fairly sympathetic fellow, and Adrian Monk seemed to be the one with a heart full of hate. The only time in the series I remember Adrian Monk noticing birds singing was in a fit of ecstasy at the thought that this 50 year old man would be sentenced to life in prison, which would be Monk's ultimate payback for this guy giving him swirlies in 7th grade. 

The bully's now a wealthy middle aged man who hires Adrian because he thought his wife was cheating.  He regards Monk as an old friend, while Monk is quietly looking for the chance to stick it in him.  He tells Monk early on in a sympathetic voice that he'd heard he was maybe a little crazy.  Is that more funny crazy or sad crazy?  Monk answers by pulling out a set of obviously belabored note cards with a little explanation of how his bullying had ruined his childhood and made him into sad, damaged goods. 

"So sad crazy then" was the bully's reply, which seems to me to have set just the right tone.  He completely disregarded Monk's intended guilt trip.  He's an alpha male who used to demonstrate his dominance through a few swirlies.  That wasn't very nice perhaps, but not really even violent - just a stupid minor humiliation.  It WAS "kid stuff," as he shrugged it off in explanation to Natalie.  How much could you really blame this guy for Monk being the way he is 30 years later? Monk is really, really milking it to claim maximum damage from a minimum of bullying.  I must invoke the wise philosopher Quincy Jones, who says that there is a statute of limitations on claims of childhood trauma.

But how much should you hold Monk to account for his wicked intentions against this cheerful, friendly fellow?  Even when Monk eventually figured out that the bully wasn't the guy and begrudgingly confessed his malice, the "bully" didn't take it personally.  The "bully" finally got out of jail and was happily reunited with his loving wife, just as he deserved.  But the tastiest part was how much I as a viewer enjoyed Monk's final pitiful moans that this was "the worst comeuppance ever."  Could be that it was a perfectly excellent comeuppance.  It was just a question of who exactly had an up coming.

Monk went into lockup in the opening when Natalie first mentioned the guy's name.  He grabbed a pan of chicken out of the oven and held it in his bare hand, burning it extensively.  But how much can you really hold anybody else responsible for Monk standing there holding onto to stuff he shouldn't and being a wussy and continuing to hurt himself?


"Mr. Monk and the Magician"  first aired February 13, 2009

Monk always complained about not having friends.  Everybody who ever buddied up to him was wanting to use him for something.  But this just wasn't true.  Among some number of real friends was his goofy young neighbor and occasional recurring character Kevin Dorfman, CPA.  In grief here, Monk says "He was just a kid."  He is specifically identified as 34 years old, but "kid" was exactly the right word to describe him emotionally.  He was not given to childish tantrums or such, but could reasonably be seen as somewhere close to Christ's admonition of being like a little child.  This aspect was totally emphasized here by his determination to be a magician, no matter how bad his act.  His last moments were a horribly disastrous public magic performance.  His next to last words were him alone in the dressing room afterwards, talking to himself in the mirror, grading his own performance more or less honestly but generously.  He gave himself a "D-" for the performance, and died seconds later wearing his magician costume.

You could take it that his childlike nature got him killed.  On the one hand, he's a smart Jewish kid, doubtless a very good and certainly honest accountant.  But he was enough of a lamb in a world of wolves not to smell danger.  He thinks he's being an extra good accountant when he goes to the magician to point out that the airlines keep overcharging him for extra weight in his luggage every time he comes back from overseas.  Thus, poor silly Dorfman got himself killed for noticing a discrepancy of maybe 200-300 pounds in the luggage check-in of probably thousands of pounds of staging and equipment. 

The magician had particularly huge nads.  The pre-credits sequence where he's playing his little magic tricks on a major and obviously unamused foreign drug lord establish effectively both his technical skills and his nerve, particularly in screwing around with the guy's watch.  I was particularly pleased also by the magician's misdirection by which was eventually explained his airtight alibi.  Then there's the nads of disappearing Monk directly on stage in a public performance in front of Stottlemeyer et al.

The noteworthy thing overall about the Dorfman character was his motor mouth.  His constant prattling made the main comedy of the character, most often in how much it quietly irritated Monk.  Monk expresses a bit of guilt after his passing for sometimes avoiding him because he just didn't want to hear it.

But you might behoove to pay attention for just a minute to his last words in the epilogue.  Natalie and Monk are watching his "video will."  But it's pure classic Dorfman prattling without, in the opening couple of minutes at least, ever getting to any kind of statement about his estate or such.  It's all about people - every person.  Instead of what to do with his stuff, he's talking about the video editor at this studio he's recording in.  Oh, and then there's his girlfriend - what's her name?  A lot of that prattle was reflecting that Kevin Dorfman took a personal, individual interest in nearly everyone he ever met.  That meaningless but lovingly personal prattle was a sweet and fitting end statement for the character.


"Mr. Monk Fights City Hall"  first aired February 20, 2009

Here's the thing:  I think Trudy Monk would very much favor tearing down that damned parking garage and putting up a nice playground, though she might would be a little shy about her name being on it.  So it seems like a good thing that Monk basically inevitably loses this battle.  Let the parking spot go.  Life is for the living.

The eventual solution to the councilwoman's murder was fairly disappointing.  It hadn't been particularly well set up.  We didn't get introduced to the guy until the last scene. 

But the current case was all about Monk disrespecting the councilwoman's idiot secretary trying to run the office in her absence.  Monk stood there at the end in front of her and everyone else going way out of his way to gratuitously and thoroughly disrespect her for no useful reason when the point was simply that she had been hired because she was pregnant.  She had just done what he begged her to do, and gave him the swing vote to keep the parking garage.  It's funny and a very good comeuppance for Monk to ultimately lose the big vote about the parking garage that he had won because of that display of disrespect.  He absolutely deserved that. He frequently makes similar gratuitous displays of disrespect.  He got himself smacked down for this kind of disrespect more than once in the series, as also in "Mr. Monk and the UFO."






DENOUEMENT  This is the climax of the series.  You shouldn't look at this page until you've seen it.











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