Monk – Episode 8-13 Review

Tony Shalhoub and Carol Kane
Tony Shalhoub and Carol Kane

This review contains lots of spoilery goodness.

This guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office with a duck on his head. The psychiatrist says, “Can I help you?” The duck says, “Yeah, get this guy off my ass!

Sorry, if anyone’s offended by that particular colloquialism, but that’s how one of my favorite jokes goes or at least that’s how it used to go before Monk screwed it up so spectacularly in “Mr. Monk and the Best Man.” Of course, there’s a lot more to being a best man than knowing how to tell a joke. In Monk’s case it also involves solving a murder.

Despite some major obstacles, there is ultimately a wedding. Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) is the ecstatic groom and Trudy “T.K.” Jensen is his charming bride. Yes, it was a whirlwind courtship and we didn’t see hardly any of it, but the actors have a natural chemistry that makes the speedy commitment believable and the schmaltzy romance palatable. Virginia Madsen as T.K. is classy and beautiful. She fits in effortlessly with the rest of cast. The friendship that develops with Natalie (Traylor Howard) is almost as satisfying as the romance with Stottlemeyer.

Teri Polo (Meet the Parents) guest stars as Stephanie Briggs. She’s quite engaging and amusing. Her ultimately agenda driven cynicism is a nice counterpoint to everyone else’s relentless romanticism. It’s not hard to guess that she’s “the guy”. Not only does she qualify under my “three times” rule (if a character’s full name is spoken three times he/she is the guy), but she’s also the only real suspect. Carol Kane’s Joy is so sweet and guileless I doubt she uses pesticide on the flowers. (She doesn’t even have a last name, so she’s automatically in the clear.) Even though her role is small Ms. Kane is such a distinctive and delightful performer, she turns her one and only scene into a classic Monk moment.

Michael Shalhoub, Tony’s brother (not the one who invented the Sha-Poopie™), makes his third Monk appearance in this episode. His first appearance was in season two’s “Mr. Monk and the Missing Granny” as the former radical. His second was in season four’s “Mr. Monk Bumps His Head” in which he played Ned, the Beekeeper. Also returning is Michael Coleman as the cop at the bachelor party who visits Monk’s bathroom within a bathroom. He played a uniformed officer in three previous episodes: “Biggest Fan”, “Bank” and “Happy Birthday”.

All the Monk scripts are a group effort by the New Jersey based writing staff, which hasn’t changed much over the years. The credited writers for this episode are Joe Toplyn, Dylan Morgan and Josh Siegal. Mr. Siegal had this to say about it: “Andy has said the whole series is about loss, and this episode – and in a way this whole season – is about the flip side of that coin, how we finally try to move on from that loss. Stottlemeyer, Natalie and Monk have all faced loss of one kind or another, but here we get to see the surprising ways people find the strength to overcome that. And if you can explore a message like that and still have Randy accidentally rewrite “Light My Fire” while thinking he came up with it himself, I’m happy.”

“Why is everybody crying?”

Monk and Natalie are in the squad room to pick up their pay check. “Who says crime doesn’t pay,” Natalie quips as Disher hands it over, because she’s in charge of clichés for this episode.

As Monk carefully initials the paperwork, he can see the Captain in his office pacing and talking to himself. Stottlemeyer’s girlfriend T.K. arrives dressed to kill (figuratively not literally like his last girlfriend.) She tells them that it’s their six month anniversary and they’re going out to celebrate, but Monk is still watching Leland and he knows it’s more than that. He doesn’t think twice before telling T.K., “He wants to marry you.”

He notices Leland’s been patting his pocket which contains something the size of a ring box and that he’s trimmed his mustache and that he’s been talking to himself as if he’s rehearsing and to top it all off he’s flossing. That’s enough evidence to convince T.K., Natalie and Randy. Natalie tells him he’s ruined the surprise. “No, I didn’t. I’m very surprised.” And he’s clearly very delighted as well.

They try to pretend they don’t know when Stottlemeyer comes out of his office, but all the crying (tears of joy) tips him off. Monk admits that they’ve figured out he’s proposing. “I wonder how,” he says, even though he doesn’t.

Monk points to Randy. (Which seems to indicate to me that their relationship has progressed enough that Monk can joke around with him a little.) Now that the cat’s out of the bag, Stottlemeyer decides to pop the question right there and then. T.K. stops him. She wants him to do it as originally planned. They kiss and he lets her see the ring before they head out the door.

“Looks like we’re going to a wedding,” Randy announces happily.

Of course, this is Monk and it can’t be that simple.

“Everybody should have a Trudy in their life.”

Lt. Disher is at a crime scene with a particularly gruesome corpse which has been burned beyond recognition. (Fortunately we don’t get to see it.) He comforts a rookie cop (Charlie Weirauch) who’s shaken by the sight of the grisly body. He’s never seen anything like it. Disher asks the CSI tech (Mark Edward Smith) if they’ll be able to identify the body with fingerprints. No such luck. “You need fingers for finger prints.”

On that note Stottlemeyer enters cheerfully singing “Cheek to Cheek” and practically walking on air: maybe not literally drunk, but drunk on love apparently. He thinks he’s Fred Astaire and head over heels in love with Ginger Rogers. His high spirits are so wildly inappropriate, that Disher has to take on the role of the clear-headed, competent detective and walk him through the crime.

Apparently the victim was shot first and then burned, since as Randy notes “his back wasn’t as “well done” which means he didn’t roll around. They found the victim’s work boot, a 9mm gun shell and an empty bottle of rum that was used as an accelerant and wiped down. Stottlemeyer asks Randy to call Monk and tell him to meet them at the morgue. He dances away from the crime scene still singing. Even that ghastly sight can’t dampen his spirits. He clicks his heels on his way and while it’s very cool that Ted Levine can do that, it’s very weird that Leland would, at least under those circumstances.

Later in the squad room Randy continues with the musical theme and sings a song for Natalie that he “wrote” as a gift for Leland and T.K.’s reception.

“Cupid was a gun for hire
Took aim at Leland Stottlemeyer
Whose love was wallowed in the mire
We love you T.K. Stottlemeyer
Mr. and Mrs. Stottlemeyer”

Natalie’s so tactful. She tells him it “sounds a little like ‘Light my Fire'” and suggests he play “The Wedding March” instead. As for a gift, “You can’t go wrong with a trash compactor.”

In his office, Stottlemeyer and Monk are examining the crime scene photos. Stottlemeyer wants to know if Monk is okay with T.K.’s real name being Trudy, which he is, and if Monk wants to be his best man, which he does. Of course he’s “slightly apprehensive” but Leland tells him there’s not much to it. He just has to not lose the wedding ring, which he gives to him for safe keeping. Monk grips it in his fist, declaring “I will not lose this ring.”

T.K. arrives and she’s initially horrified when she sees the photos of the dead body that Monk is examining, which is probably the first hint that she may be bothered by his job and needs to find a way to deal. She’s there to ask for a favor from Leland. “Stephanie got arrested last night,” she says.

“Who’s Stephanie?” Monk asks.

“Stephanie Briggs. It’s her maid of honor,” Stottlemeyer tells him.

(That’s one.)

It seems Stephanie, who is like a sister to T.K., has been busted for speeding. It was her third offense so they threw her in the pokey for the night and impounded her car. Leland agrees to do what he can to get her released right away. As she leaves Monk waves goodbye to her with his fist, still holding the ring.

“Oh, that’s nauseating. I’m going to go back to prison.”

Leland and T.K. escort Stephanie to her car. The women joke about the arrest but Leland takes it more seriously. “What were you thinking? You were doing 75 miles an hour in a residential neighborhood.”

She claims it was a wedding catering emergency. T.K. buys that excuse, but Leland doesn’t think it was worth risking her life. He also thinks they should have planned a much smaller wedding at the beach “something simple in the sand, jeans and sandals.”

T.K. says they’re having the big wedding for their families. Leland admits she’s the boss, as he pulls a garment bag with his rental tux from the front seat of Stephanie’s car. He thanks her for picking it up. She says she wants to check and make sure it’s right, but he’s sure it will be fine. “I rent from these guys all the time.”

“I can’t wait to see you in it,” T.K. gushes and then she gives him a great big smooch.

Stephanie drives off promising to “keep it under 100.”

At his apartment Monk makes a sandwich while still keeping a tight grip on the wedding ring, which really slows down the process. (Just a note: the counter is strewn with tomatoes, to which apparently Monk is no longer allergic.) Natalie suggests that a drawer would be a reliable place to keep the ring, but Monk prefers to hang on to it. She asks him about the bachelor party he’s planning. He tells her about it enthusiastically. “I’ve never seen you so excited,” she says. “It’s like he proposed to you.”

“I know,” he says, laughing. “That’s how I feel.”

That night Stottlemeyer and TK arrive at his place. He asks her to stay, but she says she has blenders to review. After a steamy good-night kiss she changes her mind. They go inside and when he turns on the lights she gasps. The apartment has been ransacked. Stottlemeyer pulls his gun and tells her to stay put, but whoever it was is long gone.

“Randy, what do we know about him?”
Well, we know he was flammable. That’s pretty much it.”

A week later, Natalie and Stephanie are at T.K. apartment working out seating arrangements for the reception. Stephanie calls dibs on an eligible doctor seating him at her table. T.K. calls out from another room that Natalie’s “bringing her own doctor.” Natalie happily supplies specifics. “Yes, Lt. Steven Albright. He’s in the Navy. He’s a medical officer.”

Look at you, Natalie, with your own little social life. A date with sailor boy. Well, I may be the only one, besides Natalie, but I’m delighted. Rumor has it that Casper Van Dien who played Albright in “Mr. Monk is Underwater”, will be putting in an appearance in the final episodes. It’s possible Natalie will be continuing her relationship with him after tapping on the brakes in his first episode. If her reaction here is any indication she’s happy about it.

T.K. comes out in her wedding dress to model it for them. Natalie’s alarm goes off. She has to go to the crime lab to meet Monk. T.K. wonders how she deals with all the “blood, the anger, the victims. How do you get use to it?”

“I’m not used to it. I hope I never am.”

T.K. tells her she’s been on edge since the break in the week before. She’s not sure she’s cut out to be a cop’s wife.

Stottlemeyer, Disher and Monk are at the crime lab. Monk still has the ring clutched in his fist. He’s futzing with a mixed flower arrangement for the reception, which, for some reason, Leland has in the lab with him. They still have not identified the remains of the burn victim. As Monk examines the unburned work boot, they discuss the bachelor party that night. He tells Randy it starts at 6:00pm. “Be there or be square.”

His examination of the boot reveals that the victim was tall and slightly bowlegged. He finds a cut thorn and some green Styrofoam embedded in the bottom. Randy offers to hold the ring for Monk who’s struggling to hold the boot at the same time. Stottlemeyer says he might not need the ring after all. T.K. is having second thoughts because of the break in. Monk has wandered back over to the floral arrangement. He picks it up and shows it to them. The flowers are embedded in green Styrofoam. He concludes that the victim was a florist.

A little later T.K. gets a threatening phone call advising her to “Tell your boyfriend I’ll be stopping by again.”

When Leland arrives seconds later she hugs him and tells him about the threat. He asks if she recognized the voice. She didn’t. It was being electronically filtered. She’s frightened so he says he’ll stay with her and skip the bachelor’s party that night. She tells him to go because it “means the world to Adrian.”

“A man walks into a bar with a duck on his head. There’s more….”

Not that anyone should be surprised, but…lamest bachelor party ever! Am I right?

Monk gets pizza with nothing on it, not even cheese. He asks that everyone use two coasters. Everyone gets their own personalized trash bags. He has about a dozen big macho cops sitting around his living room drinking out of little juice boxes. He also has a port-a-potty installed in the bathroom for the occasion and a lot of tacky kids’ party decorations. While Monk gets more refreshments Stottlemeyer and Disher discuss the call T.K. received. It was made from a phone booth on Vinton Street. There were no prints or witnesses.

Monk comes back with a small ice chest and continues with his version of a bachelor party. He announces that he wants to say a few words about “Leland Francis Stottlemeyer”. Apparently Monk inherited Kevin Dorfman’s joke box and picked out one to revise, resulting in a cross between a joke, a roast, and a social disaster. He mentions Leland’s first marriage was annulled after five days and that his second marriage ended after 20 years and that his last girlfriend was convicted of first degree murder. Leland’s a very good sport about it and laughs it off. “I need a drink,” he says, putting an end to the “joke”. (It was an informative “joke”, though. We did learn Stottlemeyer’s middle name is Francis and Karen wasn’t his first wife.)

Monk breaks out the booze, which turns out to be 12 bottles of beer. The party attendees groan in disappointment, but Leland also takes this in stride. He proposes that they have a designated drunk. Randy immediately volunteers for the job and grabs his first beer. Monk moves on to the movie portion of the evening. He gleefully pulls out a VHS tape and warns everyone that it’s R-rated. He tosses it to Stottlemeyer, who reads from the cover. “Bachelor Party: shocking, shameful, sinful and the party hasn’t even begun yet.”

Later as they watch the film, which Monk says is “off the hook” Leland calls it a night. Everyone else instantly gets up to leave, even though Monk tells them there will be a piñata. Randy comes in to the room more than a little drunk and asks “Who belongs to the Crown Vic out front?”

When he describes it as having “flames on the side and on the roof and on the windshield” they all rush outside to find Stottlemeyer’s car on fire.

“Your aura is a very dark place.”

The next day in the Captain’s office Disher and Stottlemeyer go through files to identify potential suspects. Stottlemeyer says T.K. is so freaked out they ended up staying at a motel where she wound up crying all night. He wants to know who’s ruining his life and why they’re playing a “cat and mouse” game with him. An officer brings in a file with a possible I.D. on the burn victim. Someone from a flower shop has reported a missing clerk. Stottlemeyer tells Randy to go check it out and take Monk with him.

Monk, Natalie and Disher all go to the Affinity Flower Shop in Pacific Heights. They’re welcomed by Joy, the hippy dippy shop owner (who doesn’t like the word “owner”). She’s the one who reported her clerk, Charlie Doyle, missing. Disher and Monk try to question her about Charlie, but she doesn’t know much about him. She doesn’t have a home address for him. She paid him under the table.

Joy also has trouble staying on topic. When she sees Natalie admiring a flower, she tells her that everyone has a floral soul mate. Natalie’s is a butterfly orchid. Disher’s is a crocus bud. Monk’s… that’s a tough one. She tries to read his aura to determine what his flower is, which involves a lot more touching than Monk is comfortable with. Randy tries to distract her from Monk by asking if she has any pictures of Charlie. She says he didn’t like to have his picture taken. “He’s a very private person. I respect that,” she says as she continues to invade Monk’s personal space in her quest for his floral soul mate.

She’s guesses thistle and cactus, but rejects them both. Monk slips away from her and examines Charlie’s workstation. He has Disher bag the pruning shears and rubber gloves to check for fingerprints. Joy hasn’t given up. “I found it,” she’s say proudly. “This is your flower.”

She holds up a pen with a plastic flower on top and hands it to him. He sniffs it. “I love it.”

Later that day everyone is gathered at the church for the wedding rehearsal. T.K. introduces her Aunt Nora (Barbara Brownell) and her cousin Curtis (Boo Arnold). Her father, who we soon learn is exactly the same height as Monk, is there, but she doesn’t introduce him. I suppose he and Leland have already met. Stottlemeyer presents his sons Max and Jared, who look very grown up now. They don’t get any lines.

Stephanie arrives and Curtis greets her. “Stephanie Briggs, you look younger than you did ten years ago. Did you make a deal with the devil?”

(That’s two.)

Out of earshot Monk and Natalie are arguing. He wants her to ask T.K.’s father to walk him down the aisle because they are exactly the same height. “Think how cool that would look,” he tells her.

She’s sure he’d rather walk his daughter down the aisle. Randy arrives with news for Monk. Ralph Toplyn at the FBI has identified their missing clerk. His name is Martin Kettering. He’s a fugitive from justice, who once belonged to the Earth Avengers, an eco-terrorist group that blew up condos in Denver and killed a few people in the process. He’s also their extra crispy corpse.

The priest (Michael Shalhoub) instructs everybody to get in place for the wedding rehearsal. Randy plays the Wedding March on a steel drum as everyone else walks down the aisle. Monk awkwardly walks along with Stephanie. She wonders aloud if T.K. will go through with the wedding. When they get to the altar Randy continues to play. They wait for him to finish. As he does a gift on a nearby table explodes, throwing Randy to the ground. Stottlemeyer rushes to him. “Hey! Hey, Randy, are you okay?”

He is. He gets to his feet and calls for back up. Stottlemeyer tells Monk to get everybody out. He looks around for T.K., but she’s already run out of the church, terrified. He chases after her, but she’s gone.

“We had eight years, but I would have married him for eight minutes.”

The next day, Natalie, Stephanie and T.K. are back at her apartment. She’s called off the wedding and tells Stephanie to sell her dress on eBay. Stephanie says she’ll put it in the closet and then go to the station to pick up Leland’s tux and return it. T.K. thinks everybody hates her for backing out of the marriage. She tells Natalie that Leland “offered to quit the force. He gave me his badge. I gave it back. It’s who he is. He’s a cop.”

Natalie agrees. “He bleeds blue.”

(Oh, no, Natalie, you did not just say that. I guess this week it was her turn to deliver the worst cliché of the episode… maybe even the whole season… maybe even the whole series. And it was just dripping with sincerity. Oy.)

T.K. thinks she and Stottlemeyer would end up resenting each other if he quit. “What kind of marriage is that?” she asks.

“From what I’ve seen, it’s pretty typical,” says Stephanie.

It’s clear Natalie is starting to get a little ticked off by Stephanie’s attitude. She offers to get drinks, but T. K. wants to remain sober. Stephanie tells T.K. that Leland is a great guy, but she made the right decision. Natalie disagrees. She tells T.K. about her husband Mitch, a Navy pilot shot down in 1998. She’s not sorry she married him. “There’s risk in everything,” she tells T.K. “That’s what life is.”

Monk and Stottlemeyer are in his office. Stottlemeyer asks for the ring back, but Monk’s not ready to give up yet. He thinks somehow everything will work out. “You love her. You need her. She’s your answer,” Monk tells him.

There’s a knock on the door. “Stephanie Briggs,” says Stottlemeyer.

(That’s three! She is so the guy.”)

Stephanie is there to pick up his tux. She asks if Leland is okay and tells them all the chores she has to do now that the wedding is canceled. Call the minister. Cancel the caterer. Take all the vases back to Affinity. (DOH! You think she would have left that one out.) Stottlemeyer asks her to have T.K call him. She kisses him and leaves.

“She’s the guy, Leland. She’s definitely the guy.”

Once she’s gone, everything starts to fall into place for Monk. Affinity. That’s where she got the flowers for the wedding. That’s where Kettering worked. Stephanie was arrested the night he was killed only a mile from the crime scene. They confront her outside the police station and ask her about the Earth Avengers and Martin Kettering. She tries to deny everything and when that doesn’t work she pulls a gun out of the garment bag and takes Monk hostage. Once a terrorist, always a terrorist.

She tells Leland to put his gun in the garbage can and for Monk to put his hands down and walk naturally as they go towards the parking lot. Monk can’t resist giving the summation even though she asks him not to. (“I already started. It’s very hard for me to stop.”) She killed Kettering because he recognized her in the flower shop as one of his old Earth Avenger pals. He tried to blackmail her. She lured him to the woods, shot him and lit him on fire. In her hurry to get away, she was stopped for speeding. She hid the murder weapon in the garment bag with Leland’s tux, thinking she could retrieve it later. When he got to it first, she ransacked his place looking for it. When that didn’t work she decided to scare T.K. into calling off the wedding so she could get the tux back. (I guess she figured he wouldn’t try it on or even look at it before the wedding day.) She tries to force Monk to get in the back seat of her car, but he resists. Stottlemeyer and Monk both assure her he can’t ride in the back. “What is your problem?” she asks. “This is a gun!”

T.K. arrives. Natalie’s little speech convinced her she really wants to marry Leland. He tells her to go home and Monk adds that, “He doesn’t want to talk to you right now. He hates your guts.”

She refuses to leave him. Stephanie points the gun at her and orders her into the car. Stottlemeyer calmly assures them the gun’s not loaded. Stephanie fires a shot into the air to prove it is. (Like nobody in the police station will rush out when they hear a shot.) Stottlemeyer tells her it’s empty now. The clip is in the garment bag. He pulls it out. There was only one bullet in the chamber. Monk grabs the gun from her. Stottlemeyer roughly pushes her against the car and cuffs her. He hands her off to Monk and takes T.K. into his arms. “Now are you going to marry me or not?” he asks.

“Absolutely!”

T.K. doesn’t seem too bent out of shape that her “sister” is being hauled off to prison for murder. I guess they weren’t that close. Maybe she was a second choice maid of honor.

(Rule #1: If you’re going to kill somebody, don’t break the speed limit. I guess that’s really the only rule Stephanie needed. That and don’t tell Monk where you bought the flowers. Oh, and pick up your shell casings. Didn’t she watch last week’s episode? She may have been the prettiest murderer, but she wasn’t the brightest.)

“I picked the right man”

The big ceremony is off. Leland gets his wedding at the beach after all, but he does wear the tux, not the jeans and sandals. Now it’s a small ceremony, with only her father, his sons, Randy, Monk and Natalie in attendance. Natalie is the default maid of honor and Randy is playing “The Wedding March” on his guitar. The wedding party stands inside a heart shaped arrangement of flowers as the priest reads the wedding vows. They pry the ring out of Monk’s hand. Leland says “I do” and puts the ring on T.K.’s finger. Before the priest can pronounce them man and wife she tells everyone she wants him to wear something else. She asks for his wallet, takes out his badge and pins it on his tux. They’re man and wife. He kisses the bride with gusto. They all walk away as Randy plays his guitar and the sun sets over the ocean.

They tried hard to keep this episode under wraps. Tony was especially cagey last month when he was asked about it: “A wedding takes place on the show. A man and a woman become wed. That’s about all I can give you.”

However, they slipped up in “Mr. Monk and Sharona” when they showed Stottlemeyer holding a picture of T.K. and clearly wearing a wedding ring. So it wasn’t a big surprise, but it was a nice gift. It’s also a little sad to see them wrap up Stottlemeyer’s future, because it brings us that much closer to the end.

Next Week: Mr. Monk and the Badge

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