Sparky and Tony Shalhoub
Rest assured there will be spoilers below, because I don’t know how to analyze an episode without them.
“Mr. Monk and the Dog” seems like another one of those ideas that the Monk writers have probably had on the drawing board for years. The comic potential of Monk enduring the joys of pet ownership (or pet guardianship, as it’s known here in San Francisco) is reasonably obvious. The emotional impact is a little more surprising. I’m sure there were a few people who weren’t at least a little verklempt at the ending scene. I wasn’t one of them.
The charming little guest star in the episode is Sparky, who plays Monk’s furry house guest Shelby. In the grand tradition of Lassie, the character is definitely a girl dog, but the actor is a boy dog. According to his resume, Sparky a.k.a. Sparky McBarky, is a 40 pound terrier mix who “photographs amazingly well and gives kisses on cue.” Sometimes that’s all you need for a successful Hollywood career.
The less irresistible guest star of the week is Wallace Langham, who plays Steven Dewitt. He’s currently a regular on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which basically means nothing to me since I’ve never seen a CSI episode of any flavor. However, I never forget a Star Trek actor and Mr. Langham made a memorable appearance in the 1998 Star Trek: Voyager episode “Once Upon a Time” as Flotter T. Water III, a children’s holodeck character. He was also a regular on The Larry Sanders Show and Veronica’s Closet. Usually the bad guys on Monk are the cold-blooded calculating type, but Langham does a nice job portraying a less malicious everyman desperately trying to cover his tracks.
David Breckman directed this episode. He’s been a writer on the show since the beginning, specializing in the more poignant stories such as this season’s “Mr. Monk and the Foreign Man”, as well as “Mr. Monk is Up All Night” and “Mr. Monk and Mrs. Monk” from previous seasons. He began directing in season six with “Mr. Monk and the Three Julies” and followed up with season seven’s “Mr. Monk and the Bully”. Here’s his description of this episode: “’Dog’ is ultimately a story about loneliness… and unexpected love. Tony shines in the episode (as always), the other regulars are characteristically great, and Sparky — the four-legged actor playing “Shelby,” the pooch whom Monk takes in — is guaranteed to win your heart.”
He certainly won mine.
“Amanda, it’s over. My hand to God.”
Another episode, another case of infidelity: The quickest way to get killed on Monk is to engage in a little hanky panky or “hooking up” as Monk describes it, complete with air quotes. An apparently happy couple is asleep in bed when a dog awakens the woman, Amanda (Margeuerite Moreau). Obviously a dog lover she talks to him and feeds him as she later putters around preparing breakfast. Unfamiliar with the kitchen, she opens a couple of drawers searching for scissors. In one drawer she discovers a wedding ring and photos of her lover (Wallace Langham) with another woman, presumably his wife.
When he comes into the kitchen she doesn’t waste any time and angrily demands to know if he married. He tries to explain that he’s permanently separated, but she’s not buying it. She puts the ring and the pictures in the garbage disposal. He protests and pushes her aside. She hits her head on the counter and falls to the ground. Groggily she rises and calls 911. He seems concerned at first, but when she passes out he considers his options and hangs up on the 911 operator.
“Do you have any idea how lucky you are to have a family like that?”
Monk and Natalie are at the 25th annual Davenport family reunion picnic. Natalie Teeger, as you may remember from “Mr. Monk goes to a Wedding”, was a Davenport before she married. Her grandfather Nigel “Leap and a net will appear” Davenport, who she talks about at length in “Mr. Monk, Private Detective”, established the family fortune in the toothpaste industry. That’s why the reunion banner and the t-shirts feature little anthropomorphic toothpaste tubes. Very cute. I’m not sure who all these Davenports are, but none of them are Natalie’s mother Peggy or her father Bobby or her brother Jonathan, who we met in “Mr. Monk Goes to a Wedding” in season four.
Monk is eating at a picnic table with a little girl, Anne Marie (Sierra McCormick), who asks if he’s her uncle? “No,” he explains, “I’m your Aunt Natalie’s boss.” He doesn’t explain how it is that Natalie could be her aunt. She’s not Jonathan’s child and her mother is not Natalie’s sister. In fact the mother (Liza De Weerd) is credited as “Aunt Teresa”. If that’s the case then the child is a cousin, not a niece. Perhaps it’s just a habit of Monk’s to refer to a child’s older female relative as an aunt. I’ve probably already put a lot more thought into that than is warranted.
Monk is uncomfortable at the picnic, feeling like an outsider, but he does attempt to participate in the games and talk to people. That’s really progress for him, but when Natalie calls him over to participate in the reunion group photo he hangs back out of frame, looking lonely. Natalie is trying hard to include him. His loneliness seems self imposed to some extent. The opportunity is there, but he doesn’t know how to take that step. Considering all the objections he must have to picnicking, it’s not surprising he doesn’t enjoy it much, but it’s mainly the fact that he doesn’t have a huge loving family like Natalie’s that makes it hard to bear. A little later his solitude is brutally illustrated in a lovely elevated shot as he enters his apartment’s darkened hallway and as he then sits down to a eat dinner alone in silence.
“Dog lick hand.”
About a week later Monk and Natalie are called to Amanda Castle’s house where they’re met by Stottlemeyer and Disher. So far Amanda is just considered missing. Stottlemeyer explains that she’s a well known artist, so the press is interested, as is the mayor. “So I’m here, which means you’re here.” He points at Natalie, “and you.”
In the house they’re greeted by Amanda’s agent, Samantha Austin (Denise Dowse), whose sole purpose and thankless task is providing exposition. She tells them Amanda’s been missing for a week and that it’s very unusual for her to go anywhere without her medication or Shelby.
“Shelby is her daughter?” Monk guesses. “Her son?”
No, Shelby is an adorable little mutt who enters on cue. Monk is annoyed by her presence and tries to ignore her as she follows him around the house during his investigation. He finds a case for glasses, but Samantha tells him the victim didn’t wear glasses. Monk sees a Picasso-esque painting in which the male subject appears to be wearing glasses and nothing else. With a little help from Natalie he theorizes that it may be a lover. “We need to find him.”
He continues a search and Shelby continues to follow him. When she gets the opportunity she licks his hand. Monk is appalled. “Dog lick hand. Boil some water!” he tells Natalie. Natalie calms him down; pointing out that the dog just likes him. “Don’t like me,” he tells Shelby. “You’re a bad dog. Go away!”
Also right on cue a dog catcher (Eddie Pepitone, The Sarah Silverman Program) — excuse me an animal control guy — enters to take Shelby to a no kill shelter until her owner returns, which we know she never will. Natalie thinks Monk has been “dog lonely” and she encourages him to take Shelby in for few days. “Dogs are family,” she tells him.
“No, dogs are animals,” says Monk. “They’re filthy and they’re naked and they eat and then they uneat.”
He thinks it’s a terrible idea, until Stottlemeyer asks what will happen if Shelby goes unclaimed. The animal control says she’ll go to a kill shelter after a month. Of course, everybody feels very bad about that, even Monk. “Wait,” he says and after a long pause, “I’ll take her.”
“This dog is not and may never be umbrella trained.”
Monk gives Shelby the tour of his apartment, explaining that the arrangement is only “temporary, transitory, not permanent. Okay, ephemeral like.” He also points out the spots that are off limits to her, including all the furniture and the bedroom. He shows Shelby her spot, a corner by the door, and gives her an umbrella to sit in. He leaves her to get a bowl of water and moments later returns to find she’s not in her umbrella. She’s found her own bowl of water. The toilet bowl. Much to his horror, Monk finds her drinking out of it.
The next day Monk and Natalie return to Amanda’s house where a search party is being formed. Monk has brought along Shelby and the gloves he uses to pet her with. He explains that he couldn’t leave her in his apartment alone, but he admits that “there are moment’s that aren’t entirely unbearable” with her. Shelby runs over to greet one of the searchers, a man with glasses on. It’s Amanda’s lover, Steven Dewitt, posing as a concerned citizen there to help with the search. He pets the dog and comments that’s she’s putting on weight.
Stottlemeyer organizes the search through a field, instructing the volunteers to look for anything unusual, including articles of the victim’s clothing. Dewitt quickly “finds” the victim’s wallet. It seems a little too convenient and Stottlemeyer takes it over to Monk for his opinion. They tell him the man with glasses found it. Monk is immediately suspicious because the wallet doesn’t look as if it’s been exposed to the elements. He tries an experiment, telling all the searchers they think that one of them killed Amanda. All of them look around at each other except for Dewitt. Not exactly a confession, but it confirms Monk’s suspicions.
“Ta, da! It’s a sha-poopie!”
Later in the squad room, as they’re waiting for Stottlemeyer, Monk is anxious to get home to Shelby. He talks excitedly about how smart the dog is. He’s taught her all sorts of Monk tricks. “Not to lick me. Not to drool. Not to roll over. Not to, you know, discharge anything.” (I’m pretty sure none of that is recommended for dogs, even if it’s possible.)
At this point Natalie pulls out the “sha-poopie”. For those not in the know, a sha-poopie is an invention created by Tony Shalhoub’s older brother Dan, used to capture a dog’s business, shall we say, before it even hits the ground. Dan and the sha-poopie were featured on the show American Inventor. When his brother Tony makes a talk show appearance he usually touts the product on Dan’s behalf and now he’s finally found a way to work it into an episode.
Meanwhile, Stottlemeyer has been running down the suspect and discovered that the guy’s name is Steven Dewitt, but they don’t have any solid evidence against him. “Be nice if we had a body,” he points out. “She could be anywhere.”
“Not quite anywhere,” says Disher.
He starts putting pins in a city map indicating all the places she couldn’t be: her house, the park they already searched, his apartment, the squad room. “Captain, is there anything you want to eliminate?”
Before he has a chance to respond to that, Stottlemeyer is handed a note. The missing woman made a cell phone call to 911 that Saturday morning lasting eight seconds. The call was made from the general vicinity of Dewitt’s brownstone. (I didn’t think we had “brownstones” in San Francisco or a “Rockaway Drive”. Maybe they’re all near Vinton Street.)
Monk cuts him short. He wants to hurry home to see Shelby. He brings her ice cream, five different flavors, and takes her to the park to play ball. He even takes the ball out of it’s plastic baggie, because it’s more fun for her that way.
Meanwhile while trekking through an unspecified park/wilderness area, a father (Cantrell Harris) and his two sons (Kaylan and Kylan Bolton) come upon a rolled up rug. Despite their father’s warning the boys poke at it until Amanda’s week old dead body rolls out and down a hill. I guess maybe the next time their father tells them to do something they’ll listen. Maybe not.
“You know, one of those referendums. It is California.”
As he grooms the dog at his apartment, Monk gets the call that Amanda’s body has been found. He gently breaks the news to Shelby. Shelby whimpers and Monk tries to comfort her. “Never alone, little one. Never alone.”
Monk and Natalie go to Dewitt’s townhouse to question him. He says he never met Amanda and he tries to act nonchalant, but he’s drinking heavily and already seems slightly tipsy. Monk notices a section of the floor in the kitchen has been bleached. When Natalie notices his paintings, he tells them “I think we’re done here. No, I’m sorry, I misspoke. I know we’re done here.”
Before he has a chance to throw them out Monk also notice that Dewitt has a brand new rug on the floor. Gwen Dewitt, Steven’s wife, and his tailless Australian Shepherd arrive. As Natalie pets the dog, Gwen offers to get them a drink, but Dewitt shows them out.
Monk goes back to his apartment and Shelby, who he’s left there with Natalie’s “niece” or whatever she is. He puts on his gloves to pet the dog and notices she hasn’t been eating. He tells the little girl her Aunt Natalie is waiting out in the car for her and she reminds him that he’s supposed to pay her five dollars. “You have change for a hundred?” he asks.
“Yes,” she replies to his surprise.
“Then you won’t need my five.”
That’s just mean. Bad Monk. At least he makes up for it later and my guess is she collected the five from Natalie.
Monk takes Shelby for an evening walk. When they walk by a dark alley a car speeds out nearly hitting Monk and the dog. The car then turns back and heads straight for Shelby standing in the middle of the rode. Monk rushes to grab her rescuing her from harm’s way. The car speeds off.
In Stottlemeyer’s office Monk reports the attempt on Shelby’s life. Stottlemeyer wonders why anyone would try to kill her. Monk doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that the owner was killed and now an attempt has been made on the dog’s life. He’s also worried that Shelby is acting strangely and not eating. Disher thinks that she may have witnessed the murder and that the killer is after her to prevent her from identifying him. “Randy, as far as I know, in the state of California dogs are not allowed to testify in open court.”
“Maybe Dewitt’s afraid they’ll change the rule.”
Before Randy can go too much further with the theory, Stottlemeyer cuts him off and offers Monk and the “cute dog” a ride home.
At his apartment a little while later, a worried Monk calls a veterinarian hotline and describes Shelby’s symptoms: not eating, shivering, panting, and putting on weight. The vet tells him Shelby is whelping, but he has a hard time processing the information. “She’s in labor,” the vet clarifies. “She’s having a litter. Little puppies. Baby puppies.”
“You mean now?”
“She didn’t do it in somebody’s living room!”
Natalie has arrived at Monk’s now newspaper covered apartment to assist with the birth of the puppies. She reminds Monk that the miracle of birth is a natural, beautiful thing and that his mother did it twice. Monk doesn’t think of it that way. “Little animals coming out of other animals. What was God thinking?”
“You opened you heart, Mr. Monk,” says Natalie. “Don’t close it now.”
The first puppy arrives over Monk’s protests. “Congratulations, Grandpa,” Natalie says as she shows him the puppy. “It’s a boy. What are you going to name him?”
Monk is looking carefully at the puppy. “Exhibit A,” he tells her.
Monk has invited Stottlemeyer and Disher over for the explanation of the puppy’s name. The little fellow is tailless, just like his father, Dewitt’s Australian Shepherd. DNA will prove that the dogs knew each other, in a biblical sense, and so did the owners. “Everybody and everything, hooking up.”
Dewitt knew that Shelby was pregnant which was why he tried to run her over. “You’re just about the cutest little smoking gun in history,” Stottlemeyer tells the puppy.
Outside Dewitt is waiting in his car as three more puppies are born with an able assist from Randy: Exhibit B. C, and D. Monk, Stottlemeyer and Natalie watch from the sofa. Monk wonders what the record is. “I think it’s 101,” says Natalie as she and Stottlmeyer sip the scotch that Monk got as a present from the Mayor.
Later, after all his guests leave, Monk stays on the couch to watch over Shelby. Dewitt breaks into the darkened apartment, carrying a knife, intending to kill Shelby, but Monk turns on the light and tells him she’s already had the puppies. Monk notices Dewitt’s shaking. “I don’t think you’re a killer,” he tells him. (No, he’s more of a stand by and watch her die kind of guy.)
Dewitt tells him Amanda’s death was an accident and Monk convinces him to give up the knife.
“You can’t keep them all. You’re, you know, you’re you.”
A few weeks later, Natalie’s “niece” and her “aunt” are at Monk’s apartment to get their pick of the litter, Exhibit B. Monk stops them. He doesn’t want to split up the litter. Natalie tells him it’s different with dogs, but Monk insists they have to stay together. Aunt Teresa offers to take all of the dogs including the mother. They have lots of room. Anne Marie is thrilled. Monk agrees to the arrangement after being promised daily visitation rights. Once he’s alone with Shelby he sadly says goodbye and tells her she’ll be happy in her new home. “Never alone, little one. Never alone again.”
She puts her paw on his knee. He takes off his glove and covers her paw with his hand.
It was the perfect ending to a beautiful episode.
Next week: “Mr. Monk Goes Camping”
Tags: Monk, Tony Shalhoub