Monk – Episode 8-16 Review

Alona Tal and Tony Shalhoub
Alona Tal and Tony Shalhoub

Spoilers as usual, but I promise this is the last time.

The time for us to say goodbye is near
The day I hoped would never come is here
Though many hearts are broken we must somehow carry on
Cause I think you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

I thought my life was over when we met
So little to remember, so much to forget
Though it was you who saw me through the darkness to the dawn
Still I think you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone

I’m a modest man
And it hurts me to say these things to you
After all we’ve been through it’s the least that I can do
So instead of just goodbye I’ll say so long
And as for the light by which you see me leave it on

I’m a better man than I was before
knowing you has made me strong
and I sure am going to miss you when I’m gone
Yes, I sure am going to miss you when I’m gone

–Randy Newman
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“Case Closed. I like the sound of that.”

I don’t. It’s only been two days and I’m already going through Monk withdrawal pains. “Mr. Monk and the End, Part II” may not mark his final case, but it is the last one we’ll ever see, unless my prayers for future Monk movies are miraculously answered. (Well, maybe not miraculously. They left themselves pretty well positioned for it.) The finale does provide some closure and some beautiful moments to hang on to through the bleak, Monk-less immediate future. Despite a few problems, I think it was a perfect ending: not flawless, just perfect for Monk and true to its nature.

Okay, maybe it is a little heavy on the sentimentality and a little light on the continuity. I also think some fans may have been expecting a more epic ending with Trudy’s murder being part of some larger conspiracy, because of an article she worked on, or something of that nature. In fact they may have been expecting that because of the elaborate “Trudy’s Case File” and the “Trudy Theory Board” features on the USA Network site, which included a bunch of “clues” that had no bearing whatsoever on the ultimate outcome on screen. It was just one big, red, waste-of-time herring. Of course, nothing in any of the previous episodes (except “The End, Part I” and the “Judge” revelation in “Mr. Monk is on the Run, Part II”) provided clues either.

As it turns out there really wasn’t much to piece together and there wasn’t anything particularly unbelievable as promised in the USA promos. (Do they even give those guys copies of the episode in advance?) The murders on Monk have always been more personal and, let’s face it, pretty simple. They don’t really have serial killers or political assassinations or conspiracies. It almost always comes down to one on one human interactions (involving adultery, revenge, greed) gone awry and it turns out Trudy was no exception. The tragedy and irony is that had Monk been able to see his late wife as less than perfect and had he been able to let her go he could have “solved” her murder years ago. I think it is was necessary, to conclude the series and push Monk forward, that Trudy be pushed off the pedestal that Monk has kept her on since her death.

Almost all the guest stars on this week’s episode are reprising their roles from last week. Craig T. Nelson is back as the big bad judge. He’s not the most charismatic killer they’ve ever had on. (Somehow I hoped to hate him more). He’s more like the ordinary adulterous sleazebags in past episodes, but with a little more power. One wonders how Trudy could have been attracted to such different types of men.

Melora Hardin returns as the perfectly imperfect Trudy. D.B. Woodside and Sarah Rush are also back as Monk’s doctor and nurse respectively. Mary Beth Evans as Mrs. Rickover only appears in a quick flashback. I guess we’ll never find out how she felt about what a monster her husband was. Virgina Madsen as Mrs. Stottlemeyer doesn’t get any lines, but she does get to kiss Ted Levine in the montage so I’m sure she didn’t feel too slighted. Casper Van Dien is back as Natalie’s sailor/doctor/boyfriend, Lt. Steven Albright. He doesn’t have a whole lot to say or do, but I like having him around. I think Natalie feels the same way.

The new guest star for the week is Alona Tal as (here’s the big spoiler) Trudy’s long lost daughter Molly. It’s not an easy role to sell in the less than twenty minutes that they give her to insinuate the character into Monk’s life. Her resemblance to Melora Hardin’s Trudy doesn’t hurt. I know Alona best from her role as Meg on Veronica Mars. I liked her very much in that, but I think I like her more here. And, yes, I like the concept of the character: a part of Trudy that lives on for Monk to love. So maybe Monk bonded a little too easily and little too much. He has to have something to discuss in his therapy sessions with Dr. Bell (Hector Elizondo).

Last, but not least Michael Coleman makes his fifth and final appearance as an unnamed police officer. He’s the one who tells Monk to “drop it” in the rainy confrontation scene in Rickover’s back yard. As usual the regular and guest cast performances were uniformly solid. Also as usual, Tony Shalhoub was Emmy worthy. Ted Levine was as well, but they never give him any awards. Go figure.

Although overall I was satisfied with the finale, there’s one big continuity gaffe that’s hard to get past. In the season five episode “Mr. Monk and the Reunion” it’s established that Trudy and Adrian met at Berkeley before he graduated in 1981. Her statement in the video that she gave birth to her daughter in 1983 before they met just doesn’t gibe with the earlier episode.

I don’t think they (specifically co-creator Andy Breckman who wrote the final episode) simply overlooked the timeline. An original section of the script leaked on line describes Molly as being about 30 years old, which would have fit into the established timeline perfectly: for whatever reason it was changed. It could have been because Alona Tal was born in 1983 or perhaps because the thought of a teen-aged Trudy having an affair and a baby just seemed a bit too tawdry. On the other hand, “Reunion” also changed the continuity for the series. Originally, in season two’s “Mr. Monk and the Ball Game”, Monk said Trudy fell in love with him “when I was a detective, on the street, breaking cases” not in college. Maybe they just decided to go with that.

Of course, since this was the second half of the two parter, they began with a “Previously on Monk” announcement (made by Jason Gray-Standford) and went on to a quick recap of pertinent moments about Trudy’s murder and Monk’s poisoning from last week, as well as pulling in a scene from the pilot episode of Monk standing in the garage where Trudy was killed and lamenting: “I can’t see it and why can’t I see it?”

“I think you’re too close to it, Monk,” Sharona tells him.

She got that right.

“Mr. Monk, you have to push play. It’s been over two hours.”

(I’m pretty sure Monk spent those two hours kicking himself for not opening the gift sooner.)

Monk and Natalie continue watching Trudy’s video. Trudy (Melora Hardin) explains that 15 years before she had an affair and a child. With each revelation Monk stops the tape to adjust his mental image of Trudy and agonize over the adjustment. Trudy says the baby died immediately after birth and that the father was Ethan Rickover. Monk immediately gets an “I’m-going-to-kill-that-guy” look on his face. Trudy continues. The missing mid-wife, Wendy Stroud, delivered the baby. Now Rickover has called and wants to meet with her. She’s got a bad feeling about it, so she’s making the tape in case something bad happens.

If she hadn’t kept the appointment with Rickover, the six-fingered man would probably have blown her up at some other location, but one has to wonder why she agreed to meet him? If she thought he might possibly hurt or kill her or if she thought he might possibly have hurt or killed Wendy Stroud, shouldn’t she have made more of an effort to protect herself? Maybe she was curious about what he had to say, but she could have left a message with her boss. She wouldn’t want to discuss the whole thing with Adrian, but she could have mentioned she was meeting with Rickover without telling him the specifics. Well, I guess that was the last mistake she ever made. Not only was she not as angelic as Monk remembers her, she wasn’t that smart. “You are more than the love of my life,” she tells him in conclusion. “You are my life.”

So that’s it. Rickover killed Trudy. I think there has been lots of speculation that the gift might contain a clue to her murder since it was introduced in the season four episode “Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa”. As it turns out, it’s not just a clue, it’s the answer. Monk doesn’t actually get to solve the case. In fact he’s just been getting in his own way all this time. Had he not been so desperately trying to hang on to her he could have found her killer long ago. “That thing has been on my bookshelf this whole time. I’ve been looking at it for 12 years.”

It’s bitter. It’s tragic. It’s ironic and somehow it’s a little less satisfying then if it had done it himself. It does, however, make sense. He was never going to solve it. He was too close. She had to give it to him gift-wrapped.

Despite his failing health, Monk immediately goes to confront Judge Ethan Rickover (Craig T. Nelson) at his State Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Rickover is noticeably unnerved when he sees Monk in the hearing room. He asks for a recess and goes over to greet Monk and express concern about his health. When Monk drops a wipe, Rickover picks it up with a pen and gives it back to him. Monk doesn’t mince words. He accuses Rickover of killing Trudy and Wendy Stroud. He tells him that Trudy made a tape. Rickover takes that in stride. He says he remembers her, that she claimed to be pregnant and that she was unstable. “Apparently you had a lot in common,” he tells Monk.

For only the second time I can remember (the first being “Mr. Monk is on the Air”), Monk opens a can of whup-azz. He jumps on Rickover and begins to pummel him. He does a pretty good job of it to considering he’s been “fatally” poisoned. That was pretty satisfying. Security guards drag him from the hearing room as Natalie runs after them.

“I promise. Yes, I’ll do it. There won’t be a trail.”

They take Monk to the hospital. Randy talks to someone on the phone in the hallway about Monk’s condition and concludes with an “I love you” which Stottlemeyer overhears. Disher gives him an unnecessary and lame explanation that’s just convoluted enough to make the Captain lose interest. They talk to Monk’s doctor (D.B. Woodside) who tells them his vital signs have actually improved. Stottlemeyer attributes this to the “hatred.”

They go in to see Monk, whose chipper Nurse, Judy (Sarah Rush) advises them not to get Monk excited as she leaves. Stottlemeyer tells him he’s been charged with assault and that they’ve been investigating Rickover. They found that the birthing center doctor, Nash, had been making calls to Rickover. They figure it was blackmail and that Rickover had him killed. Disher hands Monk the file. Stottlemeyer asks Monk how it feels. “Just the air, the air that I’m breathing…. I hate the thought that he’s breathing the same air.”

The Captain assures him they’re going to get Rickover, but it’s not enough for Monk. “Kill him,” he tells Stottlemeyer. “Promise me.”

He can’t say no to Monk in his condition. He promises to do it, but Monk can see it in his eyes. “You’re lying.”

Back at Monk’s apartment, Natalie and her new “sweetie” Albright are packing up some of Monk’s things to take to the hospital. As Natalie puts items in the suitcase she rubs them down with one of Monk’s hand wipes. She’s glad that “at least he’ll die knowing” who killed Trudy.

Later at the hospital, Monk is going over Rickover’s file. He thinks he’s missing something. Nurse Judy advises him that he shouldn’t be agitating himself. He should be resting. “I’m sure whatever it is can wait,” she says.

Until when? He’s supposed to be dead already. He tells her Rickover killed three people to cover up an affair. She doesn’t think that’s much of a reason. He agrees. He thinks there’s more to it. She hands Monk a little cup with sleeping pills. He sets it aside. He remembers that Mrs. Rickover said the judge would never move. He gazes at a picture of the judge in a news article. He’s standing next to a sundial under a tree.

As Natalie finishes packing up for Monk, she starts to get pains and see spots, just like Monk did when he was first poisoned. Albright examines her. “I don’t understand. You haven’t eaten a thing,” he says.

(Well, I guess Natalie won’t have to worry about Sailor-boy thinking outside the box, will she?) She throws down the wipe she’s holding in her hand as she remembers how the judge used a pen to pick up Monk’s wipe in the hearing room. “Oh God, it was in the wipes,” she tells him.

He admits they were only looking for the poison in the food, as if Monk has had more exposure to food than he has to cleaning agents in general or wipes in particular. He assures her that now that they know where the poison is they can have an antidote in two hours. (No, there are no “ricin-based” poisons that work that way in real life. Don’t bother looking it up. I already did.) As Natalie writhes in pain she insists Albright call Monk to tell him the good news. He tries, but Monk’s not there. He’s drugged the cop guarding him, Kenny, and left the hospital. (How lame do you have to be to let a man who’s on death’s door get the better of you?) Apparently adrenalin alone is doing wonders for Monk.

At the police station, Stottlemeyer is leaving to see Monk at the hospital. He passes a cop in the hallway dressed in rain gear, whose face is in the shadows and asks him if it’s still raining. “It’s really coming down,” the cop tells him.

I don’t know for certain if that was Tony Shalhoub as the cop, but that was sure Tony Shalhoub’s voice. I’m not sure if they meant that as some sort of in-joke or if they had to dub over the line for some reason and Tony was the only available to do the voice over or what. I’ll have to investigate further.

Stottlemeyer runs in to Randy in the hall. Randy has good news and bad news. The good news is they found out the poison was in the wipes and Monk can be cured. The bad news is he’s escaped from the hospital. Stottlemeyer has a pretty good idea where Monk might have gone.

Monk is in the judge’s yard, hacking up a lung, as he waits for him in the pouring rain. Rickover arrives to find Monk with a gun, a shovel and a vendetta. Monk tosses the shovel to him and points the gun at him, as he yells at him to pick it up. “Are you going to kill a federal judge,” Rickover asks.

“Tonight I’m the judge,” Monk tells him.

(That was satisfying, too.)

“Guess we got a siren.”

Disher drives to the judge’s house as Stottlemeyer advises him to step on it. It’s not an actual car chase per se, but Randy does get to drive really fast and on the sidewalk, all without the benefit or a siren, which he thinks he may have sold.

Back in Rickover’s yard, Monk orders him to dig next to the sundial. He may not have been able to solve Trudy’s murder but he has solved the mystery of the missing mid-wife, Wendy Stroud, and he knows where the body is buried. He noticed that the sun dial in the picture with the judge was under the tree. Why would a sun dial be in the shade? Monk concludes that that’s where Wendy is. (I’m still not clear on the purpose of the sun dial. Was it so he wouldn’t forget where he’d buried it, so he could dig it up if necessary? Or was it so stray dogs or raccoons wouldn’t accidentally do so?)

Disher and Stottlemeyer are still racing to the scene where Rickover has already dug a pretty deep hole and other cops have been called in (perhaps by Mrs. Rickover?).They’ve got their guns drawn and pointed at Monk, who is still insisting that the judge keep digging. “I’m going to bring up a sore subject here,” says Rickover. “I don’t want you to overreact, but Trudy and I used to talk about capital punishment all the time and she never believed in it.”

He’s got gall anyway. Maybe that’s what Trudy admired. For some reason, that line struck me as extremely funny. It doesn’t strike Monk that way. He threatens to shoot Rickover if he mentions her again. Stottlemeyer and Disher arrive. The Captain tries to diffuse the situation and tells Monk they’ve found a cure for the poison. As he talks they hear the sound of the shovel hitting bone. Monk tells them it’s Wendy Stroud. Disher continues the digging and finds Wendy’s skull. Monk does the summation and tells them all why Rickover killed Wendy and Trudy, but I guess he’s far too sick or incensed to do it in black and white. He’s furious that Rickover murdered Trudy over a job. (To be fair, I think Rickover murdered Wendy over a job. He murdered Trudy because she could connect him to Wendy. If she had lived she would have. She was already suspicious about Wendy’s disappearance.) Monk has a coughing fit and sets the gun down on the sundial. Rickover grabs it and points it at his own head. “You take care of her,” he yells before shooting himself.

I admit it would have been a little more satisfying if Disher had shot him (although Randy is distressed enough as it is by the suicide) and it does seem like Rickover is taking the “easy” way out, but it was really the only way to work in the “you take care of her” angle. Of course that line raises an interesting question that wasn’t addressed in the show. Does that mean that Rickover has in some way been taking care of Molly all these years?

Later a now physically healthy Monk has a session with Dr. Bell. He confesses that although he should feel at peace he’s feeling empty and he’s bothered by Rickover’s last words. Dr. Bell advises him to forget about it and embrace the great or not so great unknown.

Sometime in the future at his apartment Monk and Natalie are boxing up all of his Trudy files. He already seems more relaxed. His top button is undone and it stays undone for the rest of the episode. He finds a 1997 article about the then missing mid-wife, Wendy Stroud. The article says that she rescued an abandoned newborn fifteen years before. It doesn’t take Monk long to figure out the newborn was the baby Trudy thought had died and that Rickover was referring to her when he said “You take care of her.”

“Trudy sent you a gift. She sent you someone to love.”

Monk and Natalie are in the Captain’s office. He’s on the phone getting information about Trudy’s long lost daughter. They’ve found her, which I think would involve disregarding a number of adoption laws. Her name is Molly Evans. Not coincidentally I’m sure, Molly is the name of writer Andy Breckman’s daughter and Evan is his son’s name. Her adoptive parents are Andrew and Beth. Of course Andrew is Andy’s name and Beth is his real life wife.

Molly is unmarried, writes movie reviews for the Chronicle and lives in Monterey County, which is not twenty minutes away from San Francisco. (Try two hours away.) She wants to meet him, but Monk is nervous about it. He thinks she may not like him. He says he likes things the way they are. “No, you don’t,” Stottlemeyer reminds him.

Natalie encourages him to go and meet her. Apparently she convinces him, because next thing you know he’s outside of The East Bay Chronicle building waiting for Molly (Alona Tal). Not surprisingly, since she bears a striking resemblance to Trudy, he recognizes her as she comes out of the building and approaches him. “Molly?” he says as he cries and hugs her.

“It’s okay,” she tells him and they hug again.

They make an instant connection and it is a credit to both actors that it just seems sweet and touching and not in the least bit creepy like it might be in real life.

600 pictures and three days later, Monk is in the squad room telling his friends all about Molly as he passes the photos around. He feels like he’s known her forever. He shows them a picture of her parents Andy and Beth and comments that Andy is “a little overweight.” That’s Andy Breckman throwing in a little self-deprecating humor.

“And guess what else? You know the internet? She’s on it,” he tells them. She has a blog: (If you think I didn’t go there, you’re wrong. Of course I did. It’s a site with the Monk DVD for sales. Clever.) As Randy writes down the web address Leland sees a letter in his pocket with his name on it. He snatches it from him and reads it. It’s a letter of resignation. Randy has a new job. “You’re looking at the new Police Chief of Summit, New Jersey.” Stottlemeyer tells them.

I was LOLing out loud. Summit is the Jersey city where Andy Breckman and the rest of the writing staff plied their trade for the last eight years. (It also lent its name to Monk’s post fifth season favorite drinking water, Summit Creek.) Suggesting that Randy Disher would be a suitable police chief for Summit is a little more of that self-deprecating humor. Still, even if it is a joke, I’m happy for Randy and he looks stunning in his new uniform. Stottlemeyer wonders why New Jersey, but Natalie doesn’t and neither do I: “Sharona.” He and Sharona have got a place and they’re moving in together. I agree with Stottlemeyer. “It’s perfect.”

Later Monk is with Molly on the beach at sunset still taking pictures. She objects good-naturedly and is clearly quite fond of him. She tells him she’s leaving town for a couple of weeks to go to the Toronto Film Festival. He thinks about that for a second and says he’ll go with her. She asks him why he doesn’t have to work. He says he’s retired. “Since when?” she asks.

“Since you. Since me. Since us.”

Okay, that’s veering into the creepy. She gently sets some boundaries. She reminds him she’s grown up and he can’t quit for her. “There’s lots of other Trudy’s out there and you’re obligated to help them. You have a gift…. Maybe that’s why I’m here, to remind you.”

“That’s exactly what your Mother used to say,” he tells her.

She asks him what she was like. (It is a little hard to believe he hasn’t told her everything about Trudy by now.) He tells her that Trudy snored. I think that’s a sign of progress for him, that he can now see Trudy in a realistic light and still love her just as much.

“They found another body on West Vinton Street.”

Monk’s alarm clock goes off and he wakes up in the middle of his bed, just as Trudy advised him the last time she made a subconscious visit. Later he greets Natalie in the kitchen, He’s wearing a characteristically brown, but very uncharacteristically button free, pullover shirt. Natalie invites him to dinner with her and Steven, but he turns her down. He’s going to the movies with Molly. Natalie tears up a little. She’s delighted he’s doing something so normal. “What are you going to see,” she asks.

“I don’t know,” he says. “Whatever‘s in theater 10.”

She laughs. “That’s the Adrian Monk we know and love.”

The phone rings. It’s a new case… on Vinton Street. Vinton Street probably qualifies as the longest running running joke on Monk. Approximately every third murder seems to take place at an address on Vinton Street. In fact Andy Breckman noted in an interview earlier this week that “Crimes on Vinton Street will be going down 100 percent.”

They once again look back to the pilot episode, as Monk checks his stove to make sure it’s off. “That’s a good idea,” say Natalie. “You don’t want to get all the way downtown and not be sure.”

“That actually happened to me once.”

For the ending montage, which I loved, they open with the stove scene from the pilot and include some of the most memorable scenes. I know I’m weird, but it was the Kevin Dorfman clip that really got to me. They also include a new clip of Randy Disher starting his job in Summit, with a picture of Sharona on his desk, and Sottlemeyer kissing his new wife. They conclude with Monk and Natalie’s arrival at a crime scene. Monk appears relaxed and at ease. He’s finally found a little peace. The montage is accompanied by the new Randy Newman song, “When I’m Gone” written especially for the episode. I’m going to predict right now that the song will be nominated for an Emmy… and win.

“All I can say is we worked hard to end the show on exactly the right note and to satisfy everyone. And I think we’ve come close,” says Andy. “As a writer, it was the biggest challenge of my life, and I did my best for you.”

Well, I was satisfied mostly, but now I’m bereft. Satisfied and bereft. I’ve just got two words: Monk movies.

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