Monk – Episode 8-15 Review

Tony Shalhoub and Melora Hardin
Tony Shalhoub and Melora Hardin

Spoilers are inevitable. Resistance is futile.

I won’t be sure how much I enjoyed “Mr. Monk and the End: Part I” until I see the second half this Friday, which I hope will finally wrap up all the series’ mysteries and relationships. However, I think it’s a promising beginning. The D.O.A. type story is emotionally effective and certainly brings in an element of suspense. I always find Monk entertaining, but a good explosion and a great chase scene really liven up the episode. The flashbacks and dream sequence set up the main action nicely. As usual it is Monk’s relationships and his process of moving on with his life that are at the heart of the episode.

Craig T. Nelson plays Judge Ethan Rickover. If he’s not the guy, I’ll eat my hat. I wasn’t the biggest Coach fan, even if I do have a soft spot in my heart for Jerry Van Dyke, but when Kazarinsky got the call from a shadowy figure who knew all about his partial thumb print, it looked and sounded exactly like Mr. Nelson to me. Unless there’s an unexpected twist, all that remains for “Part 2″ to settle is the why.

Melora Hardin returns as Trudy Monk, but with a much more substantial flashback role as well as her insubstantial ghostly presence in the here and now. Emmy Clarke, now a beautiful young woman, is back as the college-bound Julie Teeger and Hector Elizondo is also back as Dr. Bell.

Casper Van Dien reprises his role as Lt. Steven Albright, the young Navy doctor who piqued Natalie’s interest in the seventh season episode “Mr. Monk is Underwater”. Now she’s way past the piquing stage and well into the taking-him-grocery-shopping and inviting-him-to-dinner-with-her-daughter stage. Like the Stottlemeyer-T.K. romance this relationship seems to be moving at an extraordinarily fast clip. The only other clue, besides the first lip-lock, that they were headed down an amorous path was the brief mention in “Mr. Monk and the Best Man” that Natalie had invited him to the wedding. Not that I’m complaining. I’ll take my Casper Van Dien any way that I can get him.

Ed Begley Jr. also guests stars. I’m a fan of his and I admit that I’m a little disappointed that he didn’t get to stick around very long. Other guest stars include D.B. Woodside, who I remember best as the ultra cool principal on the final season of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and soap actress Mary Beth Evans (Day of Our Lives, General Hospital) in a brief appearance as Mrs. Rickover.

Making his fourth appearance on the show is Ed Fusco. He has a small role as the hazmat suited scientist who comments on Monk’s mouthwash. I don’t know what the story is with Ed, but he was in three previous episodes (“TV Star”, “Dentist” and “Up all Night”) in similarly small roles. According to IMDB he has no other credits. It’s a fairly unusual name, so I’m 80 to 90 percent sure they named Stottlemeyer’s murderous girlfriend Linda Fusco after this guy or someone related to this guy. If anyone out there has a clue let me know. I’m nosy and I’d like to know what the deal is.

Again I have no idea if Friday’s second half will ruin my enjoyment of “The End: Part I” or increase it. I can think of a few different scenarios I would find less than satisfying, but by and large Monk has never let me down and I don’t expect them to start now. I believe Tony Shalhoub when he says, “Even though these last two episodes are a little darker than what we normally do, I think it’s a good send-off.”

Not too dark, I trust.

“It’s really hard being married to a detective. I never get to have any secrets.”

The episode begins with a flashback to Monk’s apartment in December of ’97. It’s the morning of the day Trudy died. Adrian is singing, content and wearing a tie. It’s Monk as we’ve never seen him before: happy. Trudy (Melora Hardin) is there and it’s clear that she’s the reason. As they both get ready for the day, he kisses her under the mistletoe. Trudy asks him about his latest case: a missing midwife, Wendy Stroud. Trudy seems worried and distracted. Monk can tell something is wrong, but she tells him she’s just overwhelmed. Monk spots Trudy’s gift, which we first saw in “Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa” under the tree. Trudy nervously asks him not to open it. He puts it back and guesses it’s a digital watch. She hugs him. “I love you,” she says.

“I can’t imagine why,” he replies.

(I don’t want to be picky… but I guess I am. In “Secret Santa” Monk said that he found the gift after Trudy had died.)

Later Trudy goes to the garage where she’ll soon meet her fate. We see the six fingered hand of a man watching her. We already know this is her assassin, Frank Nunn, who appeared and was killed in “Mr. Monk is on the Run, Part 1″. She hears a sound and calls out “Is that you?”

Apparently she’s expecting someone, but she’s alarmed when no one answers. She begins to walk more quickly towards her car. When she sees a figure approaching behind her, she runs scrambling for her keys. She opens the door, gets in and starts her engine. The car explodes.

Meanwhile at the Palgrove Birthing Center, Monk and Stottlemeyer are on the job. They’re there to investigate the missing midwife Trudy took such keen interest in earlier. Dr. Nash (Ed Begley Jr.), who reported her missing, answers their questions. Monk is much more relaxed that we’re used to seeing him, but he still has his little quirks, like trying to straighten the rubber umbilical cord attached to a rubber baby. Stottlemeyer gets a phone call on a big clunky 1997 style cell phone (nice touch). It’s obvious that it’s the call. He struggles to breaks the news to Monk. “It’s Trudy.”

(Again just being picky… but Joe Christie, from “Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month”, was Monk’s partner at the time of Trudy’s death and he was with him when Monk received the news. At least so they said in that episode. But there’s no Joe here. Of course, Enrico Colantoni now has his own series filming in Canada, Flashpoint. So no doubt he was unavailable to reprise the role. That is, if they asked.)

“It’s time to say good-bye, Adrian.”

Back in the present day Monk is in bed when he has a vision/dream about Trudy. She tells him he’s alone and it’s okay to sleep in the middle of the bed. “I can’t,” he tells her.

She says it’s time to say goodbye. He doesn’t understand. “It won’t be much longer,” she assures him. He reaches for her, but she fades away.

Later that day Natalie and Monk chat as they walk to a crime scene she tells him about the dinner she’ll be having to introduce her boyfriend, Steven Albright, to her daughter Julie. He tells her about seeing Trudy. Natalie thinks that’s significant. “I had a premonition you were going to have an omen,” she tells him. (It makes my head hurt when Natalie says stuff like that.)

When Monk sees the building they’re headed for, he realizes it’s the same Birthing Center where he learned that Trudy had been blown up. Stottlemeyer is already there and he remembers it as well. “Pretty weird, huh?” he says.

He understands if Monk wants to withdraw from the case, but Monk says he’s okay. Stottlemeyer tells him, and shows him, that the murder victim is Dr. Nash, the man they spoke to 12 years before about the missing midwife. The body is on the floor surrounded by a pool of blood and scattered pill bottles. Off to the side Randy and Natalie have a conversation, or rather a non-conversation, about his recent vacation. Natalie sees a used plane ticket to Newark in his pocket and deduces that he’s been to New York. (I think I would deduce that he’s been to New Jersey to see his sweetie, Sharona.)

Monk thinks that Dr. Nash wasn’t murdered for drugs since all the pill bottles are accounted for. He thinks it was a professional hit. The killer used a silencer and he stuck around to use the doctor’s computer.

A little later the gang visits Judge Ethan Rickover (Craig T. Nelson), who is in his backyard with his wife (Mary Beth Evans) and friends celebrating his soon to be appointment to the State Supreme Court. His wife mentions that they have no intention of moving to Sacramento and it’s revealed that they’ve been in their present home for at least 14 years. The housekeeper (Ana Teresa Sosa) interrupts the festivities to announce them. The judge greets them all warmly and knows them by name, referring to Monk as “The remarkable Mr. Monk.” He shakes his hand and Monk immediately pulls out a wipe.

(In the background as the housekeeper announces them, you can see Lt. Disher is taking pictures of Stottlemeyer, Monk and Natalie. No emphasis or explanation is put on this. My interpretation is that Randy is taking pictures to remember them by.)

Stottlemeyer explains that they need him to sign a search warrant for the home of Joey Kazarinsky, a felon whose partial print they found at the scene of Dr. Nash’s murder. Rickover is also familiar with Joey and he’s not surprised that he’s a suspect. He signs the warrant and tells them the good news about his appointment.

Later Stottlemeyer, Disher and Monk head over to Kazarinsky’s place. Monk has given Natalie the rest of the day off to spend time with her boyfriend. Stottlemeyer has brought two cops with them who are tearing the place apart. Edie Kazarinsky (Shelly Cole) assures them that she and Joey are divorced and that she doesn’t know where he is. Monk is trying to pick up after the two cops, even though Stottlemeyer tells him it’s interfering with their intimidation tactics. The tactics prove unnecessary. Edie hopes they kill Joey. When they ask for a recent picture she fishes one out of the bottom of a bird cage for them.

Later, it’s a dark and stormy night when hit man Joey Kazarinsky (John Edward Lee) answers his cell phone by the light of a neon bar sign. It’s the man who hired him to kill Dr. Nash. The voice on the phone warns him that his partial finger print was found at the scene and that the police are after him. Joey says he’ll disappear, but first the man tells him he has another job for him. He wants him to kill Adrian Monk. He’s afraid Monk will put two and two together and when he does he’ll come after him and try to kill him. Joey wants to know why. “Because 12 years ago I killed his wife,” says the man.

(Well, personally, I think that’s kind of hard to misinterpret. I say he’s the guy.)

Later when it’s not so dark and stormy, we see Joey in a brightly lit, colorful supermarket fruit aisle. Natalie and Lt. Steven Albright (Casper Van Dien), in his nice white uniform, are there shopping. They have two carts: one for Natalie’s stuff and one for Mr. Monk’s. They chat about the dinner that night, including his taste in dressing and her taste in vegetables. By the time the conversation turns from flirting to smooching, Albright has left Monk’s cart further up the aisle. Joey swipes it while they’re not looking, but as soon as the smooching is over Natalie notices him walking away with it. She takes it back, but believes him when he says it was just a mistake.

That night Monk, Natalie, Julie and Albright gather for dinner. They discuss Trudy’s Christmas present and how Monk has never opened it. Julie thinks that’s romantic. “I think I understand,” Albright says and he does. “It’s a way of keeping her alive.”

They discuss Julie going away to college and Monk’s latest case, the murder at the birthing center. As he talks about it Monk begins to cough and then he sees a spot on his knife. He tries to rub it off. Natalie asks him to stop, but he sees another spot and another. “I’m seeing spots all over,” he tells them and he begins to groan in pain.

They rush to his side and Albright checks his temperature. He’s burning up. Albright recommends they take him to the hospital right away.

“I wish more people would wipe their hands like that. We’d have a lot fewer patients.”

At the hospital with Natalie and Albright, Monk is afraid when a nurse (Sarah Rush) tries to take his blood. He tells them he feels much better, but he obviously does not. Natalie and Albright try to hold him down so she can take the blood, but he struggles. The nurse calls for back up. About 20 staff members join them and finally succeed in holding him down long enough to get the blood sample. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” the nurse asks.

“Piece of cake.” Monk replies.

A little later Doctor Matthew Shuler (D.B. Woodside), the best toxicologist in the country and the only one in the hospital, arrives with bad news… just bad news. Monk has been poisoned. Natalie is afraid that her cooking may be the cause, but the Doctor assures them it’s not food poisoning. It’s a synthetic toxin and Monk has been given a potentially lethal dose. “Somebody is trying to kill you,” Dr. Shuler tells Monk. “And they may have succeeded.”

Unless they can identify the specific toxin Monk will die. Later a hazmat team searches his apartment for the toxin, while Natalie, Stottlemeyer, Disher and Monk wait for news. Monk is already pessimistic by the time the doctor reaches them with more bad news. They’ve found nothing yet. He gives Monk three days, at the most, to live and advises him that he’ll feel normal for awhile, but then comes vomiting and death. Monk would rather skip the vomiting step altogether.

As they’re discussing Monk’s impending death, Natalie recognizes a photo in the paper that Stottlemeyer is holding. He tells her it’s Joey Kazarinsky, the suspect in Dr. Nash’s murder. She says it’s the man who took Monk’s cart at the supermarket. They all figure he’s the one who poisoned Monk with something in the basket. The doctor says he’ll test everything, but Monk is quickly running out of time.

“Oh, your computer crashed.”

Stottlemeyer organizes an unofficial task force to find Kazarinsky. He tells everyone they think that Joey shot Dr. Nash and poisoned Monk. He tells them all no guns. They want to take him alive. “If he dies, Monk dies,” Stottlemeyer reminds them.

At home Monk takes a pain pill that Natalie brings him. Even in his deteriorating condition, he remains Monkish, taking the pill apart and separating the different colored tiny capsules inside, before swallowing them. Natalie tries to comfort him. “They’ll find him,” she says and lays her head on his shoulder.

Back at the station Stottlemeyer interrogates a young punk, Ronnie (Mario D. Donato), who was seen selling a fake ID to Kazarinsky. The Captain wants to know what name Joey is using now. Ronnie scoffs at him and he roughs him up a little. Ronnie is still not intimidated, reminding Stottlemeyer that there aren’t phone books to beat suspects with anymore. Everyone uses computers. The Captain agrees and he looks at a computer on the table. Moments later he emerges from the interrogation room and he tells Randy he’s got a name as he hands him the broken computer.

Having learned that Joey bought a train ticket under his assumed name, the cops converge on the station, all dressed for undercover work. While they’re shooting the breeze waiting for Kazarinsky to show up, Disher casually mentions that “I’m going to miss all this.”

Stottlemeyer asks him if he’s going somewhere, but Disher just says, “I can’t do this forever.”

Joey train arrives, but no Joey (we see him spot the undercover cops and duck out) and no announcement of the train’s arrival. Stottlemeyer and Disher figure something has happened to the controller in the tower. Disher runs up to check it out and finds the controller brutally murdered and blood splattered around the room. He describes the scene to Stottlemeyer unaware that the announcer’s microphone is still on. Stottlemeyer tell him to turn it off and although he thinks he has after pushing a few buttons, it remains on. The entire station hears his warning that an armed and homicidal man is loose in the station. Panic ensues.

In the fray, Stottlemeyer sees Kazarinsky and chases after him. They run through the station, fighting through the crowds, and then into the train yard and on to the tracks. After jumping from train to train in pursuit the Captain stops winded and he sees Joey ahead in the middle of the tracks. He tries to warn him, but it’s too late. A speeding train runs Joey down. Stottlemeyer rushes to the body, perhaps hoping for some last words. Disher joins him. Joey is very dead.

“He was hit by a train. He probably said, ‘Train.'”

Later Adrian is having what he thinks is his last session with Dr. Bell. He tells him that in the search of Kazarinsky’s home they found chemicals, but nothing they can readily identify as the toxin. It will take weeks to test it all. Monk has given up hope. “There isn’t enough time.” He laments the time he’s wasted in his life and that he’s never been able to solve Trudy’s murder. “My time is up,” he tells the Doctor. “Get it?”

Things aren’t much brighter in Stottlemeyer’s office. Randy enters and gives him the bad news from the lab: “He’s not going to make it.”

Stottlemeyer pulls out a bottle of whiskey and two glasses. He doesn’t care if he gets fired. He pours one for himself and one for Randy. He gives Monk a moving tribute as they drink. “I had him all wrong,” he tells Randy. “I know that now. I’d always thought that Monk was not all there, like there was something missing, like he was less than human. But he wasn’t missing anything. He was seeing more than anybody. He was feeling more than anybody. That was his problem. He was too human. If we had more like him we’d be better off.”

Natalie takes Monk to the cemetery to say good-bye to Trudy one last time. He puts his hand on her headstone and simply says, “I love you.”

Natalie wonders why he doesn’t want to say more. “I can tell her myself tomorrow,” he says.

Later back at his apartment Natalie hangs up the phone and tells Monk that Dr. Shuler says he should be in hospital. He refuses. Natalie asks if she can get him anything. He wants Trudy’s gift.
He wants to open it. “No, Mr. Monk. No.” Natalie cries.

He tells her it’s time. She brings it. He unwraps it and finds a small video cassette. They play it. Trudy appears on the screen. “If you’re watching this it means I’m dead,” she says. She has a secret she never told him. “Something happened. Something terrible….”

To be continued….

So now, in true cliffhanger fashion, we have to wait until Friday to find out what happens. What’s Trudy terrible secret? Will Monk succumb to the deadly Toxin? Is Judge Rickover really the guy?

Tune in next week for “Mr. Monk and the End: Part 2″ and find out.

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