Monk – Episode 8-4 Review

Spoilers ahead. Turn back now if you haven’t seen the episode.

“Mr. Monk is Someone Else” is the fourth episode of the final season of Monk. Never let it be said that an old-fashioned show like Monk would pass up a classic maneuver like the “evil twin”. Jeannie had one on I Dream of Jeannie. Samantha had one on Bewitched. Peter Brady had one. Gilligan had one (and so did Ginger and Mr. Howell). Festus had one. Captain Kirk had one or two… or maybe three. Now Monk has his own evil twin, hit man Frankie DePalma.

For the guest roles of DePalma’s mob employers, Monk has dipped into the Sopranos well and pulled out Vincent Curatola (Jimmy Barlowe) and Louis Lombardi (Tony G.) to lend a little pay cable authenticity to the L.A. mobster scene. Eric Balfour plays Jimmy’s erstwhile nephew Lenny. He’s been a favorite of mine since Six Feet Under and he did an impressive guest turn on a Law and Order: Criminal Intent episode this summer. He always brings an interesting intensity to his roles and Lenny is no exception. Kelly Carlson (Nip/Tuck) as femme fatale Lola rounds out an impressive guest cast.

Returning for this episode is Monk’s nemesis Harold Krenshaw played by the hilarious Tim Bagley. We’ll also be seeing Tim in another season eight episode, “Mr. Monk Goes to Group Therapy”, later this season. Lt. Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) is back too after taking an episode off (“Mr. Monk and the UFO”). He and Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) have quite a bit to do in this one especially considering most of the episode is set well outside their jurisdiction.

Tony Shalhoub cited this episode as a particular favorite of his. “It’s basically a doppelganger episode, where Monk assumes the character of this man who looks just like him, but the character happens to be a professional hit man for the mafia. So this character dies and Monk is asked to take this guy on and become him. Those opportunities to kind of transform within the character are really, really challenging and satisfying.”

“That’s a lip. That’s not even a lip. It’s a demi-lip.”

In what is undoubtedly the shortest Monk teaser ever, Frankie DePalma who looks exactly like Adrian Monk, is crossing Wilshire Boulevard in L.A., when he’s run down by a city bus. That’s it. Monk’s evil twin lasts all of 37 seconds.

The intention in the opening scene was probably to make the audience believe that Monk was the one who had become road kill, but what with the “internet people”, Tony Shalhoub’s interviews and the TV Guide log line, I’m sure almost everyone knew that wasn’t the case and Natalie’s tears after the commercial break were wasted on us. Still, the Marley and Me reveal was funny and so was her voice wavering with emotion throughout the scene while reading her tearjerker.

Monk appears alive and well to usher in a delivery man who demands extra cash. The refrigerator delivery guy, Bill (or so his shirt indicated), was perhaps the most dislikable character ever to cross Monk’s path, if you don’t count murderers and even some of them were more pleasant. Admittedly, had Monk not come off a little bit snarky with his first comment, “It’s a refrigerator: let’s try the kitchen,” Bill might not have been such a jerk about the “demi-lip.” In any case, kudos to Lance Barber for playing the role to the hilt.

Monk can’t stand up to the delivery guy and consults Natalie who advises him that he shouldn’t let the guy “stare you down in your own house,” but Monk is intimidated and he pays the extra $40 and a gratuity on top of it. As Monk pays him off, Natalie gets a call from the FBI.

“That’s your doppelganger. They say everyone’s got one.”
“Who says that?”
“People… and their doppelgangers.”

They meet the FBI guy, Agent Stone, who thanks Stottlemeyer for letting them meet in the SFPD squad room. He tells them all about Frankie DePalma the mob hit man who was run over by a bus, but Monk wants to know, “What does this have to do with me?”

Agent Stone shows them a picture of Frankie. He’s the spit and image of Monk. Everyone is amazed except Monk who can’t see the resemblance at first. Natalie covers up the mob accessories, a carnation and a cigar. Monk finally sees it. “Oh my god, it’s me!”

They’ve kept DePalma’s death a secret and now the FBI wants Monk to go to Los Angeles and pose as the killer. They want him to find out who Frankie’s target was and who hired him. Sottlemeyer knowing the physical and emotional danger to Monk, turns down the offer for him and starts to escort them out. Agent Stone appeals to Monk, “If you don’t help us they’re going to find somebody else. There’s a life at stake here, Mr. Monk.”

Reed Diamond (Dollhouse) as Agent Stone really does an excellent job. Monk has run into a few FBI agents over the years and they’ve all been either untrustworthy or they’ve tried to make Monk and Stottlemeyer look bad. No doubt that’s why Stottlemeyer’s impulse is to say “no” for Monk this time. Agent Stone seems to be different, a real stand-up guy who’s just doing his job and who’s honest with Monk. Too bad there’s not enough Monk time left to bring him back for an episode or two.

“You are the toughest son of a bitch in the room and everybody knows it.”
“Like the refrigerator delivery man.”

So Monk is off to Los Angeles, which must be a great relief to all the Monk production people who for once don’t have to keep up the pretence that L.A. (where Monk is filmed) is San Francisco (where Monk is set.) Agent Stone gives Monk a slide presentation to test him on what he’s learned about his doppelganger. Frankie was from Massachusetts and his parents were Joseph and Helen. This is pretty interesting mostly because Tony Shalhoub’s parents were named Joseph and Helen. I can’t swear that the picture in the slide show is of Tony’s parents, but I’d be very surprised if that wasn’t the case. Monk is nervous about the job, but Agent Stone give him a pep talk. “You’re Frankie DePalma. You’re a killing machine”. However when Monk flinches after a good natured punch on the arm, it seems he might not be quite ready to claim the tough guy title.

After a lovely little sequence in which Monk dons the bling and the sartorial splendor of a mob hit man (I thought this guy was trying to keep a low profile!), with some nice jazzy gangster music in the background, he takes a limo to the killer’s swanky hotel. He’s chauffeured by Lt. Disher who does his best undercover job to date. The doorman is deferential and recognizes him as Mr. DePalma. Monk doesn’t quite have the swagger down yet, but he’s got the look.

“You gonna give me that 50 cents back?”

Monk is wired for sound and he gives his listeners (Agent Stone, Stottlemeyer, Disher and Natalie) a detailed description of his room. Very detailed, but they really get an earful when Lola arrives. Lola (Kelly Carlson) obviously knows Frankie well and intimately. She had a disagreement with Frankie in Barcelona so she’s not thrown by Monk’s aloof behavior. She’s ordered room service for them. Monk gives the waiter a characteristically chintzy 50 cent tip, but after a brief stare down (making him now 0 for 7) he coughs up a twenty.

We never learn Lola’s last name or her occupation, but apparently she is the one who had brokered Frankie’s deal with local mobster Jimmy Barlowe. Lola attempts to seduce him and he’s so flustered he claims to have a girlfriend. “She’s pretty,” he tells her. “We kiss all the time.” And her name? “Natalie Teeger…b. With a B on the end.”

Lola sets up a meeting for later that night at Jimmy Barlowe’s club and she asks “Frankie” to bring Natalie along. Stottlemeyer, listening in the FBI van, is amused. “Well, I guess you have a date, Miss Teegerb.”

“Frankie don’t dance.”

Natalie and Monk show up later at Jimmy’s dance club. She’s a pretty good undercover agent and a convincing mob moll. She also looks very fetching in the costume. They don’t get much cooperation from Charlie the bartender until Natalie tells him that Frankie DePalma is doing the asking. He turns off the dance music at Monk’s request. An angry bar patron, who had presumably been boogieing up a storm before Monk spoiled the fun, gives him a shove and immediately regrets it when the bartender tells him who he’s shoving around. The guy, appalled and scared, quickly apologizes. Lola shows up to make a catty remark to Natalie and to escort Frankie to the mob meeting in the back room.

Waiting for Frankie are club owner and head mobster Jimmy Barlow, his nephew Lenny, who looks pretty fetching himself in his little hat, and Tony G., his right hand man. After the niceties are out of the way, Jimmy reveals who Frankie’s target is: Stanley Greenblatt who lives in Ventura. Monk wants to know why, but Lenny, who wanted to whack the guy himself, thinks he’s asking too many questions. “Lola said you didn’t ask any questions.”

“Why would she say that?”

“That’s another question!”

However Jimmy apparently isn’t too concerned and indicates that Lenny should keep his mouth shut.

“He has trouble enough just being himself.”

In the next scene Monk and the gang are back at the FBI office. Even though they know who the target is they still don’t know why the mob has it in for Stanley Greenblatt, a 75-year-old retired UPS driver, with two children, one dead. Apparently Stanley had no ties to organized crime. Agent Stone convinces Monk to stay on as Frankie for a couple more days. Stottlemeyer and Disher offer to go see Mr. Greenblatt.

Stanley Greenblatt (Michael Fairman) is a very, very mean old man and he isn’t happy when Stottlemeyer and Disher show up to tell him that the mob wants him. He communicates by yelling. He doesn’t know who Jimmy B. is or why he wants him dead. He doesn’t want to be protected, but most of all he doesn’t want them in his house. He makes this clear by throwing a couple of cast iron pans at them. They beat a hasty retreat. Disher wonders, “Why would Jimmy Barlowe want to kill this guy”

“Maybe he met him,” says Stottlemeyer, rubbing his leg where he’s been hit by a pan.

Meanwhile at the Café Venice Beach Monk is enjoying lunch alfresco with Lenny and Tony G., discussing the hit. He’s really starting to get comfortable in the role when a vacationing Harold Krenshaw (Tim Bagley) roller skates by in an “I love L.A.” t-shirt and recognizes him. Harold tries to get his attention in his own uniquely annoying way. “Adrian, Adrian, Adrian, Adrian, Adrian, Adrian.”

Monk ignores him, but Harold doesn’t give up.

“Adrian, Adrian, Adrian, Adrian, Adrian, Adrian.”

Monk finally turns around. Harold talks about the weather and greets Monk’s companions. “Harold Krenshaw,” he says. “How ya doin?”

Monk tells him he’s made a mistake, stares him down and advises him to leave, resorting to a little force as he shoves him on his way. Totally in character now he asks some gawking diners, “What the hell are you looking at? Finish your Shirley Temple.”

“I’m whacking somebody else in Pasadena later. I already bought the bullets.”

Later when they all meet back at the FBI office Monk is still in Frankie’s suit and still in character. He doesn’t like the beverage Lt. Disher brings him. “No, I want warm iced tea!”

Concerned by his behavior, Stottlemeyer thinks it’s time to end the undercover operation. Natalie is concerned, too and she wants to call in Dr. Bell. ” I think you like scaring people,” she tells him. “You’re not yourself.”

Agent Stone agrees and announces he’s pulling the plug, but Monk is determined. “I’m going to finish what I started with you or without you.” he says in Frankie’s accent.

He heads for the door and Stottlemeyer blocks his way. “Get out of my way, Leland.”

They have a stare down and Stottlemeyer steps aside (Now Monk’s 2 for 9). The Captain is a little shaken. “Now who the hell was that?”

Monk goes to see Lola. He demands to know why Jimmy Barlowe wants Stanley Greenblatt dead. She promises to tell him and lures him to her bed, but instead of information she gives him a big kiss. This personal violation brings out the Monk in him. Lola’s confused by his behavior. Lola seems to suspect he’s not Frankie, (although she also thinks he may be sick or hypnotized) but when Lenny shows up looking for Frankie she doesn’t tip him off. Lenny says Jimmy wants the job done that night. “We’re tired of waiting for his funeral.”

Monk tries to get out of it, but Lenny tells him he’s doing the job if Frankie won’t. Monk reluctantly agrees and Lenny insists on accompanying him to the hit. “Look like we’re going to be a team.”

Monk and Lenny arrive at Greenblatt’s house. After Lenny picks the lock, Monk advises him to stay outside as his lookout. He goes inside to warn Greenblatt, but he finds him inside dead on the kitchen floor. Lenny, who sucks at following instructions, finds him standing over the body. “Heart attack,” Monk explains.

“Hey, he got lucky.”

“Monk, you are one of the toughest guys I know. You just don’t advertise it.”

Since Greenblatt is dead, the case now seems to be wrapped up and Monk is back in San Francisco. Natalie persuades him to apologize to Stottlemeyer, which he does with a greeting card that she bought and he reads aloud. “Why don’t you tell the captain what you learned?” Natalie says.

“I’m not a tough guy.”

Stottlemeyer disagrees and he tells him he’s proud of him for the job he did and for standing up to him. Natalie wants to know what happened to Jimmy Barlowe. Stottlemeyer says since no one was murdered no one will be arrested. The case is closed, but when he places Monk’s card next to his birthday’s cards from his children, Monk has an epiphany. He saw two “Happy Birthday, Dad” cards at Greenblatt’s house.

Later at Greenblatt’s funeral Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher explain to FBI agent Stone that Greenblatt’s son, Alvin, faked his death to steal mob money. Jimmy B. figured if they killed his father the desire to attend the funeral would bring his son out of hiding. When Alvin doesn’t show up they figure Jimmy B’s already got him on ice and they head to the dance club. Just as Lenny’s about to whack the guy, Monk walks in as Frankie DePalma. He tells them he wants to do it. Lenny’s got his heart set on doing it himself, but Monk stares him down and Lenny hands him the gun. (Now he’s 3 for 10.) Monk gets the drop on the gangsters and the FBI, accompanied by Stottlemeyer and Natalie rush in to arrest them. Jimmy thinks he’s been sold out. “Frankie DePalma, you’re a dead man.”

“Actually he’s been dead since Friday.”

“Hey, I still got it.”

In the final scene when Monk is once again confronted by the evil refrigerator delivery guy, he thinks he’s ready and he steps up for a full tilt stare down. Natalie sees he needs a little back up. Unbeknownst to Monk she comes up behind him and joins in the stare down. Refrigerator guy caves and agrees to do the repair for free. (That makes Monk 4 for 11 on the stare downs, with one assist from Natalie of course.) She returns to reading her book and Monk is none the wiser, but the viewers know she always has his back.

An evil twin role is specifically meant to show an actor’s range and give them a chance to do something different, but in this episode they put sort of a fresh spin on the concept. Tony Shalhoub doesn’t play Frankie DePalma. Tony Shalhoub plays Adrian Monk playing Frankie DePalma which requires a lot of subtlety, a lot of discipline and a lot talent. I’m not sure what the cut off is for next year’s Emmys, but I hope this episode qualifies, because it does showcase Shalhoub’s remarkable acting talent.

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