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"Mr. Monk Gets Lotto Fever" is the third episode of the seventh season of Monk, and the 96th episode overall.
After a television lottery hostess is killed, Natalie takes the dead woman's job and Monk tracks down the killer. But trouble strikes when Natalie is accused of rigging the lottery machine, and she comes crawling back to Monk.
At a city TV station, a lottery hostess, Marissa Kessler, draws the numbers for the Monday night drawing of the Gold Rush Lottery, and then signs off for the night. The scene immediately cuts to Marissa being chased out of the studio by a shadowy assailant. She attempts to escape by getting in her car, but before she can pull away, the guy shatters the window and she is forced to run. She carefully scales a fence, but the assailant grabs and lethally stabs her multiple times while the camera settles on a promotional illuminated display of Marissa a few feet away.
The next morning, Adrian Monk, Natalie Teeger, Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher are examining the crime scene. Monk notices a few interesting clues, including the fact that the killer took the victim's purse and jewelry to make it look like a robbery gone wrong. He also realizes the attack had to be spur of the moment and unplanned: the pattern of the stab wounds indicates that she was stabbed three times (twice in the back and once in the neck) with a pair of scissors. Noting a mud puddle near the building exit and mud splatter on the victim's leg, Monk figures that Marissa must have been running when she left the building, meaning the events leading up to the murder must have started inside the studio. Stottlemeyer asks for someone to find the station manager and get an employee list. Meanwhile, Monk finds some titanium black metallic paint on Marissa's fingertips.
An enthusiastic patrol cop at the crime scene asks Monk for an autograph, and Monk signs it by using Natalie's back as a writing desk. Elsewhere, Stottlemeyer catches Disher writing down a zinger in his notebook, which says "It looks like her number came up." When the officer who asked Monk for an autograph happens to say the same thing, Randy throws his notebook at him, but Stottlemeyer drags Randy away to keep him from doing anything ugly.
Meanwhile, Stan Lawrence, the TV station manager, hands a copy of the employee list to Natalie. Natalie learns that Marissa only had worked with the station for a few weeks, and Lawrence figures he should have put more lights up around the parking lot Natalie reassures him that lights were not the matter. He mistakes her as someone in authority until she mentions that she works for Monk. Noting that she seems like a natural at acting, Lawrence asks Natalie if she'd like to do the Wednesday night drawing while they try to find a replacement lottery hostess. Natalie agrees, and Monk, dumbstruck, agrees to this.
The following night, Monk, Stottlemeyer and Disher are seen watching as Natalie prepares for her television debut. She has been fitted out in a new dress. She is also very nervous, wondering if she needs a script, but Billy Logan, the sound engineer, tells her that she doesn't need a script, as they'd all be rich if this were scripted (muttering about "amateurs" to himself). Lawrence hands Stottlemeyer some of Marissa's fan mail, and mentions that he put some of the more intriguing mail on top.
Billy calls for complete silence as the draw begins. Natalie faces the cameras, and after a slight mistake (not pressing the button to activate the ball machine until Billy hisses the direction to her), she continues the draw perfectly, even making quips about the numbers as they come up, and signing off by saying "You'll thank me later!" to flatter Monk. Stottlemeyer comments that he might as well be flushing 20 bucks down the toilet every week, and he and Disher leave. Lawrence is so impressed by Natalie's performance that he offers her the night job as a full time job. Cash-strapped, Natalie just cannot refuse.
About a week later, we see Natalie's image on a city bus ad-wrap as Monk and Natalie make their way down a busy street. Natalie visibly hates the image of herself on the buses, preferring other advertisement wraps. She even goes so far as to try wiping a smudge off her image's cheek, but Monk reminds her that they've got the Marissa Kessler homicide investigation to work. Natalie backs off, and they continue up the street. Currently, they're on their way to an apartment where Stottlemeyer and Disher are talking to a possible suspect. As they walk down the street, Monk is increasingly agitated as he tries to keep Natalie from slipping into lottery mode whenever he mentions a number in routine conversation. Natalie also has a hard time paying attention to the case, as she mistakes the suspect for Marissa's ex-boyfriend, forcing Monk, exasperated, to remind her that the ex-boyfriend's alibi checked out, but then he remembers that she wasn't at the meeting that morning (Natalie insists that she had to shop for a new dress for the drawings).
As they get to the corner, a cabbie happens to recognize Natalie, and two passersby also spot her. Natalie signs an autograph for the couple by using Monk's back as a support.
Upstairs, Stottlemeyer and Disher are in a studio apartment questioning Malcolm O'Dwyer, a lottery fanatic who wrote a bunch of fan letters to Marissa before she was killed. He admits that he did write the letters and that he was mostly sending some constructive criticism. It's clear that he is a know-it-all about the lottery, as he has plastered photos of all the past and current lottery hostesses up through Natalie on his walls. He also has an unusual algorithim for how he picks numbers during the drawings, which he says is based on number patterns and the theories of Sir Isaac Newton. When Malcolm mentions that he only buys one ticket every week, Stottlemeyer is humiliated into admitting that he buys a total of 20 to increase his odds. Seeing Malcolm as a dead end, Stottlemeyer and Disher leave the apartment, running into Monk, who has finally managed to come upstairs. Stottlemeyer notes to Monk that he is obviously very jealous of Natalie getting all the attention now, with him being the Art Garfunkel and her being Paul Simon.
That night, Natalie announces that the next draw will have a $212 million jackpot, and then signs off. She is becoming a bit of a diva at the studio. She berates a director who doesn't cue the music correctly. She also asks Lawrence if he's considered her idea of her reading a few fan letters on the air, but Lawrence reminds her that the show is about the numbers and not about her. Natalie crosses back to her dressing table and trips on some wires. While most people would normally dismiss this as nothing, she instead goes full drama queen on Billy Logan. Billy insists that the cables have to be where they are, as they carry Natalie's voice from the microphone to the sound board. He refuses to move the cables, and Natalie attempts to move them herself, leading to another small scuffle, which Lawrence breaks up. When Billy (who has a bad temper) inadvertently calls Natalie a moron, Lawrence promptly fires him on the spot and has security come to remove him from the building. He also has Billy's security pass and keys confiscated.
The next day, during Monk's session with Dr. Bell, Monk admits that he is getting increasingly annoyed by Natalie getting all the attention, to the point that he mocks her lottery voice. Dr. Bell confides that he once wrote a book about body language that spent all of three minutes on the bestsellers' list, and how he became a bit of a diva after that. He also mentions that a person can get thrown off balance when they suddenly become the center of a lot of attention, and he figures Monk is afraid of losing Natalie. Monk, however, believes the attention-grabbing is practically an insult to him - he puts a lot of effort in to catch and bring down killers, which is much more important than being a lottery hostess. He reveals that what disturbs him is that Natalie isn't the same person she once was: before she was a lottery hostess, she wasn't someone who'd make a fuss about anything.
Meanwhile, Billy Logan shows up at Malcolm O'Dwyer's apartment, and Billy sees a photograph of him with another man. When Malcolm turns his back, Billy cracks him over the back with a baseball bat and removes the picture.
A short time later, Monk and Stottlemeyer are inside Malcolm's apartment. Billy has tossed the body out the window and disguised the murder as a suicide and also written a "suicide note". But Monk quickly sees several holes in the story: if Malcolm was a freelance journalist and a big writer, then why does his suicide note say the wimpy three word phrase, "Tired of losing"? Also, why would he kill himself the night before a $212 million jackpot was going to be played? Stottlemeyer suggests that Malcolm knew he wasn't going to win. Monk then finds Malcolm's contact lens case, which curiously has only one lens in it. He spills some contact fluid on his hand, and he asks for a wipe. Due to Natalie being downstairs signing autographs, Monk actually has to head downstairs to grab a wipe. He sarcastically asks her if the cadaver is in her way.
Stottlemeyer finds Malcolm's other contact lens on the body, and tells Monk that he might be right, that no one jumps after putting in one contact lens. Monk puts the lens into an evidence bag, and starts reading the number on the bag out loud in a lottery-voice, deliberately, in order to exact his revenge on Natalie for having taken all the attention from him. Natalie, upon realizing that Monk is mocking her, storms over to confront him, with Monk calling her job practically a go-nowhere job. After coming close to calling her a bimbo, he gives Natalie his final choice - she can work for him, or for the lottery, but she can't do both. To Monk's dismay, she picks lottery, and takes off.
The next day, we see Stottlemeyer at the gym, about to play a game of racquetball, and talking to Monk on his cell phone. He leaves his locker to go play racquets. As soon as he has left, Billy Logan breaks into his locker and switches one of the lottery tickets inside for one with different numbers.
That night, Monk, Stottlemeyer, and Disher are in Stottlemeyer's office, watching Natalie draw the numbers for the $212 million jackpot, as Monk rambles a bit about the number of people who have left him, including his father, Trudy, Sharona and Dr. Kroger. He is interrupted, though, when Stottlemeyer suddenly realizes that he's got the numbers that are being drawn on the screen. When Natalie draws the final number, a 54, Stottlemeyer realizes that he's hit the jackpot. He rushes out of the office, excited, and planning to call his kids and hire a few accountants. Monk sits down in a chair and mutters, "Everybody leaves."
The following afternoon, Monk is at his apartment when Natalie walks in. She is visibly shaken and upset. She quickly asks him if he's turned on the evening news. Monk turns on his TV to find the newscaster reporting a severe lottery cheating scandal. It seems there were two winners: Stottlemeyer, and an unemployed truck driver named Eugene Maddox. The rules say that as both drew the same numbers, they were to split the $212 million prize. But, in a stunning development, the lottery commissioner has suspended Stottlemeyer's cut of the payment due to the discovery that he has known and worked with Natalie. Monk turns off the TV, and Natalie mentions that the commissioner said they'd cheated. Monk is confused, until Natalie breaks down sobbing, saying that she and Stottlemeyer have been accused of rigging the lottery machine.
Monk, Natalie and Stottlemeyer head down to the station to confront Stan Lawrence and the lottery commissioner about their false accusations. Lawrence explains that after the drawing, the station received an anonymous tip and they reviewed the tape for the drawing. Not seeing anything unusual in the tape, they actually started bouncing and playing with the balls in the drum, but they didn't seem any different, and then they found their problem. Lawrence activates the drum to show the "problem". As Monk, Natalie and Stottlemeyer watch, the lottery machine draws out the exact same six numbers that were drawn during the show. Lawrence reveals that they thought this was suspicious, so they experimented with a few more "random" drawings, and the same six numbers kept popping up, though not always in the same order.
Monk examines the balls drawn, and notes that these balls have numbers that are painted with metallic paint, of a shade called titanium black, while all of the other balls in the machine have an acrylic based paint. Monk also finds a battery-operated electromagnet hidden in the sleeve of the boom mike. Natalie insists that she didn't put it there, but the lottery commissioner points out that she has had access to the equipment for the past two weeks. Stottlemeyer finds the accusations insane and asks Monk to find some circumstantial evidence. Monk asks about Eugene Maddox, whom the lottery commissioner says has agreed to drop a lawsuit in exchange for a generous settlement. Monk says he's sure that Maddox did so, as he finds Billy Logan's baseball cap stuffed into a director's chair.
Here's What HappenedEdit
Billy and Maddox are sitting by the pool at an upscale hotel when Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher (all of whom are wearing sunglasses) arrive. Natalie asks them if they are old friends. Maddox claims he and Billy just met at the poolside bar, but Natalie reveals that they've already checked and have found that they've worked on several movies together.
Monk produces an evidence bag with Billy's baseball cap. He mentions that when he saw the Corona Heights logo on the cap, he remembered having seen such a logo on Maddox's jacket at the press conference (at least, the short clip he got to see during the news bulletin). It proves that Billy and Maddox have met before.
He then goes on to explain that they had conceived a plan to rig the lottery with metallic paint and a hidden electromagnet. The night Marissa Kessler was killed, one of the balls must have bounced away while Billy was rigging the equipment, and Marissa picked it up, which explains the metallic paint Monk found on her fingertips. She then turned and caught Billy in the act. Fearing that his plan would be discovered, Billy had no choice but to kill her.
Billy asks them why he would let Stottlemeyer win half the money. Monk explains that that was because his original plan had actually gone off the rails when Billy was fired after his argument with Natalie. As Monk remembers, Billy was ejected from the studio, and his security pass was confiscated. He had already rigged the magnet in the boom mike, but being locked out of the building, he couldn't come in and turn the magnet off. Billy knew the six numbers that would have been coming up every night for the next few days, and it was only a matter of time before someone else noticed. They'd have found the magnet in the microphone, and would have figured that a sound engineer planted it there, and would have been led to him. So he had to blame Natalie and Stottlemeyer for the rigging of the equipment.
The lottery fanatic, Malcolm O'Dwyer, had to be killed because he had an incriminating photo of Billy with Maddox in his apartment, and he would have made the connection between the two of them after Maddox won.
Madddox and Billy are arrested on the spot. As he leads Billy away, Randy quips to him that he'll get to wear numbers a lot on his jumpsuit.
Sometime later, Monk and Natalie are walking when they see the lottery bus ad-wrap, with a totally new face on the sides. Natalie admits that she does miss the glory of working for the lottery. Throughout the episode, Monk has been comparing himself to Art Garfunkel. When Natalie asks him if he knows who Art Garfunkel is, Monk has a hard time producing the right answer, mistaking him for Garfield the cartoon cat and then for a carbuncle.
- The Gold Rush Lottery appears to only have a six number drawing. Most lotteries in the United States generally tend to have a pick-3, a pick-4, and a pick-5.
- The viewer can suspect that Billy Logan is who rigged the machine the moment Monk pulls the microphone covering off and finds the electromagnet. The fact that Billy is a sound engineer means he has the most access to the microphone.
- When Monk is holding up at the calendar in Dr. Bell's office, it reads "Friday, July 16." The last time that July 16th was on a Friday was 2004.
- When Natalie pulls the #17 ball on her first night, she says that it's the same age as her daughter. When Natalie met Monk in "Mr. Monk and the Red Herring", she told him that Julie was 11. That would make Julie 14, not 17. However, Julie is said to be 16 years old in "Mr. Monk and the Three Julies," and is 15 years old in "Mr. Monk and the Birds and the Bees".
- Although that was clever of Billy Logan to frame Natalie and Stottlemeyer in rigging the lottery machine because he needed an innocent-looking party, he should have been aware that all of the evidence was bound to link back to him: after all, Stottlemeyer is a police captain, and Natalie has no criminal record.
- Similar to the episode "Mr. Monk Goes to a Fashion Show", one of the characters jokingly refers to one of the killer's former jobs when telling them what they will be wearing while in prison (Natalie tells this to Julian Hodge in "Mr. Monk Goes to a Fashion Show," much like Randy tells Billy Logan about how he'll be wearing numbers on his jumpsuit in "Mr. Monk Gets Lotto Fever").
- Lottery tickets have the time and date they were purchased printed on them. In addition, it was mentioned in the episode "Mr. Monk and the Paperboy" (another episode which involved a murder case tied to winning lottery numbers) that it is possible to trace a lottery ticket's purchase by the serial number and by the time stamped onto it when it is purchased. If the whereabouts of Stottlemeyer and Natalie could have been accounted for and it was determined neither could have purchased the ticket, it would have raised questions unless Billy Logan had purchased the ticket at the same store around the same time Stottlemeyer purchased his tickets or at a store and time making it possible for Stottlemeyer or Natalie to have purchased it. Even if it could be proven Natalie or Stottlemeyer didn't purchase the ticket, the lottery people could have argued that another accomplice purchased the ticket. Why this wasn't explored is unknown.
- Lottery tickets also indicate if the numbers were selected by the lottery sale terminal, aka a "Quick Pick." If Stottlemeyer only bought Quick Picks, the winning numbers would have to have been selected by the purchaser, which should have raised a red flag with Stottlemeyer.
- While Disher berates Logan for so cruelly tricking Stottlemeyer, he makes reference to the facts that his wife, Karen, divorced him, and he had to arrest his girlfriend Linda Fusco for murder (as shown in "Mr. Monk and the Captain's Marriage" and "Mr. Monk and the Bad Girlfriend," respectively).
- The clue that Monk finds that leads him to believe that Malcolm O'Dwyer's death was murder - a contact lens case with only one lens in it, while the other contact lens is on the body - is the same clue that Columbo used in the Columbo episode "Murder, a Self-Portrait" to determine that Louise Barsini's death was not an accident.