“Mr. Monk and the Badge” wraps up another major Monk story line and brings the series one step closer to the end. Monk’s return to the force has been a crucial theme throughout the series. The character growth we’ve seen in this final season has finally made the goal believably attainable. The satisfaction at seeing Monk open the box containing his badge was worth the wait.
The episode is directed by Dean Parisot, who directed the pilot episode of the series, “Mr. Monk and the Candidate” eight years ago. (He also directed the brilliant film Galaxy Quest with Tony Shalhoub.) The pilot and other early episodes are echoed in “Badge”. In particular, Monk’s “back in the saddle” comment, which is the phrase he used in his very first session with his psychiatrist Dr. Kroger and the scene in which he confronts the villain, overcoming the same fear that paralyzed him eight years before, bring a sense of unity to the whole series.
Making her fifth and final guest appearance in this episode is Brooke Adams. Brooke is veteran stage and film actress as well as Tony Shalhoub’s wife. She’s played four different characters on the show beginning with Leigh, the flight attendant in the season one episode “Mr. Monk and the Airplane” a role which she reprised in the seventh season’s “Mr. Monk’s 100th Case”. She also played the unlucky violinist’s mother, Mrs. Carlyle in “Mr. Monk and the Kid” and Sheriff Butterfield in “Mr. Monk Visits a Farm”. In this one she’s a crazy cat lady. Each role has been very distinctive and very funny. (With the exception of Mrs. Carlyle, who wasn’t really funny at all.) Not surprisingly, Tony and Brooke have an easy rapport and a certain level of familiarity in this episode. Maybe it’s not quite the same level of familiarity as the butt slap in “Farm”, but it’s still unmistakable.
That’s not the only thing that’s familiar in this episode. The mystery plot in “Badge” was used in Mr. Monk and the Blue Flu the third in the series of Monk novels by Lee Goldberg, published in 2007. (Sorry, if I just ruined that for anyone.) I didn’t see Lee’s name in the credits, so I’m just going to give the credit to him here. The novelty may have worn off a little now, but it’s still a clever and fun device.
There’s a long guest cast list for this one, but only one actor making a repeat appearance. Well, not exactly an appearance. Charles Dougherty plays the guy calling in the phone tip. We don’t see him this time, but he was live and in person for season two’s “Mr. Monk and the T.V. Star” when he played the director of Crime Lab SF.
Mark Harelik (The Big Bang Theory) is the window washing killer, Mikhail Alvanov. Just in case anyone was missing the Russian accented bad guys, this character is a real throwback to the good old days. At least he was a little bit sharper than the last couple of Monk villains. Mr. Harelik also had a recurring role on Wings with Tony Shalhoub.
Adria Tennor guest stars as Donna Dimarco, the young widow of the victim. I spoke with Adria earlier this week. She gave me a little insight into the reason Monk was able to assemble such stellar guest casts. “Tony Shalhoub…I can’t say enough nice things about him he was the sweetest man…just super, super sweet. He likes to meet the people that are working on the show. He approached me right away and shook my hand and said, ‘thank you so much for doing this.’ I felt like, look, thank you. I’m so grateful to be here.”
”It’s long over due, that’s what it is.”
At Stottlemeyer’s request Monk and Natalie come to his office. He asks Monk to sit. He tells him that the review board has met to discuss him and they’ve decided they no longer want him to be a consultant. That’s as far as he gets. Monk assumes he’s being fired and storms out of the room. Natalie stays a moment longer to give the Captain and Disher a piece of her mind. Then she leaves too. “That could have gone better,” says Randy.
You think? Maybe Stottlemeyer shouldn’t have used the bad news/good news game with Monk. In the hall Stottlemeyer tells Monk he’s getting his badge back and Randy is the one who presents it to him as a crowd of well wishers in the squad room, possibly representing all the happy Monk fans in the audience, watch through the window. Monk is overwhelmed and grateful.
Natalie does the same thing in the first part of this scene as she did in her first episode “Mr. Monk and the Red Herring”, sitting Monk firmly in a chair when he can’t decide where to sit for himself. Yes, Monk has come a long way, but he still needs Natalie for the little things.
”Seventy years ago Thomas Wolfe wrote ‘You can’t go home again.’”
Monk prepares for his first day on the job as Natalie prepares his lunch box and hovers over him like a mother sending her kindergartner off to school for the first time. He’s childishly excited about returning to the force, but when he gets to the door he stops and turns back. He’s going to miss her and he wonders what she’s going to do. She has an interview with a concert promoter. She promises they’ll remain friends and talk about stuff all the time.
Monk goes to roll call, ready to make a speech, but relieved when Stottlemeyer tells him it’s not necessary. The Captain goes over the case of the Pick Axe Killer, When he won’t stop straightening the papers he’s supposed to be passing on to the other cops, it’s clear that Monk hasn’t ironed out all his kinks.
A little later Stottlemeyer shows Monk to his desk, where Monk immediately puts up a picture of Trudy. The Captain tells him he’ll be on desk duty for the first week so he can ease back into the routine, after which he’ll be on someone else’s squad. They won’t be working together. They’ll start Monk off with answering the tip line. Monk meets a rookie officer, Russell DiMarco (Jay Malone), who is an admirer of his. DiMarco sets up his computer. Monk is confused by the technology and wonders why he can’t enter the tips into a log book. DiMarco doesn’t even know what a log book is.
Monk is still trying to figure out the phone system when DiMarco comes in to tell him that the Pick Axe killer has been found because of a tip from a window washer. Later as Stottlemeyer holds a press conference on the capture of the killer, Monk has drinks (his is ginger ale) with his new cop “buddies” including his soon to be partner, Detective Doyle (Chris McGarry) and his soon to be boss, Sgt. Weaver (Jack McGee). They watch as Stottlemeyer congratulates the window washer Mikhail Alvanov (Mark Harelik), who identified the killer and took down his license plate from the sixth floor of the building he was working on, and presents him with a $500,000 reward.
Meanwhile Natalie is working at her new job with the concert promoter, who’s arranged for them to dine with Coldplay and fly on his private jet. Natalie is apparently the luckiest woman in San Francisco.
The next Monday Monk is on the job for real as he and his new partner take a call from Edith Capriani (Brooke Adams). She’s waiting outside and tells them that Mr. Barton, who lives with her, tried to kill her. Monk goes up stairs to her apartment. After unsuccessfully trying to kick the door down he discovers it unlocked and goes in gun drawn. There’s nobody there except a cat. Edith comes in behind him, asking him not to shot. The cat is Mr. Barton. Monk notices her apartment is directly across the street from the building from which the window washer supposedly identified the killer. Monk doesn’t think the man could have identified anyone from the sixth floor as he claimed to have done. He goes to the shooting range to tell Sgt. Weaver about his suspicions. Weaver tells him to forget about it. The case is closed.
Not quite. Later that night the window washer waits nervously in an underground garage. Officer Russell DiMarco arrives. Alvanov reminds him they shouldn’t be seen together. He throws DiMarco a duffel bag. DiMarco opens it. Alvanov shoots him twice. He falls to the ground, dead.
“What the hell have you been feeding him?”
The next day Monk and his new co-workers are investigating DiMarco’s death. Monk deduces from the location, time of death and a dollar shaped dog food coupon, that DiMarco thought he was getting a payoff. The other cops want him to keep quiet about it until they’re absolutely sure. They don’t want to accuse one of their own of wrongdoing.
That night Monk and Doyle answer a call at Mrs. Capriani’s house again. She tells them that a Mr. Lawrence is upstairs trashing her apartment. When she also tells them he loves milk. They assume he’s also a cat. Monk asks if he’s Persian. “No,” she tells him. “He’s from Burma.”
A chair flies out through a nearby window. A large tattooed Burmese man emerges through the broken window, yelling in what I’ll have to assume was Burmese. Mr. Lawrence (Televise Masalosalois) is definitely not a cat.
Later Monk calls Natalie to shoot the breeze and they lie to each other about how much they love their new jobs.
Disher and Stottlemeyer go to the home of Russell DiMarco where his young widow, Donna (Adria Tennor) is holding a wake. Stottlemeyer suspects Monk will be snooping around and he finds him doing just that in the DiMarco’s bedroom. Monk finds a passport application and tickets to the Cayman Islands, confirming his payoff theory. Stottlemeyer tell him Weaver was right. They have to be 100% before accusing DiMarco of being on the take, but Monk can’t let it go. He questions the widow about their vacation plans and when he implies that her husband may have been on the take, Doyle takes offense on Donna’s behalf and roughs him up. Stottlemeyer intervenes and takes Monk outside.
Monk goes to see Dr. Bell and admits that the job isn’t what he’d hoped it would be. He isn’t happy. “It’s my dream job and it’s making me miserable.”
Dr. Bell calls it “aspirational regret” and tells him everyone would understand if he wanted to quit. Monk refuses to quit. Later that night Monk sits at his desk in the darkened squad. A janitor enters with a box of stuff from DiMarco’s locker. Monk goes through it and finds a traffic ticket book with a missing page. Using the old pencil trick, he finds the same license plate number the window washer claimed to have seen.
“Former former former detective.”
The next day Monk confronts Alvanov and tells him here’s there to arrest him for murder, but he wants to wait for his partner to arrive before he gives the summation. Alvanov doesn’t want to wait. When his back is turned, Alvanov hits Monk over the head with a bucket. When Monk wakes up, he’s on the scaffolding which is quickly rising up the side of the build. Alvanov has his gun. He asks Monk how he knew. Monk tells him about the ticket book. DiMarco found the Pick Axe killer, but as a police officer he was not allowed to collect the reward, so he asked Alvanov to do it for him and agreed to split the money with him. The window-washer, however, had other plans: he wanted it all for himself.
Alvanov admits monk is right, but it doesn’t matter because he’s going to kill him. He rocks the scaffolding until Monk goes over the edge and hangs by his fingertip. Monk manages to overcome his fear of heights, struggle back on to the scaffold and disable the killer by stabbing him with his shiny badge. He lowers the scaffold down to the ground where Doyle and Weaver are waiting. They finally give him the respect he’s earned. He quits.
“I though it might be Joey Heatherton.”
Monk turns his badge and gun into Stottlemeyer who’s sorry it didn’t work out. The Captain and Disher advise him to use the west entrance, because there’s a surprise waiting. At the west entrance he finds Natalie. She’s quit he job with the concert promoter, because he doesn’t really need her. Monk does. They hug and Monk tells her he’ll only pay $900 a week. She tells him she’s not taking a pay cut and they argue happily as they leave the building.
Up next week: Mr. Monk and the End, Part I