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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk Gets Stuck in Traffic"
Season Three Episode Thirteen
Written by: Tom Scharpling and Joe Toplyn
Directed by: Jerry Levine
Original Air Date: February 11, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: Ray Garaldi, of Garaldi Construction, meets privately with environmental activist Steve Marriott. Garaldi wants to build a strip mall, but Marriott represents a group fearful of the endangered Alameda Whipsnake. The good-natured talks fail, as does bribes so Garaldi does the only thing he can; searches for a pipe the right size so that it looks like Marriott got hit with a steering wheel and Marriott is out.

Natalie is driving Julie from a field hockey game ad Monk is accompanying. They get cut off by a truck and Monk calls the ‘How am I Driving’ number to report. Natalie notes that those calls rarely work out, especially when Monk gets involved, but in this case, there were prior calls, and they will take disciplinary measures.

Garaldi poses Marriott’s body and loads the car into his truck. He blasts through traffic, including Natalie’s car and drops Marriott when out of sight, leading to a nine-car pileup, eight not counting Marriott. Further down the road, Garaldi gets a call but finds out that he accidentally switched phones with Marriott, causing him to turn back.

After getting stuck, Natalie asks Monk to investigate. A lawyer named Garrett Price accompanies and Monk wonders why they did not see Marriott’s car pass them. Plus, there are no brake marks on the road and the car is in neutral. The sergeant on scene will have none of it, even as Monk explains some inconsistencies with an accident. Garaldi has managed to infiltrate the scene and nervously overhears some of Monk’s arguments. The sergeant finally realizes that he should cordon off the area, though why he did not do so earlier is an exercise for the viewer.

Monk and Price are found by Julie, on an errand to find a restroom. They come across the trucker who cut them off earlier to find out she was fired. She wants to beat the daylights out of the person who caused her to lose her job and can recognize the voice. Price says he does not advocate violence but asks her to give his card to the victim if that happens. They later go to Natalie who hurt her wrist in the accident.

Garaldi accosts a uniformed paramedic to swap outfits.

Price is interested in getting medical aid to Natalie along with documenting the accident. They get a medic over who just happens to be Garaldi. Monk quickly finds things amiss with Garaldi from wearing construction boots to not knowing how to open has bag and not checking Natalie’s pulse. Julie brings ice and word of the band Korn with their tour bus. It certainly has a bathroom, so Monk is ‘encouraged’ to take Julie. While there, they recognize Marriott’s name having performed for them earlier. Marriott is part of the Environmental Guerilla Group, which showed up on Garaldi’s caller ID.

Having sent Julie back to Natalie, Monk informs Price but is within earshot of the truck driver, Crystal. They try calling in a retraction of the radio, but it does not work. Monk confronts Garaldi but is soon arrested while trying to prevent the scene from being cleared. Natalie visits a handcuffed-to-the-cruiser Monk and takes a look at Garaldi’s truck. Garaldi is unable to get his phone back as the ambulance takes off to the morgue, so he follows with Natalie in tow.

The sergeant is in disbelief until they find the paramedic’s body. After upping the swear counter, they are off. Natalie’s attempt to get attention only alarms Garaldi who raised the cabin. Monk takes aim and, after leaning out the window, gets the shot. Garaldi is arrested. Natalie is impressed that Monk went out of his way for her protection.

Price thanks Monk for helping reinvigorate a practice while Julie gets to use the restroom on Korn’s bus and gets a temporary tattoo to freak out Natalie.

This Week’s Compulsion: Monk plays the number game. He says a number and someone else says a different number.

White Courtesy Phone: After spending two hours driving and another two hours watching a field hockey game with Monk, Natalie says that is the last one. The viewer realizes this is not true.

The Innocence of Youth: When Julie needs to pee on the ride home, Monk pays her ten dollars not to.

Let’s Up the Rating: Natalie tries to pass the time by getting attention of truckers. This being prime time tv, it does not involve flashing.

Here’s What Happened: We get no formal ‘here’s what happened’ sequence.

One More Time: “There’s going to be a party in our car in ten minutes, pass it on.” “OK. [To an elderly couple] There’s going to be a party in that 1962 turquoise convertible in ten minutes, pass it on.”
Monk getting an invitation from some babes and doing a poor job of spreading the word.

Dear Genre: Steven Williams played the one lettered character X on The X-Files and is Sergeant, Parnell, though that name comes from the script.

Trivial Matters: The Alameda whipsnake is an actual protected species in California.

“How am I Driving?” stickers have a ten precent call-in rate. While they can result in termination, many of the complaints are minor. A small percentage are complementary.

While hanging out with Korn, Monk references his time with Willie Nelson.

After the series premiere, this is the second time Monk has fired a weapon that does not have water as ammo.

When disguising his voice, Shaloub uses an accent similar to the one he used in Wings.

Ted Levine and Jason Gary-Stanford do not appear, for the second time this season.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “I picked up your laundry this morning, it’s in the back.” “I hope it didn’t get wrinkled in the accident.” After an episode reading the paper, spending time stuck in traffic is the next logical step. Like the ‘predecessor,’ this is not in traffic for the whole time. We do not see a lot of that ‘action’ due to constraints, but it says something where one of the random cars throws a better party than Korn. For people stuck on the freeway, they had a lot of beer at the ready. The Korn cameo (Kormeo?) is fair, and they get to interact with Monk, though it is a shadow of Willie Nelson who got an entire episode. The trucker subplot does not really go anywhere but allows Shaloub to have some fun moments.

Larry Miller’s Garret Price is the biggest guest here. He leaves no bit of scenery unchewed as he is resurrected career-wise passing out business cards left and right. Writers Tom Schapline and Joe Toplun gave him plenty of room to work with and he took everything they gave. He even wants Monk to be hit because there are witnesses around. He will be chasing ambulances for some time.

This episode also lets Natalie shine a bit. She is sidelined due to her wrist, though that magically goes away when she is trapped in the truck. Plus, the chase goes on for at least ten percent longer than it needs to. Still, we have a good Natalie/Monk dynamic where she is ready to write him off but he goes after her in the end. We never saw Sharona getting connected with Monk and this lets us see a relationship develop. Natalie was part of the cast before but now she is welcomed with open arms and part of the family.
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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk Goes to Vegas"
Season Three Episode Fourteen
Directed by: Randall Zisk
Story by : Tom Scharpling and David Breckman, Teleplay by : Daniel Dratch and Joe Toplyn
February 18, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: Casino mogul Daniel Thorne and his wife Sheryl are going to a benefit, but they forgot their tickets. As she goes back up to their suite, her trademark scarf gets caught in the elevator. He calls up to check on her but when she gets up, she is dead.

A few days later, Stottlemeyer calls up Monk from the casino saying that he solved the case of Thorne murdering his wife. He goes and we get a montage of the city to “This is it” by Lewis LaMedica. He wakes up the guys who feign the bachelor party and Stottlemeyer has no recollection of calling Monk, to the point where he wonders who made that call.

They investigate the elevator, an exclusive express one to the penthouse. It needs a thumbprint to activate but Sheryl’s was at an odd angle the night in question. Plus, she dug her fingernail into the leather handrail, but it is far from the door. Stottlemyer recalls talking to someone but does not recall who.

At a groundbreaking for the Sheryl Thorne hospital, Monk and Natalie talk to Thorne. Even though he looked for the tickets, they were in his pocket. He tries to bond with Monk, but things go sour when he mentions Trudy’s death.

Monk and Stottlemeyer head to the bar where he won a karaoke contest the evening in question. The staff remembers him talking about solving the case. After reprising, a patron recalls him saying “They don’t match.” Meanwhile, Natalie does a meet/flirt with Lewis, the bellhop. He hopes to run the casino someday and keeps track of who leaves with who. Thorne had a mistress, Teresa Telenko, a dancer at another club. She called in sick the night in question but was sick. Monk tells her his suspicions and gives a warning to Thorne. With Telenko being a dancer, he refuses to look at her directly when making his accusations.

Monk and Natalie reenact the scene with Monk wearing the scarf, but Thorne calls the elevator while they are doing so. Monk is unable to breathe let alone call for help. Thorne is distraught and the local media are no help. One periodical published a scathing story and Thorne bought it just so he could fire the editor. He says the house always wins.

Disher Is losing his pants at blackjack. Monk is able to remember, not count, cards which is not a problem even with the eight decks used in the game. He wins back the money and tries to go above the maximum bet. Thorne allows it if they add in two more decks. Thorne also warns that he has friends in the ceiling, referencing the cameras. Monk realizes how Thorne did it. He strangled Sheryl on the ride down and Telenko swapped places by virtue of an overhead door. There is no proof and Monk is cut off.

Lewis returns Stottlemeyer’s pants which contain the tabloid. In it, the pictures prove that there were two different women by the earrings not being the same.

As Thorne is carted off, he is invited back to the blackjack tables by a patron. Monk is able to cut himself off since he has Natalie.

This Week’s Compulsion: Monk doesn’t drink or gamble. A certain Ferengi would not like him.

White Courtesy Phone: Natalie was a blackjack dealer back in the day. She also refuses to play the victim like Sharona did.

Captain Moustache: There was a stripper at the party, but Stottlemeyer and all the other guys went down the hall when she came. Or so he claims.

Dishing it out: Randy is only down a few hundred in blackjack but he has a book to beat the odds.

Let’s Up the Rating: At least one source describes Cheryl as a bombshell. I have no argument otherwise. Not to be outdone, Stottlemeyer is asked to turn around while he sings.

Here’s What Happened: Monk solves the case while making multiple Blackjack bets.

One More Time: “If this a holiday or something?”
Monk not getting one of the cities that never sleeps.

Trivial Matters: There is a Monticello Casino but it is a conglomerate of buildings, not one per se.

When Monk talks to Natalie about her being able to get things out of people, Monk asks if it is a gift or a curse to which she replies it is just a gift.

While Monk is ahead several thousands, most casinos will cut you off far before that. There may be extenuating circumstances with Thorne in this case.

Stottlemeyer answering the door is a callback to Levine’s breakout role in Silence of the Lambs.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “Welcome to Sin City, Mr. Monk.” Monk. Vegas. Gambling. A hangover. James Brolin. This should have been knocked out of the park. Instead, it is middling.

Some of it is great. The waking up scene from the hangover is great with the guys covering up the fact that Monk wasn’t invited and that the married guys avoided the stripper. The day players did a great job. The rest of the hangover plot is just kind of there, arbitrarily leading Monk to where the plot directs him to. It is clear that the trilogy did not see this episode beforehand because they would not have gone through with it.

James Brolin is wasted. As a mogul, he would have been as sinister as the best Cardassian or Romulan but is oddly muted. He could have been a great foil for Monk but winds up as one of the many forgettable ones.

The script makes some use of the setting, but Disher is there just to lose money. We hear about the games but really only spend time with one. The episode was shot to make use of the sets from the series Vegas, to the point where they had to film on weekends which were the only days the sets were available but it was written to accommodate that, not to make use of the setting as we have seen when Monk goes to Manhattan. You can tell it is all over the map when four separate writers are attached to it, all big names on the squad including the creator. Sometimes those collaborations work but it can also derail quickly. So much potential for a great episode wasted.
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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk and the Election"
Season Three Episode Fifteen
Written by: Nell Scovell
Directed by: Allison Liddi
Original Air Date: February 25, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: Natalie is running for the local school board. The campaign is well underway, and she tried to cut corners by purchasing equipment from a police auction, including a malfunctioning copier. There is a repairman who is trying to get it working and asks for they key to a locked area. That Is to no avail and a sniper’s shots ring out!

While Natalie recovers emotionally, the nearby roof is examined. There is a note asking Natalie to withdraw from the race, but they misspelled her name. The obvious suspect is Natalie’s opponent, Harold Crenshaw. At the questioning, Crenshaw admits to owning a gun but nothing close to the caliber used earlier. Stottlemeyer tries to keep things under control as a security officer was killed before the shooting, but Monk and Crenshaw get into a measuring contest when, upon the alibi being a rare double session, one has a cell phone number of Dr. Kroger and the other one does not. Monk is ultimately convinced of Crenshaw’s innocence as there would not be a misspelling.

Natalie is ready to quit the race, but a quick talk with Julie and a picture of her with her deceased husband convince her to stay in. Stottlemeyer cannot convince her to drop out, so he increases security, including assigning Disher as a bodyguard at all hours. The attempt makes no sense; the other fourteen members of the board agree with Natalie and even if they don’t, the school she is trying to save will be used for another purpose.

A volunteer named Jack brings in some homemade lasagna and offers to get the copier out of the way. Monk finds a missing letter for the sign on the door but realizes that the killer did not know Natalie’s name, meaning that the attempt was not about her. During debate preparation in her apartment, someone throws a grenade which Monk uses quick thinking to place in the refrigerator while under Super Slow Motion.

Monk talks to Natalie who will still not quit the race. She confides in him that her husband was shot down over enemy lines and while his cremates escaped, he did not. Anecdotally they told her he panicked. She would like to set the record straight before Julie starts asking questions and will not be a coward.

At the actual debate, Monk questions Crenshaw’s going to the Kroger residence for Christmas dinner when the good doctor is Jewish. Crenshaw says that his fiancé is Irish Catholic, so they celebrate both. While Natalie has a chance for rebuttal (?) Monk looks at a sign Jack made, and it is folded just like the note they found on the rooftop.

There is nothing to tie Jack to the attempt, but they do their homework; he is a suspected arms dealer to the point where his office got raided. They got him on tax evasion, and he served six months getting out weeks ago. He joined Natalie’s campaign and could have tried multiple times to kill her but there is no motive. Stottlemeyer heads off to arrest Jack while Natalie takes Monk to vote.

Monk finds the voting booth a little too cramped and takes a break, drawing questioning looks but notices something with the box Natalie brought in, the same one Jack used for the food. Jack was using the copier when he was arrested and there Is a jammed document in it, something incriminating. After finding the copier he joined the campaign hoping to get to it but there were too many police around.

They catch Jack in the act and find a list of arms dealers with addresses and delivery dates. Monk is not sure he voted causing Natalie to wonder what happens if she loses by one.

Natalie lost by a lot more than that, almost a landslide. Julie is conciliatory while everyone watches Crenhaw’s acceptance speech in which he thanks, and welcomes to the stage, Dr. Kroger or Chuck as he is called.

This Week’s Compulsion: Monk wonders who will take are of him if Natalie is elected.

White Courtesy Phone: Natalie is opposed to combining the middle school with the elementary building. She ran with five days left before the election.

Captain Moustache: Stottlemeyer tries to shield the height of the roof from Monk with his blazer.

Dishing it out: Disher takes the role of bodyguard seriously, including taste testing the food.

Let’s Talk it Out: Dr. Kroger gets a silent cameo at the end. Nice work if you can get it.

The Innocence of Youth: Julie reminds her mother of what is at stake both in the election and in their lives.

It Recurs to Me: This is Tim Bagley’s second appearance as Crenshaw making him an official recurring character.

Here’s What Happened: Monk tells this while playing a game of Keep Away with Natalie’s keys.

One More Time: “Fourteen, there were fourteen shots.” “Are you sure? Of course you are. Were they evenly spaced?”
Monk stating a observation and Stottlemeyer getting clarification

Dear Genre: Some guy names Nick Offerman plays Jack, a man who could stand to spend a little more time in parks and enjoy some recreation.

Trivial Matters: There is an Ashton Elementary school in California.

Disher, Stottlemeyer and Monk all contaminated evidence while investigating the crime scene.

Mythbusters tried the grenade trick, but it wound up creating more shrapnel.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “He’s a patient of Dr. Krogers. I met him in the waiting room. This guy has got some serious problems.” Easily the worst part of this is the slow motion shot of the grenade. While there is a good gag with Monk going back to place it more appropriately in the refrigerator, it goes on for far too long and does not build excitement.

There is some rush of Natalie being too accepted into the team. Stottlemeyer gives her a bodyguard along with a lot of protection which would not make sense for someone who recently joined. After doing a great job of not shoehorning her in, we have a script where you can do feel the effects of Sharona leaving and crossing that name out and writing Natalie.

Those two gripes aside, this is a strong episode. Bagley’s second run as Crenshaw is good and we see that they have a great deal in common though Stottlemeyer is nice to Monk privately. He is a good catalyst for their conversations, playing a role that Dr. Kroger usually operates in. It works well and shows there are more ways to display character traits. Kroger’s glorified cameo at the end is unnecessary but helps drive the point home about how close he lets his patients get.

The mystery lets us get closer to Natalie in a series that would generally not do so. While she is surprisingly open with Monk, she gets some of the backstory out. It will not be followed up on but gives us a good background on her. Julie helps as well, offering support. The two are well integrated into the cast at this point. Natalie’s impetus to run is a little out of nowhere and cannot win due to the nature of the series.

While the election does not go in Natalie’s favor, the mystery is solid and Offerman is a little too reserved in his portrayal, but this is a good hour to spend despite a couple quibbles.
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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk and the Kid"
Season three, episode sixteen
Directed by: Andrei Belgrader
Written by: Tom Scharpling
Original Air Date: March 4, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: Foster parent Janet Novak is watching a group of five children in the park. That turns out to be one too many as two-year-old Tommy goes missing. Two officers find Tommy, and all is well in the world. Until they see he has a severed finger in his hand.

The hospitals show no person missing, or parts thereof and Tommy is pretty silent, until he talks to Monk and Natalie. Monk decides to walk with Tommy hoping to retrace steps and the two bond as Monk relates Trudy’s story and Tommy tries to put a stick in his mouth. Monk gives Tommy a wipe for next time.

Forensics determines the finger was severed earlier that day. Based on the angle and callouses, Monk believes they play the violin. Natalie and Monk check out all eight on their list, including Abigail Carlyle and her son Daniel, both of whom have the expected number of digits.

Monk decides to talk to Tommy again and finds him being removed from the Novak residence by Case Worker Teresa Crane. It is protocol though they have no home to put Tommy into. Monk volunteers to help. Some pieces of paperwork later, only one of which actually requires Monk’s signature, we get a montage of the two playing, in part thanks to a care package from Natalie.

An emergency services operator handles a call from someone who needs to change a diaper on a two-year-old.

Monk and Natalie stake out the Carlyle residence. Monk realized that the person they met was not Daniel but might be a brother. Monk suspects foul play, but after following them, determines that Daniel has been kidnapped. The Carlyle’s level with them; they met Jacob, not Daniel. The kidnappers call with ransom demands but Jacob cannot do the delivery, and neither can Abigail as they are expecting a man. Not wanting to involve the police, Monk volunteers.

The kidnappers take extra precautions to make sure no tracking device is involved, though they fail to realize that one can be slipped into a garbage bag as easily as a duffel bag. Things get further complicated when Monk gets distracted by a phone call from Julie and gives the money to a repairman instead of the shouting and jumping kidnapper on a much further away roof.

Monk confides in Dr. Kroger that Abigail agreed to get the police involved. They recovered the ransom and the kidnappers called to arrange another drop. He also refuses to give up Tommy. Natalie is concerned that Tommy is imprinting on Monk’s negative traits and him not being able to be a parent overall, let alone a single one.

As Monk prepares to read Tommy a story, he finds that Tommy has taken the lipstick out of Natalie’s purse, which helps him solve the case. The Novaks needed money so the kidnapped Daniel. As they were about to leave the finger, Tommy pulled it out of the purse. Novak knew which finger was severed; a detail not shared with the public.

The SWAT team goes in, and things do not go according to plan resulting in Disher engaging in fisticuffs, but the Novaks are arrested.

Monk sees Tommy off but not before one last play session. Oddly enough, your humble rewatcher’s living room got somewhat dusty during this sequence.

This Week’s Compulsion: Monk has issues with changing in a locker room to the point where he got incompletes in gym and needed his mother to call the principal.

White Courtesy Phone: Novak notes how good Natalie is with kids at which Natalie responds it is part of her job then looking right at Monk.

Captain Moustache: When Disher thinks tree sap is found on the finger, he is ready to compile a list of area lumberjack violinists, something Stotltemeyer tells him to be comprehensive.

Dishing it out: After correcting Stottlemeyer on the specifics of the case (Tommy’s age, guardianship, etc.) Stottlemeyer asks him to step away. Disher complies but does not take the hint.

Let’s Talk it Out: When Monk feigns forgetting what Julie told him over the phone at the drop, Dr. Kroger thinks otherwise.

The Innocence of Youth: Julie babysits Tommy while Monk is making the delivery. She spills some grape juice and gets some specific instructions on how to clean it up.

Let’s Up the Rating: There are at least to topless men in the YMCA locker room, neither one of whom has chiseled abs of steel.

Here’s What Happened: We get no black and white sequence, but we do see storybook pictures, some of which are animated.

One More Time: “The boy’s not talking.” “Maybe he hates cops.” “Maybe he’s two years old.”
Discussions of the big silent guest star of the episode.

Dear Genre: Nicole Sullivan guest stars as Paige Novak after she did six seasons of the original MadTV.

The Rainbow Treknection: Mary Mara is Crane but is unrecognizable after her time as a Sphere Builder on Enterprise.

Trivial Matters: Monk, er, the caller to emergency services, refers to Tommy doing a number three. He clearly does not know what that means.

If Abigail Carlisle looks familiar, she is played by Shaloub’s real life wife, Brooke Adams, who previously appeared as a stewardess in Mr. Monk and the Airplane.

The end title credits are a more somber tone.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “It looks like Monk finally found a friend.” Usually a kid giving someone the finger is not this entertaining.

On Battlestar Galactica, Ron Moore realized that he needed to treat the toddler like a prop. Thankfully, Tommy is more involved in this episode though I suspect some of the sequences were improvised to let Preston and Trevor Shores be kids. They are perfectly cast and have great chemistry with Shaloub and Clarke to a lesser extent. There are tricks used; sometimes Tommy’s mouth does not match his dialogue, but this is largely effective. A show like this lives and dies based on the guest cast and there was a lot riding on their shoulders.

The entire main cast gets a crowning moment of glory. Natalie gets to talk about being a single parent to Monk, Stottlemeyer gets to professionally tell Disher to be quiet and Disher gets to engage in fisticuffs. Even Julie and Dr. Kroger get good moments.

This is a slower paced episode written perfectly by Tom Scharpling including a sequence with the emergency services operator which could have been on another show. The extra playing her supervisor is great and it is in character for Monk which lets the imagination run wild. Andrei Belgrader has great direction, especially since having such young actors limits the amount of time they can spend on the set.

Modern shows are used to a finale with explosions, helicopters, fires and such, but this is a good cap to the season. It is compelling and the mystery is laid out but does not outpace Monk realizing he cannot be a parent. The scene in the locker room gives us a chance to see Shaloub in action but not take too long. Even the extras get in on the fun.
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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
Third Season Overview

We’ll Need Some Help: In his third season, Monk went to Manhattan to find more clues about Trudy’s murder, helped his ex-father-in-law solve a crime for a game show, and is put in protection after witnessing a gang incident.

Sharona wound up getting back with her ex and moving out of the city to the other coast, taking Benjy with her. She would also fall victim to psychological horror in a murder scheme. Natalie Teeger would take her spot as Monk’s assistant and while they did not get along initially, they did become close colleagues after Monk prevented some home invasions. She also ran an unsuccessful bid to be on the local school board and confided about her deceased husband Mitch who went down during a mission. Natalie’s daughter, Julie, would work and bond with Monk as well.

Stottlemeyer remains a staunch ally of Monk but is unable to prevent his firing. He would recommend Monk for outside work on multiple occasions. After surviving being shot, he would go to Las Vegas and solve a case.

Disher continues to have a rough love life, including being the target of a Chinese gang to locate Monk.

Both Harold Krenshaw and Kevin Dorfman would come back into Monk’s radar. Dr. Kroger would keep working with Monk, in addition to a key session with Sharona.

Monk would visit Manhattan, Mega-mart, the game show Treasure Chest, an unnamed casino in Las Vegas and a secluded cabin in the woods.

Favorite This Week’s Compulsion: From Mr. Monk and the Blackout: Monk threw away Willie Nelson’s harmonica as the legend put his lips on it.

Favorite White Courtesy Phone: From Mr. Monk Gets Fired: Sharona asks Monk to leave the hospital as she cannot afford to lose two jobs in a week.

Favorite Captain Moustache: From Mr. Monk and the Girl Who Cried Wolf: Stottlemeyer notes that even the toughest guys on the bomb squad could not work for Monk.

Favorite Dishing it out: From Mr. Monk and the Girl who Cried Wolf: When told the victim had a screwdriver in his ear, Disher asks what type. He gets a look in return for his efforts.

Favorite Let’s Talk It Out: From Mr. Monk and the Red Herring: When Dr. Kroger mentions Sharona’s three months long absence, Monk’s response is to not pay her when she comes back.

Favorite The Innocence of Youth: From Mr. Monk and the Blackout: Benjy’s drawing of a houseboat might be the most perplexing case Monk has not solved.

Favorite It Recurs to Me: From Mr. Monk Gets Fired: Gleane Headley makes a third appearance as Karen Stottlemeyer this time doing a documentary for PBS.

Favorite Let’s Up the Rating: Mr. Monk Takes Manhattan: Disher suggests he and Sharona share a room. Sharona shoots him (it, I mean it) down.

Favorite Here’s What Happened: From Mr. Monk Takes Manhattan: Monk interrupts his retelling to confront a man he saw urinating at the subway station.

Favorite One More Time: From Mr. Monk and the Panic Room: “Am I missing anything? I want to be sure before I go on television and utter the words ‘killer monkey.’”
Stottlemeyer begging for an alternative explanation.

Favorite Dear Genre: Myketti Wiliamson of Forest Gump, Scott Adsit of 30 Rock and Big Hero 6, Brian Tee from 2006’s Teenage Mutant Ninaj Turtles as Shredder, Niecy Nash of Reno 911!, Enrico Colantoni from Veronica Mars, Mako of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles/Avatar the Last Airbender, Moon Bloodgood from Falling Skies, Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation, and Nicoel Sullivan of MadTV all make appearances.

Favorite The Rainbow Treknection: Jeffery Dean Morgan of The Walking Dead and Enterprise’s Carpenter Street, the late great Willie Garson and was Riga in Thirty Days, Molly Hagan was Eris in The Jem’Hadar, Bob Gunton who has played multiple roles including Benjamin Maxwell, Patrick Fisler who played Merce in Enterrise’s final two parter,, Glen Morshower of Generations and Enterprise’s North Star, and Mary Mara is a case worker after being a Sphere Builder on Enterprise all make appearances.

Favorite Trivial Matters: Mr. Monk and the Panic Room: With music, continuity, foley and improvisation, what more could you ask for?

It’s a Jungle Out There: “Are you Adrian Monk? I’m a huge fan of yours.” “I think you’re mistaking me for anyone else.” This season was largely unconnected to the arc overall, with the exception of the opening hour. The finale is quieter than one would expect. There was also a contract dispute resulting in the loss of a main cast member, and the sole female at that.

And that is all right.

Well, not that great for Bitsy Schram. She would land on her feet but got Ivonavaed out of the show. It was mid-season resulting in some scripts having to be hastily written and at least one where they crossed out Sharona and put in Natalie along with an episode featureing Shaloub as the sole regular.

It helps that it was a great episode. Shaloub can take a bit too long in some of his sequences, but the show would continue to move forward. The namesake of the series, he is on display and doing well as the series lead having chemistry with most of his costars.

Sharona was somewhat unmemorable in her final season, but Traylor Howard would bring a different energy to Natalie. Less professional nurse (whom we did see being a nurse this season!), more single mother, she is being paid to help Monk, but you can tell it is more of a labor of love.

Stottlemeyer would be in charge of the police and have the two-way respect of Monk. We would find out more about their relationship. Levine is great in the role. Disher is a bit of a second fiddle but does get his own subplot, still being used effectively and performed well by Gray-Stanford.

Not the best season overall, in fact probably mainly skippable on a binge, but hit the right notes as things went on, producing a tearjerker at the end.
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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk and the Other Detective"
Season Four Episode One
Directed by: Eric Laneuville
Written by: Hy Conrad
Original Air Date: July 8, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: Jeweler Harold Gumbal is going to his store early in the morning. Security guard Paul asks about Peggy, but Gumbal brushes it off. As Gumbal puts stuff into a bag, it becomes clear it is a kidnapping plot. Gumbal hands the jewelry over to an unmarked car and gets his dog, Peggy, back. Paul confronts them and gets shot for his troubles. They also shoot Gumbal and Peggy runs off.

At the scene is private detective Marty Eels. Stottlemeyer knows Eels as a small-time detective who recently got suspended. Nonetheless, Marty is able to identify Peggy as a material witness based on some droppings. While Monk does his usual findings, Eels seems to know as much, if not more. He smells Peggy and determines that they dropped some items in the sewer, which turns out to be true.

They visit Eels’ cluttered office and Stottlemeyer tells Eels’ mother what a good job he is doing. Eels has an alibi and has proven useful to the case. Stottlemeyer does not have enough funding for two consultants, so Eels offers to work for free and see what happens when he gets results.

Gumbal’s car is found where Eels said it would be. There is a throng of reporters, one of whom interviews Eels’ proud mom. Both detectives see a recently used map indicating Gumbal was not familiar with the area, but Eels tells exactly what highway was used due to the bugs on the windshield. Eels finds the body and determines that the perpetrator is named Dial. Disher notes Eddie Dial was recently released and Stottlemeyer asks him to be brought in.

The Teegers try to cheer up Monk to no avail, but Natalie and Monk go to the questioning of Dial. Stottlemeyer has put most of the case together, but Eels is able to pinpoint the location of the stolen goods by getting Dial’s pulse and pointing to a map. Monk is sidelined but Stottlemeyer promises the next case.

Dr. Korger tries to get Monk to accept that he might not be the best. Monk considers taking a job at a college, even calls a rental company to get a car when Natalie refuses to let him drive. A quality control representative comes on during the hold, always listening and Monk has an idea. They confront Eels whose mother works for quality control with the airline. She overheard Dial and his partner discussing their plans while on hold. Rather than call the police, she called Eels. There is no evidence so Monk and Natalie leave. Dials’ partner Victor Blanchard calls having kidnapped Eels’ mother. Eels runs out to Monk and Natalie for help. If they can do the rescue before the deadline, the police can be called.

They track her down to the carnival and effect a rescue in a cabin before high tide. She is saved and Blanchard is arrested. Eels gets a pep talk and tries to be an honest detective with his new skills.

At a press conference, Eels resigns and takes the teaching job. He also drops the key to the city from its box.

This Week’s Compulsion: Monk accuses Eels of cheating and is told this is not the fourth grade.

White Courtesy Phone: Upon learning that Eels found a client in bed with his own wife, Natalie stifles a laugh.

Captain Moustache: When Monk sees dog … and can’t concentrate, Stottlemeyer has Disher take care of it. Because Stottlemeyer is a professional.

Dishing it Out: After being ordered to take care of the dog … Disher orders a Sargent to take care of it. Because Disher is a three-year-old boy.

Let’s Talk it Out: Dr. Kroger knows he is not the best as a better psychiatrist moved in across the street. His rate of four hundred dollars an hour deters Monk from a meeting.

The Innocence of Youth: Julie pretends to lose her camera but when Monk finds it, he sees through the ruse. Julie says Natalie put her up to the scam and runs off.

Let’s Up the Rating: Natalie is as supportively platonically affectionate as she can be for someone who is both her boss and a germaphobe.

One More Time: “Bay Area Center continuing education; is that a correspondence school?” “It's fully accredited...What school did you go to?” “Berkeley.” “That's a good school....I believe they're fully accredited too.”
Monk and Eels arguing over credentials

The Rainbow Treknection: Eels is played by Jason Alexander of Sienfeld fame. He played against type in Voyager’s Think Tank.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “Look, sometimes when you’re picking up clues, it seems like magic to me.” Alexander made a career out of playing assholes, to the point where part of his success in Think Tank was playing against type,

Eels does have a bit of that quality, but this is an entirely different character. There is an effort to keep the mania under control. He delivers the lines knowing he is bluffing his way through as do we being the audience, but are not sure how he knows. Stottlemeyer has to act as the referee keeping him and Monk under control and he has a point that Monk sees things Stottlemeyer can’t. It is nice to have someone out Monk Monk. Alexander does a great job of owning the character and is not just a case of getting a big name guest star for the premiere, his performance is great.

Monk begins to question what he will do if he cannot consult, and it is not a pretty picture. He has an avenue open, but it is closed at the end of the episode. He is unable to know how Eels is cheating but knows something is up. The writing does not lean too far into this, only bringing it up twice.

Natalie does what she can to be supportive. The looks with Julie during the ‘lost’ phone incident is perfect. This is after she offers what support she can in the crime scene and flat out refuses to help Monk drive to a community college to teach.

Stottlemeyer and Disher have little to do beyond being of service to the plot, but they do have a moment at the top of the show.

One wonders just what Eels would do if he were successful. He does not have inside information on all of the cases. Also, his public relations rise is a little too meteoric with a photo shoot as an eligible bachelor. Plus, when he is taking the pulse of a suspect in questioning, taking the pulse would probably be against the rules if not morals, at least not that quickly.

Still, a great premiere to start off the season with a great guest star.
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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk Goes Home Again"
Season Four Episode Two
Written by: Tom Scharpling
Directed by: Randall Zisk
Original Air Date: July 15, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: It’s Halloween! We can tell because there are decorations all over the store Beachs and a lot of people are in partial costumes. A gunshot rings outside and people see Pail Gilstrap shooting an armored car driver and running off.

There is not much they can determine at the crime scene, though pigeons go after the remains of a candy bar. Also, there is a fresh clove cigarette found. Natalie gets a call from Ambrose that their father will be coming home.

Monk tells Natalie that his father left due to Monk’s centricities. Well, he never told Monk is as many words, but that is the jist. Monk, Natalie and Julie go over the Wikipedia entry for Ambrose. Once together, Ambrose says their father will be there at eight sharp. As time passes, Julie is vacuuming near a study, but Ambrose forbids her, or anyone, to go in as it must be left the same way their father left it.

A masked Frankenstein comes up and digs through the candy bowl before knocking out Ambrose and being scared off by the rest. There is precious little to go on except that the assailant was wearing expensive shoes so probably not a high schooler with the munchies. They go back to interview the cashier about the armored car which was empty all day.

Julie goes off with some neighborhood kids to trick or treat while Stottlemeyer and Disher question the cashier. She confirms that the driver bought eight candy bars and Gilstrap never looked in the back of the truck. Frankenstein absconds the kids and Monk looks at the playground crime scene. The kids are of little help, but Monk determines that he only attacked people who went to Ambrose’s house. Also, with a clove cigarette in the area, it was the same person who attacked the armored car driver.

Now sufficiently freaked out, Natalie insists that Julie go out with an adult and Monk is assigned, wearing his safety patrol uniform form college. Ambrose and Natalie reminisce over some pictures in a photo album and Natalie finds out that Ambrose internalizes their father leaving as much as Monk. As Monk and Julie go to the Gilstrap residence to get treats, Ambrose talks about the possibility of dating with Natalie.

As they walk, Monk finds a pigeon from the crime scene, but it is dead. He convinces Stottlemeyer and Disher to do an autopsy even though they are not sure what it means. Must be a slow night.

Eight comes and goes. Nine comes and goes. Monk is ready to throw in the towel but Ambrose is angrily not eager to do so. Monk cleans out the study angrily and gets a call from Stottlemeyer. The pigeon was poisoned with a deadly substance. They caught Gilstrap, a part time employee, trying to return an unused portion. Monk rushes downstairs fearing that Ambrose consumed some.

There is no antidote and Ambrose gives himself five minutes. In the back of the ambulance, Monk says that Gilstrap wanted to kill his wife who always had a candy bar before going to bed. He put poison in several bars to make it look like a coincidence but was caught returning the bottle to the lab. He tried to get all the bars back, even shooting the armored car driver as no one would think poison for someone shot five times.

The bar Ambrose ate was a leftover from the prior year; he’ll be fine. Gilstap is arrested. Natalie agrees to go out with Ambrose, and they find a note from their father on the door congratulating Ambrose on going out of the house.

This Week’s Compulsion: Monk is familiar with Beachs, or the prior store at that location. In his youth, everyone would come down after school and Monk would watch from across the street.

White Courtesy Phone: When Natalie gets a call from Ambrose, he asks about Sharona and Natalie has no idea what happened or forwarding information.

Captain Moustache: Stottlemeyer shoes away a pigeon, calling it a rat with wings.

Dishing it out: Disher knows there are issues every Hallloween. Not last year or the one before, making it a new tradition.

The Innocence of Youth: Julie is not enthused at the prospect of trick or treating with her mom and runs off unsupervised in a strange neighborhood.

It Recurs to Me: John Turturro makes his second appearance as Ambrose making him a recurring guest. We find out Ambrose was named after a family turtle with the same name.

Let’s Up the Rating: Ambrose asks if Monk and Natalie are involved. After being told no he asks if she is involved with anyone.

One More Time: “I’ve accepted your terms which means we now have an implied contract. By accepting this treat, you are committing to refrain from committing any tricks against this person or this property now or on the future. Now, are there any questions?”
Ambrose laying out the law of Halloween.

Trivial Matters: There is a rare continuity error when Stottlemeyer is hunched down and then ramrod straight in the next shot.

Ambrose is a member of the National Association of Instructions Manual Writers, a fictional group of which he won an award five times.

Randy confuses the sketch of Gilstrap with Kiefer Sutherland. The real McCoy does not look anything like the actor.

The ending theme is more somber than usual.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “She’s at that impossible age. Between ten and twenty-five.” Bringing back an old family member to recur is old hat for a series. This being a police procedural, they had to write in a mystery around it.

John Turturro is great in his sophomore outing as Ambrose. He and Shaloub play off each other perfectly. While Monk is open about his past, this gives us an opportunity to go down roads we normally wouldn’t. This being a series, we had the two of them angrily arguing because that’s how it works, and it makes for a good show. Ambrose is able to tell the type of doctor Julie is dressed up as and he gets along well with Natalie. The scene earlier when he is asking about Sharona over the phone is purely on Howard’s shoulders but is played well. It is a delight to see him back.

As a mystery, it doesn’t not work, but feels contrived to take place around the family reunion. The writers had to do something, but this is just kind of there, involving Stottlemeyer and Disher when they probably have other cases to look into. It is not a good sign when your characters complain of boredom and Stottlemeyer comes very close to that line. As a Halloween episode it gives us time to have some fun decorations and little ones get in on the action as well. It makes for a fun time.

We know that their father will not show up, though it is a good twist that he came when they were out and he offered congratulations to Ambrose. It is a great way to show him without showing him and not letting someone take away the spotlight from Shalhoub and Turturro.
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By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk Stays in Bed"
Season Four, Episode Three
Directed by: Philip Casnoff
Written by: Hy Conrad
Original Air Date: July 22, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: Julie gets too much change from a delivery driver, so she calls the company and asks them to send him back. Natalie eventually drives around trying to find the driver. When she finds him, it turns out he is dead in the car. While Disher calms Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Monk wonder why the driver stopped in the middle of nowhere when there were no deliveries at that location. Monk catches a cold and Stottlemeyer gets a visit from the deputy commissioner. Judge Jillian Garr is missing, and all high-ranking staff are being called in. Julio Alvarez’s murder will have to wait.

Monk is miserable but he has Natalie and Julie to help. The latter buys a card that plays music, which causes annoyance to Monk. Natalie goes to the police to see if she can help solve Alvarez’s murder. Monk thinks it is a good time to have a twelve-year-old write out his living will.

The trail on Garr is cold but there was a miscreant, John Delaney, who snapped during a trial and rammed her car afterwards. Natalie looks at the Alvatrez file but the person they think is the victim is not the same person who made the delivery. The pizzeria gives her a hard time and Monk is no help over the phone thinking he has Ebola. A colleague gives Natalie the prior addresses delivered to.

Stottlemeyer and Disher question Dulaney at a private club. After some mix-up with the tables, Dulaney says that when he hit her car, a guy ran out, presumably having an affair and Garr never pressed charges.

Natalie goes over the case to a bedridden Monk eventually going out to investigate. As she does so, she runs into the person who delivered her pizza, Reggie Dennison.

Left with no other choice, Stottlemeyer brings the case information to Monk who determines that the man who ran out of the car was not married but someone who should not be seeing a judge, socially or otherwise.

Natalie sneaks into Dennison’s place while he is out, probably only breaking a few laws in the process. She finds a partially burned picture of Dennison with a lady outside an inn and realizes he is a lawyer. Also, the bathroom was recently cleaned but, with Monk’s help over the phone, she finds a bloody fingerprint. As Dennison returns, Natalie drops her phone and hides. Dennison picks up the phone and listens and Monk explains everything; Dennison was having an affair with Garr. They ordered a pizza, but things turned ugly, and Dennison killed her. Alvarez saw it and Dennison killed him too before finishing the rest of the deliveries to cover up and create a distraction. Fortunately, the fingerprints are all over the discarded pizza box. Natalie calls Monk on another line but cannot leave and is taken by Dennison to the local dump. Monk follows in a cab and has a fight with Dennison in a pile of shredded paper. The calvary arrives and Dennison is captured.

The victory is short lived as Dennison claims he was taken at knifepoint meaning that without the pizza box, they have nothing to go on. There are no records, but Monk listens for the card and finds the box leading to Dennison’s arrest.

Days later, Natalie finds a healthy Monk outside his building. He mentions he wants some fresh air but the camera pivots to the card in his room.

This Week’s Compulsion: Monk keeps a spare leveler to check the levels and calibrates it regularly.

White Courtesy Phone: Natalie knows to put Monk’s used tissues in a bag and put that bag in another bag and throw them outside the building.

Captain Moustache: After angrily throwing away a bag of used tissues, Stottlemeyer expresses his displeasure at having to make a house call to solve the case, despite him hiding it so well.

Dishing it out: Disher talks to Natalie about not letting the bodies get to him and how it is disturbing getting past that point.

The Innocence of Youth: Julie first complains of how long it takes the pizza to arrive then the ’starving’ child refuses to eat cold pizza.

Let’s Up the Rating: Dennison flirts with Natalie, either to seduce her or kill her.

Here’s What Happened: The explanation goes to Dennison, meaning it is entirely possible Natalie never found out how the murder happened.

One More Time: “What’s the matter, Captain, too busy to answer your phone?” “Well as a matter of fact I am. This is what we call a homicide investigation.”
The Deputy Commissioner being snarky and Stottlemeyer dryly doing his job.

Dear Genre: David Valik plays Dennison after he played Eddie Fairbanks in the short-lived series It Takes Two. His last name not being Olsen, you probably do not remember him in that.

The Rainbow Trekenction: No actor crossovers here, but there is a character named John Delaney, very close to John Delancie who played Q.

Trivial Matters: The pizza comes from the fictional Pizza Castle, whose logo is very close to the nonfictional White Castle.

The card that plays music has a ten-year battery life. Must be a pretty good battery.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “You took a taxi in your bathrobe.” Just last season, I lambasted the series for taking away the superpower of the star and doing it poorly. This episode does it well.

After spending an episode reading the newspaper and another stuck in traffic, Monk stays in bed for half this episode. Not only is it not distracting, sick Monk in entertaining. We see him torture Natalie and Stottlemeyer. Levine plays the straight man perfectly in another great scene with the two of them. Shaloub plays it perfectly not overstaying the welcome.

With Monk out of commission, Natalie gets a chance to show off her skills. She does an admirable job, right up until she sneaks into Dennison’s home. She knows the questions to ask having been around Monk long enough and finds key clues such as realizing Alvarez did not deliver her pizza. Her following the driver strains credibility and she probably had a talking to after all was said and done.

Stottlemeyer and Disher got a scene of their own when questioning Delaney. It is brief, but they play their roles well with Disher getting mixed up with the seating chart while Stottlemeyer plays Really Bad Cop dipping Delaney’s tie in his soup, in a private club no less.

Philip Casnoff's direction got in the fun with Hy Cornad’s script which smash cuts to Monk’s soup right after Delancey calls for more. The climatic fight uses some well learned tricks, using shredded paper to hide stunt work. A really great hour showing how to sideline your main character well.
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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
Mr. Monk Goes to the Office
Season Four Episode Four
Written By: Nell Scovell
Directed by: Jerry Levine
Original Air Date: July 29, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: A security officer in a parking deck notes someone working on a tire. It is suspicious because the tire is not flat and that is not their car. As the guard calls the police, he is shot for his troubles. Warren Kemp comes out to the lot and is accosted by the assailant though they are interested in Kemp‘s right hand, which is smashed into the car door.

At the crime scene, Monk makes a decent attempt at small talk but fails his saving roll. There is little to determine though they realize Kemp is a big-time financial guy with mergers, stocks and such. The next morning, they meet in Kemp’s office. After some heavy flirting with Natalie, there are no clues as to why Kemp’s hand was targeted. He needs someone inside to work undercover as the assailant knew Kemp by name. Monk agrees to work on the spot.

Monk gets a brief orientation from Anette and the eeriest of greetings from Chilton Handy. It is not long before everyone loves Monk thanks to his cleaning and retyping a report that has grammatical errors. Natalie comes to take him to lunch and lets him know that the company is being investigated for insider trading, but Monk goes out with the group, during which he outs two colleagues who are more than colleagues, leaving Natalie to dine with Kemp, who has cheaper cuisine but invites Natalie to a cabin in Vermont.

Monk looks at five-year-old employee evaluation files to get more information and notices Handy using a toothpick, something the assailant did as well. Handy also claims victory for the upcoming bowling tournament since Kemp was the only one who could bowl well. Monk is adept at the sport and one montage later, the team has a good time. The game comes down to Monk who declines wearing regulation shoes and loses by two points leaving Monk ostracized. The office staff notice Natalie around and know she has done time, something she shared with Kemp in confidence. Kemp professes his innocence as that was only told between the two of them in his office.

Interior decorator Angela Dirks is working on some new drapes for the office but is shot late at night by the assailant.

In the courtyard for lunch, Monk notices a man who can make out their words despite sitting far away. Monk realizes he can read lips. He had been getting information while at lunch just by looking at Kemp’s office. When Dirks moved his desk, Kemp’s hand obscured the view, so he had to break it. When curtains were going up, he shot Dirks to prevent that.

The assailant has been ‘listening’ in on their conversation, flashes a gun and tries to take the pair outside. Natalie screams in his ear and Monk holds him at gunpoint.

Kemp breaks it off with Natalie as he feels betrayed by her and does not give second chances. With no friends left, they both walk out of the office.

This Week’s Compulsion: Monk has a series of flashcards for topics of conversation including football and swear words.

White Courtesy Phone: Natalie worked in an office for two years. The things she describes as arduous are haven to Monk.

Captain Moustache: Stottlemeyer hears Monk talking about the football team and when he calls them the Niners, Monk corrects him for the San Francisco Forty-Niners.

Dishing it out: Disher gives Stotlemeyer news so important, it requires sitting down. When the news turns out to be a leak of information from Kemp’s office, Disher makes a quick exit.

The Innocence of Youth: Natalie mentions getting arrested in Vermont, though either before Julie was born or when she was not around.

Let’s Up the Rating: Natalie is impressed by Kemp’s car, which is probably not a euphemism. Kemp asks about Natalie which probably is.

One More Time: “Look at him! He's completely obsessed! And not in a good way, as me!”
Monk talking about Handy

Trivial Matters: Monk openly comments about office humor. The US version of the UK series first aired months before this episode.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “Monk is here. I guess we can all go home now.” Parts of this episode are amazing television.

Monk makes friends. Who actually invite him to hang out. This is after he outs two of them for having a relationship. What more, he likes being in the office. We saw him in the mega store, and he did a good job there, but he is well liked by everyone here. You get a sense of camaraderie and see Monk endearing himself to the staff. There is a scene when they are out where he fakes eating a nacho and is great while doing so.

Also, Natalie got a beau. Their initial meeting is awkward, but they are great together. The chemistry between Howard and Eddie McClintock’s Kemp is obvious and you can cut it with a knife. The mystery is doled out and does not drown out; the story letting these beats happen and when we see good acting, it is appreciated. Plus, Natalie gets to scream into a guy’s ear and saves the day.

Compliments are also due to director Jerry Levine who has a great montage of a bowling match which does not always come together as well as you would think. The Here’s What Happened scene includes a mirror for the assailant to see Natalie’s lips when Monk obscures his.

Unfortunately, this is taken down by the fact that this is a syndicated television series and everything has to be put back into the box at the end. Therefore, Kemp and Natalie have to break up and that is saved for the tag. Monk loses the friends he got which we see a little more of and while it is plausible, it seems to be there for the sake of being there, not to service the plot. We’ve seen Monk lose friends; it would be something different if he just had to stop working undercover period.

Stottlemeyer and Disher get some scenes in there but what they do does not really add to the plot though it is good to see Levine and Stanford-Gray onscreen.
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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk Gets Drunk"
Season Four Episode Five
Directed by: Andrei Belgrader
Written by: Daniel Dratch
Original Air Date: August 5, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: Al Nicoletto meets former mob accountant Rudy Schick in a nondescript hotel eager for some stolen funds to be retrieved. Schick does not know where the ill-gotten gains are but will meet at a retreat soon with partner Ben Gruber. Nicoletto shoots Schick for his troubles.

Monk is at the Allacco Winery for the annual trip he promised Trudy and has Natalie with him. When he is not sure about telling Dorfman to take in the mail, Natalie reminds him that they are partners and partners have trust. They are greeted by Sylvia Willis, happy to see Monk, and obviously familiar with him. As things get settled, Monk apologizes for the prior year when they hired actors for a mystery weekend, paid for in advance by guests, and Monk solved the mystery in twelve minutes. This time, they are doing a wine tasting.

As a group plays poker and Monk enjoys a meal alone, he is interrupted by Larry Zweibel. Zweibel does not take the hint but goes over to play poker with the other group consisting of a newlywed couple and a psychiatrist. Monk decides to head out for the night, felling tipsy after one sip. He takes a picture at the behest of the group then stumbles off to his room.

The next morning, Monk is still a bit under the influence when Natalie comes to meet him. Interested in a hangover cure Zwiebel promised, they go to his room, but he is not there; the guests never heard of that name. Furthermore, Willis has no one by that name in the guestbook. Natalie is dubious but Monk reminds her that they have to trust each other. None of the guests recall Zwiebel.

The psychologist and Natalie discuss Monk and Trudy and he believes Monk may have created an imaginary friend. A nearby painting has the signature of one Larry Zwiebel. While talking with Natalie, Monk professes what he saw and wonders if someone used the name as an alias. Monk spots the camera used to take a group picture. Natalie shmoozes with the couple as Monk is revulsed by everyone at the tasting spitting. Natalie spots a ‘kissing fern’ and gets the couple to pose for a picture under it. While improvising a song with Monk, they look at the picture and it does not include the mysterious figure.

Ready to head home and call Dr. Kroger, another guest arrives looking for a friend. Monk recognizes the picture as Zwiebel but does not realize that the person he is talking to is Nicoletto. As Monk is relieved, Nicoletta spins a yarn about being a brother trying to find a sibling Ben Gruber, before he spends too much of some ill-gotten gains. Monk figures Gruber is paying people off and they find the car Gruber has been driving on the premises. Effort is put in take make it look old (covered in a tarp, tires removed, damaged) but Monk knows it is recent.

On a tour, Monk finds out that the vintage he drank was the only one produced by the winery that is made by hand, er feet. As Nicoletto goes off to get some soap, Monk realizes there is no relation. He asks Natalie to break into the car to get more information, something she agrees to with alarming speed, and Monk keeps Nicoletto busy with some wine. Monk chooses a non-alcoholic blend for himself though the hostess grabs the wrong bottle on accident. The two bond over brothers and Monk gets hammered, nearly finishing his wine! Natalie finds out Nicoletto’s real identity by virtue of a plane ticket and a call to Stottlemeyer. Soon, Nicolette approaches them at gunpoint.

The three go to a back room where Natalie accosts Nicoletto and Monk smashes a bottle over his head.

Later at night, Stottlemeyer and Disher arrive in time to hear Monk tell what happened; Zweibel needed more money for the game and went back to his room to get some. Unfortunately, he had a heart attack and when the group went looking, they found his body with a suitcase full of cash. They covered up Zweibel ever being there. With no evidence, Stottlemeyer and Disher have to let everyone go, though they do collect addresses. Natalie cannot identify the aftertaste in a vintage, but Stottlemeyer recognizes it as Aqua Velva, Zweibel’s aftershave. Sure enough, they find his body in one of the barrels.

Stottlemeyer helps get a passed-out Monk situated and Natalie apologizes for not believing him.

This Week’s Compulsion: Monk help’s Natalie with the bags by orienting them in the same direction.

White Courtesy Phone: When asked about liking wine, Natalie gives a tepid response.

Captain Moustache: Stottlemeyer appears in the final act and explains the teaser to an extra.

Dishing it out: Disher tells Stottlemeyer that Monk is about to deliver a summation while smashed.

Let’s Up the Rating: When we first see Schick, he is in the shower behind a not entirely opaque shower curtain.

One More Time: “Well, I-I knew that the general's daughter was lying about meeting Churchill, because Churchill wasn't knighted until 1953. Which meant that Reginald, the limping chauffeur, who supplied her alibi, was also lying. So obviously, they were lovers who were planning to kill the sultan”
Monk’ solution for a prior year’s mystery weekend.

Dear Genre: Felicia Day is forgettable as half of the couple but not as Vi from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Holly Marten in Eureka, Cyd from the Guild, Penny from Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog and a bunch of other works that are too numerous to list here.

The Rainbow Treknection: If the psychiatrist looks familiar, it is because he is played by the same actor who played Akorem Laan, Richard Libertini. You would be forgiven if you do not recognize Willis as Regent Cuzar from Insurrection both played by Peggy Miley.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “Does he handle stress well?” “No. He handles it unwell.” Most murder mystery shows have a murder. You would also figure with a cast of four, the writers would use them for as much as they could.

Neither of these are a huge deal. Tony Shaloub is more than capable of carrying material and Traylor Howard has shown that she is a great actress as well. The script puts a little too much on Shalou;’s shoulders with the drunken summation, with using all props and leaving no bit of scenery unchewed. He uses a lamp to point at someone and sloshes his way around the set.

The overall mystery is good with no murder committed, not initially at least, is presented, but it is no less compelling to watch. We saw a lead character go crazy with Sharona and that is not a route we go down this time. Natalie believes Monk but we spend time figuring out what happened.

Stottlemeyer and Disher make an appearance with seven minutes to go but are on top of things, at least with Stottlemeyer. He gives a summation to the local law enforcement and makes sure to get everyone’s information before they leave. No need to force them into the script but they do their work when they are there.

Daniel Roebuck is never not great when given enough to work with and his Zweibler is fun to watch, not knowing how much of a jerk he is. He plays off well with Shaloub and the other guests. The directing is good with a fun dissolve from a postcard of San Francisco to the opening titles.

A few differences from the norm show that sometimes, you can break a few rules.
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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk and Mrs. Monk"
Season Four Episode Five
Directed by: Randall Zisk
Written by: David Breckman
Original Air Date: August 12, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: Monk is patiently waiting at Dr. Kroger’s until his time on the dot. The ever so patient receptionist calls Natalie who is off running some errands and they discuss a reframed picture of Trudy. As Natalie finishes her drink, a woman walks in who looks exactly like Trudy and even has that name.

Monk is ebullient as Trudy’s birthday recently passed, and he got subliminal messages to move on. He notices that he is no longer compelled to make incidental corrections, a big step. Dr. Kroger cannot hold back the tears.

We learn that ‘Trudy’ was once Lisa. Due to circumstances she had to fake her own death and change her name. She talks with Zach, an elderly man about a key that Janice left. Zach does not remember where it is so Lisa (as she will be referred to hereafter) gives him time to remember and makes an appointment for later. They do not realize their conversation is overheard by Natalie at the next booth as she is copiously taking down notes.

Dorfman helps Monk and Natalie prepare potato salad for Stotlemeyers party, but Natalie is distracted. She mentions some things she overhead in the conversation and thinks it might be Trudy as Monk remembers Trudy working with Zach’s daughter. She begins to tell Monk but realizes that things are going well for Monk, including Dr. Kroger calling to recommend a reinstatement, but decides to be quiet.

Zach makes the meeting but does not have the key. He asks for some money as the key will not lead to valuables. Lisa will get some together for a pathetic extortion attempt only beaten by Natalie’s horrible paparazzi attempt. Lisa confronts her, destroys the film and gets Natalie to promise she will not tell.

At the picnic, Stottlemeyer considers getting Monk back on a temporary basis, taking it one day at a time. Later, Natalie tells Stottlemeyer about the encounter with Lisa. Elsewhere, Zach finds the key and Lisa brings the money, but he has a change of heart. As they argue Zach falls onto a sharp object on his desk and dies. Lisa grabs the key and heads out.

Stottlemeyer thinks Trudy is not alive and there is no evidence to support the claim. Word reaches them about Zach and despite Monk’s protestations otherwise, they head over to the crime scene, picnic be damned. Monk quickly puts things together from the non-premeditated nature of the death to similarities between Lisa and Trudy. Natalie tells him as she would want someone to tell her if Mitch was alive and it puts Monk in a tailspin during which he goes outside and sees Lisa, who runs into a car and drives away.

Stottlemeyer and Disher help Natalie console Monk, and a re soon joined by Dr. Kroger who initially believes it is a psychotic break but there is physical evidence and witnesses. Things backfire as Monk insists on finding her alone. The first stop is the graveyard as he exclaims to someone else that Trudy is dead.

Visiting Trudy’s old job with Natalie, they get a copy of the article Trudy wrote with Janice. It is an expository piece that broke a case about a union. There is a lot of information, but Trudy never revealed her source to Monk or her boss. At Janice’s desk, they realize there was a storage locker which might be opened by the key. A nearby calendar from a storage company sits near the desk.

Lisa meets with Jack Bollinger. It turns out she is a hired actress, wig and all. Bollinger has her portray women to fulfill his schemes and needs to access the locker as soon as he can, and ‘Trudy’ might help if someone comes asking questions.

Disher is all in on the case when Stottlmeyer tells him that a compliment he overheard was intended for Monk, taking the wind out of Disher’s sails.

Hiding out at the storage facility, Monk recognizes Bollinger from the article and realizes he is the anonymous source. With both authors dead, he must access the materials to protect himself. They call backup but Monk approaches, nonetheless. Bollinger is ready to set the place on fire and Monk does not make the situation better, causing Bollinger to hold Monk at gunpoint. The calvary arrives and a shootout ensues with Bollinger and Lisa getting shot. Monk cradles her in his arms as she apologizes and promises to give regards to Trudy.

Monk’s reinstatement is rescinded, something Monk is cool with. Natalie asks how Monk knew it was not Trudy and Monk says that a visit to the cemetery cued up his instincts.

This Week’s Compulsion: Finding out Trudy might be alive, Monk immediately starts touching things outside.

White Courtesy Phone: One of the things Natalie had to do was get a toothbrush for Monk with specifications down to the handle color. She went to five drugstores to get it.

Captain Moustache: Stottlemeyer has a very well attended picnic with upwards of fifty people.

Dishing it out: Stottlemeyer gives compliments to Monk not knowing that he walked away and Disher is in his place eating it up and reciprocating.

Let’s Talk it Out: Upon Monk stating he heard music without a source, Dr. Kroger writes notes down until he realizes Monk was the source.

It Recurs to Me: Dorfman notes that if Monk munches on potato salad, he will not be able to fit in his uniform.

Let’s Up the Rating: After hearing the compliment, Disher ups the bromance with Stottlemeyer to eleven.

Here’s What Happened: There is no such sequence and there are no such words uttered.

One More Time: “She couldn’t leave it to me, could she? She thought I was dead.”
Lisa making a good point to Zach.

Dear Genre: Not quite Trek, but Bollinger is portrayed by Kevin Kilner who also played William Boone the series lead for Earth: Final Conflict.

The Rainbow Treknection: Zach Sim played by Harve Presnell after he was Colonel Q in Voyagers The Q and Gray.

Trivial Matters: In the session with Dr. Kroger, Monk hums A Lot of Living To Do from the musical Bye Bye Birdie.

Dr. Kroger mentions a Threshold Event. While thresholds are an element of psychology, that term is invented for the show.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “Am I happy?” “Why not?” “It’s so long overdue.” Back in the third season overview, I remarked at how refreshing it was that the series did not return to the central mystery after the premiere. With this episode, that is broken but it is still a good full season of not having that brought up.

The long-lost person is a trope, even done on this series, but this episode does a different spin with it. First, Lisa is not Trudy but a hired gun. Nonetheless, it allows us to go to interesting places emotionally.

It is a fun twist that Natalie is the one who brings us into this world. She is the least familiar with Trudy so to hear her ask Monk questions feels natural. She is aware of Trudy but not intimately so. Indeed, Howard does some great acting early on as the only series regular in a scene.

Monk goes through a lot of emotions. True to TV logic, this has to happen about when he makes progress. We see things going better for Monk with a reinstatement coming, even with baby steps. His regression inevitable given the story, plus it would mean the end of the series. Shaloub handles it great, and it says a lot that we have all four regulars plus a recurring guest star in one room. Dr. Kroger making a rare house call in civilian attire drives the point home how serious things are.

To his credit, Monk handles it well when the rug is pulled out from under him. Not perfectly since he has to regress, and he places himself in harm’s way, but we get a nice moment of closure. The ending is dramatically perfect with Monk being able to say goodbye and Lisa promising to give regards before passing away.

Stottlemyer and Disher could be given filler content, and while that is kind of the case here, it is a natural outgrowth of the episode. We’ve seen Disher when Stottlemeyer is absent, and it is good to see him go to bat for Monk. There is a nice moment when the wind is knocked out of Dishers’ sails but does not distract.

This is a rare episode without a murder. Zach dies but it is an accident. Lisa is caught in the crossfire. It would have been better had Bollinger not twirl his mustache, but then there is no ending. Plus, Melora Hardin plays an entirely different character than Trudy and was a great bit of casting.
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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk Goes to a Wedding"
Season Four Episode Seven
Written by: Liz Sagal
Directed by: Anthony R. Palmieri
Original Air Date: August 19, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: Photographer Frank Ruttle is covering a wedding. During the shoot, he has a not-at-all creepy conversation over the phone to do an exchange and runs off. At a spa, there is no money in the envelope infuriating Ruttle. The other party calls and hangs up but when Ruttle calls back, a phone in the room rings. As Ruttle investigates, he is struck in the back of his head and thrown into a vat of mud.

At Disher’s surprise birthday party, Natalie gets a call from Roger who cannot be her date to a wedding. She eventually settles on Disher. It is also revealed that Natalie is part of the Davenport clan, filthy stinkin rich owners of a toothpaste company.

Peggys Davenport is being a momzilla as Natalie arrives with child and date in tow. It turns out Johnathan Davenport’s whirlwind romance meets the approval of the Davenports, something Mitch never got. No one sees a clandestine figure in the cloak room stealing some keys.

Stottlemeyer watches Monk and mentions how much he loves weddings, which depresses Monk. Stottlemeyer then brings up the Monk wedding and the two have a lark.

While taking suitcases in, Disher gets run over by the mysterious figure. Stottlemeyer and Monk are on the scene figuring out that the car was idle before the strike, meaning it was targeted. Also, the staff was at a meeting meaning this was done by someone in the family. The case is outside Stottlemeyer’s jurisdiction so he and Monk books rooms to get information from Lieutenant Bristo.

With Disher out, Natalie drafts Monk to be her date. And investigate. Theresa Scott gives a toast at the rehearsal dinner that is partially expository reminding us that her parents died in a plane crash. She also invites Natalie to the bachelorette party. Stottlemeyer is undercover as a photographer, hoping to get a picture for Disher to identify the assailant. Monk wonders how Scott’s family perished on a Pan Am flight in 1995 when they were out of business by then.

Ruttle’s body is discovered in the spa. Disher does not identify the driver and Stotlemeyer does not have any good pictures of the bride. They get a call about the body and Monk quickly identifies the occupation, meaning there is probably a local studio in town.

While the wedding begins, Stotltmeyer and Bristo determine Ruttle was broke but looking for houses. Things come together when Stottlemeyer finds a folder and they are off. After vows are exchanged, Stottlemeyer shows Monk an article where her previous husband was killed, though that was investigated by then Sergeant Disher. Peggy criticizes the proof, their logic and Natalie’s taste in men and occupation.

Monk confronts Scoot in a dance but needs more proof. Disher can identify her so Monk and Natalie stall while he is wheeled down. After a wayward toast and a mad dash through the venue, Disher identifies her. Thinking quickly, she grabs a knife for her husband’s throat but Natalie dispatches her, claiming the family has enough problems.

Peggy puts Mtich’s picture on the piano, a badge of honor, and hugs her daughter.

This Week’s Compulsion: Monk puts a cellophane shield over Disher’s birthday cake to prevent spittle.

White Courtesy Phone: Natalie comes up with a codeword to get out of a bad conversation.

Captain Moustache: The Spittle Shield is the first idea Monk had that Stottlemeyer likes.

Dishing it out: Disher fails spectacularly at blowing out the candles of his birthday cake.

The Innocence of Youth: Julie gives her grandpa the biggest hug, one so great he does not mind spilling some of his drink.

It Recurs to me: We do not see Trudy in the flesh, but we see her in the wedding album.

Let’s Up the Rating: Natalie goes through an officer and a suspect to get a replacement date for the wedding.

One More Time: “We didn’t forget.” “My mom called you, didn’t she?” “Every day for the past month.”
Stottlemeyer fessing up to help with Disher’s birthday bash.

Trivial Matters: Disher is sung For He’s A Jolly Good Fellow since The Birthday Song is copywritten, something other shows, including Trek, have done.

Monk claims Pan Am went out of business in 1971. They were actually in business for two decades after that.

Natalie’s parents have the same name as Traylor Howard’s.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “What did the doctor say? So it didn’t technically burst.” A birthday and a wedding? In the same episode? It works! We get all the trappings of a wedding, especially those to bug Monk. The rehearsal dinner, removing the garter, a toast, the flower girl; it’s all there. The bachelorette party and the cop stripper irk Monk as well.

That is not the main attraction. Taylor Holland is great as Peggy. You can see where Natalie gets her sassiness from. She is tough but ultimately loves her daughter. The biting dialogue flows from her perfectly and she is very much the momzilla. Holland takes every opportunity to snipe at Natalie and it is a joy to watch as is the eventual acceptance done silently at the end.

We also learn a lot more about Natalie, especially with her family background. Monk has to come to the party eventually winding up with Natalie, but Disher gets some time to shine initially. He is taken off the board for obvious reasons and while the final dash is complicated for the sake of being complicated, Gray-Stanford earns his moments. Disher can easily be sidelined but the times he gets the spotlight, Gray-Stanford delivers.

The plot fits well into the Monk mold and focuses on our main cast. Having the mystery take a back seat in a mystery series is not a great idea, but it works in this instance.
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By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk and Little Monk"
Season Four Episode Eight
Written by: Joe Toplyn
Directed by: Robert Singer
Original Air Date: August 26, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: Two neer-do-wells rob a house but are confronted by the gun-toting owner. She holds them at bay, but a tussle ensues resulting in her death. The robbers pull a Joker and mark a painting over the alarm tolling before running out.

Monk and Natalei are visited by Sherry Judd, an old flame of Monk’s from eighth grade. It turns out that the woman killed was Gladys Aquino, Judd’s housekeeper. As Aquino did not have any family, Judd wants justice done. She is also aware of how brilliant Monk is, recalling a date back in 1972 as we flash back …

… to Little Monk being dropped off, accompanied by a swinging score so we know it’s the seventies. Momma Monk gives him specific instructions and a shake (not hug) before she leaves. Some girls, including a Little Judd, gossip about the family. At their lockers, the two chat about music and Little Monk has flashcards with things they have in common, including not having a date to an upcoming dance. Before things get as hot and heavy as they can on basic cable with two tweens, Little Judd goes off to art class with fellow classmate Little Jimmy.

Back in the present, Monk agrees to help. At the scene, Monk puts a lot of the details together, presuming that defacing the painting, of Judd’s great grandmother, was the real target. While the investigation progresses, Judd’s ex, Michael Norfleet comes but Judd wants nothing to do with him. He writes his alimony check and leaves.

Little Monk and Little Judd are at a bake sale to benefit the dance neither will go to. Little Leo comes up and pilfers a cupcake without paying, citing no evidence, of which he does kind of have a point. He squirts chocolate sauce on Little Monk and laughs off. Little Judd gives Little Monk a wipe and suggests he carry them around.

Stottlemeyer cautions Monk about Judd, but Monk vouches for her character. Little Leo is being nice to Little Judd having been issues a fortnight of detention and proceeds to harass Little Monk. Little Jimmy comes to the rescue and asks Little Judd to the dance. In the present, Judd brings the painting to be restored while Natalie encourages Monk to ask her out.

Principal Thicket asks Little Judd to open her locker. It seems he got a note that she had the bake sale money. The note was anonymous, but the camera tells us Little Leo wrote it. The money is in there and Little Judd is taken to the office since no one else knew her locker combination.

Monk and Judd look over a painting, of which Monk is sure is a soon to be murder, when the art restorer comes, and it turns out he is Jimmy! Judd hits it off with Jimmy as we flash back to Little Monk investigating the bake sale. He watches Little Judd and Little Jimmy dance the night away when a Lunchlady approaches. She gives him a cookie with precisely ten chocolate chips and Little Monk wonders how she is such a great cook to which she says it is a blessing and a curse. One of the leftover boxes has blue frosting, which Little Monk remembers Little Leo eating.

While leaving the Museum, Monk realizes he blew his shot. He also realizes that the fingerprints at the Judd residence did not have a palm print, meaning they were bikers. Crosschecking reveals two likely suspects so Natalie and Monk head to a seedy bar while Stottlemeyer and Disher pursue the other. The seedy bar does not agree with Monk though Natalie is sure of herself. A smoker brings Monk back to the bake sale heist, where Little Monk confronts a Little Leo with a smoking accomplice in the bathroom, though it does not go well.

Monk and Natalie question the suspects, who we recognize as the perpetrators, but things escalate into a full-on brawl. The police are on the scene to calm things down, though how they could determine something amiss from the street is an exercise for the viewer. Natalie finds a wallet and it has the floor plan of Judd’s house, including a place to enter and the painting. Monk has solved the case! Little Monk is rescued from a locker but whispers to Little Judd that he knows how Little Leo did the robbery.

Little Leo stole the money box and swapped the lock on Little Judd’s locker while helping her with the books. He would return to put the empty box in her locker and swap the locks back. The proof is that Little Leo has the money from the bake sale still on his person.

Intercut with the above, we see Northfleet coming to the station. He wanted to stop paying alimony but could not until Judd remarried. He knew Jimmy was in the area and single but needed to get them together. He hired two guys who worked on his roof to deface the painting so that Jimmy and Judd would rekindle their relationship. The suspects will identify him when they are brought in.

At night, Monk puts the yearbook away after looking at the handwritten dedication and a picture of Trudy.

This Week’s Compulsion: Upon Natalie opening the conveniently placed yearbook from the eighth grade (which I’m sure we all have just lying around somewhere) Monk asks her to close the book before ‘firing’ her.

White Courtesy Phone: While sorting the recycling, Natalie makes the point that they do not have to be washed since they’ll all get smushed together.

Captain Moustache: Stottlemeyer thinks Judd might be in a scheme for the money. Monk counters with the alimony check being for a large sum.

Dishing it out: Upon hearing that Judd’s great grandmother was a suffragette, Disher wonders if the defacing was a political statement. Upon remembering the nineteenth amendment, Disher retracts his theory.

It Recurs to Me: We do not see Little Ambrose, but we get mentioned peppered in.

Let’s Up the Rating: There is clear chemistry between Monk and Judd, of either time period. Also, Jimmy asks Judd to see his studio, which is probably a euphemism.

Here’s What Happened: We get a black and white sequence relatively early, around the two thirds mark.

One More Time: “Mister Monk, I think she needs your help.” “With her homework?” No, with a case. We’re all grown up now.”
Natalie urging Monk to be of assistance

Dear Genre: Kevin Schmidt played the villainous Leo here but would play the heroic Henry Griffin in the short-lived series Unnatural History.

The Rainbow Treknection: Lost’s Goodwin himself, Brett Cullen has a storied history on screen but was Derel in Deep Space Nine’s Meridian.

Trivial Matters: ‘Grant Rosenmeyer’ gets the coveted and credit as Young Monk.

Led Zeppelin and Stairway to Heaven are name checked. We also see A Rolling Stones T-shirt and get a Mick Jagger name drop.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “Tell her it’s too little too late. No tell her I married Trudy.” On paper, this absolutely should not work. They need four good young actors and are sidelining their main cast for a good chunk of this episode. Flashbacks are notoriously tough to do right and were not as prevalent as they are today.

Thankfully, the casting was great in this episode, particularly the youngsters. The only one of the four that is still not acting to this day, Shane Ashton Haboucha gives a calm easiness to his Jimmy. The worst thing about him is the height difference but that is something we can take since it is realistic, and he brings a presence to the role. Kevin Schmidt has a bully down pat. He is rude but pulls off an almost perfect plan. It shows a lot that he can be the series lead of a show later in his still nascent career. The supporting adult cast does well, particularly Susan Ruttan as the lunchlady.

Grant Rosenmeyer earns his credit! He has Monk’s mannerisms down pat, something hard for any actor to do let alone a youth. You can see where Monk gets a lot of his eccentricities from. We have heard about the younger Monk a long time and being able to meet him is great.

The adult cast is great, too. Donna Bullock is more than the object of affection that actresses can fall back on. She has a reverence for Monk and cares about Aquino. Too often these shows will treat the victim poorly and forget about them, but here we have someone who seeks out Monk to get justice done. She has chemistry with both Shaloub and Cullen. Natalie sees their chemistry and encourages Monk to ask her out. It is a joy to watch, particularly when Monk looks at a painting and realizes it is a murder. Cullen is only onscreen for a short time, not even speaking in the confrontation, but has an energy that works well with Bullock. This is what happens when you bring two great actors together.

There are a few things that have to happen for the confrontation to happen simultaneously and the flashback somewhat drags in the third act, but the combination is great as we are following both mysteries, and they are solved at the same time. To call this a great script by Joe Toplyn and great directing by Robert Signer are understatements. Toplyn’s script makes great use of Natalie who could easily be a sounding board, but she actively encourages Monk to date.

It is not all great, though. Monk’s mother is a little cold in the flashback and the gossip around Monk is not great. It establishes his character, also reminding us of Ambrose without having to hire another actor, but we can tolerate it in the present since adults can handle Monk’s issues. It is off putting to see kids doing so.

So much of this could have gone off the rails but thankfully there was confidence in the team to get it right.
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By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa"
Season Four Episode Nine
Written by: David Breckman
Directed By: Jerry Levine
Original Air Date: December 2, 2005

We’ll Need Some Help: It is the holiday season, and one person is celebrating in the most odd fashion; they wrap a bottle of hooch in festive wrapping and address the envelope to Stottlemeyer all while wearing gloves which prove necessary since they laced the bottle. The package is delivered but Stottlemeyer is not in, so it sits on an assistant’s desk.

The precinct is getting ready for their holiday party which gets pretty bitchin’. Stottlemeyer picks up the hooch, whose envelope is from a garage thanking him for business. Fortunately, he is not a fan of that vintage, though he will bring it home in hopes that Karen might like it.

The Teeger household is gearing up for the holidays. Monk places a present from Trudy that he found after her passing under the tree. He also picked Stottlemeyer’s name for Secret Santa and has something that he is sure will be great. Julie is left alone, wondering what snow looks like having never seen it in person.

The party is either thriving or going decently depending on which group of extras you are looking at. The conga line goes into Stottlemeyer’s office, unlocked for plot convenience, allowing us to see the bottle still there. Monk straightens out the food and Stottlemeyer jams with vocal accompaniment from Disher.

Midnight approaches and everyone gets their gifts ready. Monk gives Stottlemeyer an air purifier, not because his house smells but houses generally do. Monk gets a broom/dustpan combination, and we get a montage to signify the passing of time. Stottlemeyer cannot find his gift for Terry but notices the bottle on his desk. One hasty rewrap later, he has a gift. As people party, and one couple smooches, Terry pours himself some hooch and falls over causing a commotion. Stottlemeyer sees the bottle in his hand.

The poison was strychnine, something not detectable by taste. Stottlemeyer suspects Frank Prager who has harbored a grudge. At the scene, Stottlemeyer recalls to Monk coming out of a bar late at night when Prager appeared and shot at him. Monk wonders why only five shots and why Prager missed in a well-lit area at close range. Stottlemeyer cannot approach Prager’s ex, but Monk is unknown to her.

Natalie and Monk stake out the Prager residence. Natalie knows Julie wants snow but the last time it snowed was when Trudy died. They finagle their way in, and Monk comes so close to getting the information from little Dori (which may or may not be illegal but is amoral as heck!) before they are shooed out.

Tailing the Pragers to a mall, Monk is sure if he talks to Dori, he will have the information he needs. Seeing the line for Santa, Natalie uses a connection to have Monk pose as Saint Nick. A montage of kids later, Monk finds out that Prager is hiding at a church with ‘three ladies out front.’ Prager also decides to see Dori meet Santa for reasons not explained to the viewer and a chase ensures during which Prager escapes.

They are at the only church in the city with a statue of three women out front, but it turns out to be correct. A SWAT team is ready to go in, but a nun insists on talking to Stottlemeyer first. Sister Heather talks Sottlemeyer down, and Prager is brought in peacefully. Prager professes innocence and claims he was trying to give Stottlemeyer a message in the parking lot that fateful night. Stottlemeyer believes Prager but they have no other leads.

On Christmas morning, Monk opens his gift of a goldfish from the Teegers. Julie spills some food and Monk grabs his new dustpan and broom. While doing so, looks at the card, which was folded to fit in the envelope. They go see Alice, the person who gave Monk the gift. It turns out Terry was the target all along. She and Terry were involved. Upon learning that Terry wanted to go back to his wife, Alice rigged the Secret Santa exchange and stole the present Stottlemeyer got for Terry. She admits her culpability and made the mistake of switching the envelopes for Stottlemeyer and Monk.

Stottlemeyer gives Prager a deal with a decent sentence and releases him for a couple days so he can be with his family.

Monk does not open the gift from Trudy, and it starts snowing, giving Julie her White Christmas.

This Week’s Compulsion: Shaloub won a Tony for best actor in a musical but in an episode where all the series leads sing, his performance is purposefully the worst.

White Courtesy Phone: Natalie wonders how long the stakeout will be. She also gets the idea to carol and speed things up.

Captain Moustache: Stottlemeyer knows Terry was married and had two little girls.

Dishing it out: Playing Karen’s guitar while Sotttlemeyer is coming in the office seems like a good idea to Disher.

The Innocence of Youth: Julie and Monk divide the Christmas tree down the middle, and each decorate half. Julie’s is festively decorated while Monk has some tinsel strategically placed.

Let’s Up the Rating: Upon hearing Disher’s aunt made him a sweater by hand, Natalie finds someone else wearing the same one from a big box store. Disher thinks her aunt got inspiration and made another by hand. Natalie gives him a peck on the cheek.

One More Time: “The wife filed a complaint, said I’ve bene harassing her.” “Why would she say that?” “Probably because I was harassing her.”
Stottlemeyer offering decent customer service.

Dear Genre: Alice is played by Rachel Harris, who was Dr. Linda Martin on Lucifer.

Trivial Matter: One child asks Monk for a rock polishing kit, something Monk got for Benjy in Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “It’s going to be a great party. I’m not completely dreading it.” The Christmas episode is always full of warmth and happiness. A procedural is full of murders every week. How to bring these together?

This episode does not entirely miss the mark. It has a murder, which is done in typical over-the-top fashion with Terry falling dead over a table set up with food, but also gives us what we would want from a holiday episode.

We get Monk as Santa. This was a given for the series combining all the things Monk hates but doing what is necessary. The montage writes itself giving us comedic moments and at least one dramatic beat. Shaloub works great with the child actors as does Howard who takes quickly to being an elf.

We also get the more adult side of Christmas opening the hour with an office party. The extras may or may not have known the camera was rolling, plus even though they can get wild, everyone remembers they are in an office/basic cable so keep it pretty calm. Levine shows off his singing and guitar chops, there are adult beverages galore and everyone has a good time. We spend most of the opening act there and you can tell most everyone was having fun. When Deep Space Nine filmed a party, the director realized he needed to throw a good party and that seems to be the case here. You can tell everyone is genuinely having a good time. In the b-roll

There is also the true meaning of Christmas with Stottlemeyr forgiving Prager. That plot is there to fill the hour, but Stottlemeyer is talked off a ledge. He has a SWAT team armed and at the ready but is able to control himself. He is not going to be best of friends with Prager but allows the family to see each other. It is a touching scene, particularly since Stottlemeyer took the responsibility.

There are some holiday miracles, such as Prager happening to be at the mall when Dori is seeing Santa and Alice is veeery nonchalant about being caught. Also, the means by which Natalie extorts her way to be an elf was cringy back then and is even worse now. Still, it covers a lot of ground and leaves you with a smile at the end, what more could you want for the holidays?
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Second Edition Playtest Manager
By Faithful Reader (Ross Fertel)
 - Second Edition Playtest Manager
Continuing Committee Member - Retired
"Mr. Monk Goes to a Fashion Show"
Season Four Episode Ten
Written by: Jonathan Collier
Directed by: Randall Zisk
Original Air Date: January 13, 2006

We’ll Need Some Help: Monk is buying a new shirt and finds one examined by his favorite inspector. Unfortunately, this one has defects, causing Monk to get into disarray. We cut to the factory where inspector 8 is concerned about a recent slaying. We know she is inspector 8 because there is a big sign in front of her with that numeral.

Wondering about Inspector 8 overtakes Monk, even when at a crime scene where a wife came back from cello practice to find her husband stabbed, but her skirt would not be conducive to playing that instrument. Monk decides to track down Inspector 8.

Monk and Natalie are able to get in with remarkably little resistance and Monk meets Maria Ortiz. She is distraught over her son who was convicted of murder during a fashion show. Monk wants her to get back on the wagon, but she is unable to since her son is in jail. If he helps her, she will be ready to focus on her work again.

After reviewing the case file, there is a lot of evidence against Pablo Ortiz; his blood/hair were all over the victim and there is a witness who said the victim was afraid of Pablo. He says that after a delivery to a fashion show, he went home and was arrested. Monk also determines that Pablo is illiterate in English having only been in the country for three years. As they leave, Monk notices an emergency exit near the victim. If the victim tripped it, the alarm would have gone off meaning Pablo could not have read or known that.

At the morgue, they find more physical evidence and Monk decides to interview a witness while Disher and Stottlemeyer accompany because she is on the cover of Sports World magazine. They meet Julian Hodge, fashion designer extraordinaire. He and Monk share a fondness for the specific and a fear of germs, at one point Hodge asks for a wet one. Monk talks to Natalia Zorelle who affirms that Pablo made Clea Vance uncomfortable.

Hodge offers Julie a spot in an upcoming show but Natalie balks. Later, Julie guilts Natalie into at least trying it out once. Hodge visits Zorelle talking about fearing her making a statement to the police and not wanting anyone to know he was with her. The next morning, Zorelle if found dead, staged to look like an overdose of pills and booze. Monk thinks otherwise, especially when the glass was wiped down and put into her hands.

At a dress rehearsal, Hodge straightens out Julie’s collar almost like a compulsion and Monk looks at the crime photo of Clea which has a perfect collar, placing Hodge on Monk’s radar. Later backstage, Monk theorizes that Vance showed up drunk and Hodge was incensed about his show, so he killed her out of rage. There was a lot of DNA matching Pablo but there was a health inspection the day before the crime, and they found a fly trap with some hair on it. It if matched Hodge, they have their killer.

Julie runs away to be in the show and Monk tries to mumble his way before Natalie barges in. Julie sees her mom and sticks to the runway, so Natalie goes out to get Julie.

Hodge is confronted as the recently found strands of hair are identified … as Pablo’s. Nonetheless, the examiner, Gordo, is arrested for falsification. Monk figures that Gordo determined Hodge was the killer and extorted money in exchange for blaming Pablo. Gordo says there is no proof but since he attested that the hairs were Pablo’s, they know the information as fabricated since the hairs Gordo tested were Monk’s. Hodge tries to get one last fashion ding in, but he is no match for Natalie.

Pablo is exonerated and Monk would like Maria back inspecting shirts as soon as possible.

This Week’s Compulsion: Monk wrote a thank you letter to Inspector 8 because, of course. It is the only fan letter he ever wrote.

White Courtesy Phone: Monk’s regular associate at the store quit due to an annoying customer. Natalie cheekily thinks they will be up all night trying to figure out their identity.

Captain Moustache: Upon finding out that a forty-six-year-old colleague is able to retire, Stottlemeyer decides to get an accountant.

Dishing it out: Efforts to impress Hodge fall short as does Disher’s professionalism when a notebook would ruin the lining of his suit.

The Innocence of Youth: Thirteen year old Julie seems young to model in the eyes of Natalie but Hodge considers that middle age.

It Recurs to Me: Scott Adsit makes a second and final appearance as a lab associate, getting a name this time.

Let’s Up the Rating: At the prospect of meeting inspector 8, Natalie wonders in Monk will ask her out.

One More Time: “Maybe she’s retired, maybe there’s a new number 8.”
Monk beginning acceptance

The Rainbow Treknection: Malcolm McDowell plays the villainous Hodge after he played the villainous Soren in Generations.

Trivial Matters: Needing to get in, Monk claims to be Puff Daddy. It does not go well.

At the afterparty, Hodge is talking himself up which would work if we didn’t see him sipping champagne while doing so.

It’s a Jungle Out There: “That’s Inspector 4, he’s a hack. He makes inspector 10 look like inspector number 6.” There’s a tendency in show business to bury yourself in the setting. Just look at the wedding episode which was set there for all but the first act. Or the prison episode. Or the …

Regardless, it is refreshing to have an episode that is not constructed entirely around the set. We visit a department store, garment factory and a jail before setting foot on a stage and the runway is not there until the final act. Yeah, we do get the obligatory montage, but it does not overshadow the main plot.

Not only does it take a while to get to the fashion show, we have good scenes on the way. Monk’s quest for number 8 takes him from the department store, where he wonders where his regular Dennis is, to the garment factory where he makes a friend. A lot of the characters we meet are only on for a scene or two, but they have an impact. Alejandro Chabán Is scared out of his mind as Pablo while Anne Batencort is his concerned mother. Even Joseph Latimore has fun as the security guard.

The main draw here is McDowell as Hodge. He leaves no bit of scenery unchewed and livens up a role that is tailor made for him, pun intended. At first, Monk finds things to like, and his reveal is given to the audience before Monk, but it works. There are few that can anil off eccentric like McDowell and he is great to watch. He berates someone for smoking even when he is puffing since it does not bother him.

There are some things that prevent this from being great. We go through a lot of hoops to get Gordo to investigate the evidence. It is far faster than what we are accustomed to. Julie running away is essential to the plot and while Natalie walking the runway is a great moment, it is there just to get Monk and Natalie to the show, despite having the evidence almost ready to go. Finally, Adsit and McDowell are on screen together but do not have much dialogue. That would have been a crowning achievement to see them talk and while they do interact, it is silence during Here’s What Happened.

Monk gets a dig as fashion asking Natalie not to eat food since he saw a model throwing up and while there are some fun times to be had, there is also some to bring it down.

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