Aboard the U.S.S. Seattle, the crew is preparing for a drill. The ship's medical officer, Lt. Steven Albright, appears on the bridge and reports to the ship's captain, Commander Nathan Whitaker, that the executive officer, Jason Pierce, is nowhere to be found, and his cabin is locked. Whitaker and Albright go to the cabin, and Whitaker knocks on the door, before they hear a gunshot from inside. Whitaker kicks open the door, and inside they see Pierce, lying dead on the floor, shot through the head and holding a gun. Albright stoops to examine him, but Whitaker gets there first, checks Pierce's pulse, and pronounces the man dead.
When the Seattle docks in San Francisco, Albright looks up Natalie Teeger, who remembers him fondly as Mitch's oldest friend. Albright is equally delighted to see her again (if not more so), but admits that he's really come looking for Adrian Monk. NCIS has ruled Jason Pierce's death a suicide, but Albright has a few nagging doubts: for one thing, Pierce, a recovering alcoholic, was supposedly drinking just before he shot himself, but Albright had confirmed only a few days before that he was completely sober, as there was no alcohol in his blood. But Albright is at a loss to explain how anyone could have murdered a man in a locked room, and asks Monk to look over the crime scene. Monk's terror of boats leaps to the front of his mind, but Natalie pleads with him to just spend a few minutes on board.
Monk is even more terrified when he sees that the Seattle is a submarine rather than a surface ship but Natalie and Albright ease him down. Monk takes a hurried look around Pierce's cabin, while Albright confirms that the medical examiner found alcohol in his blood, and that the keys to Pierce's cabin - the only set - were found in his pocket. Monk, anxious to get off the boat, is about to give up... when he notices something only he could: a tiny sliver of some sticky material, that smells like gunpowder.
Suddenly, an alarm klaxon sounds, and a passing sailor informs Steven that the captain has ordered an emergency drill, and the ship has just left port. Monk dashes back to the conning tower in a panic, but the hatch is already sealed, and the sub has begun to dive.
Whitaker, extremely displeased at having civilians aboard his ship, flatly refuses to turn the boat around, and orders Albright to find them temporary berths, and, in the meantime, orders them confined to the officers' wardroom.
In the wardroom, Monk hallucinates that Dr. Bell is beside him, having miraculously snuck on board when he heard where Monk was. Albright and Natalie watch apprehensively as Monk conducts a conversation with the empty chair next to him, and are relieved when "Dr. Bell" encourages him to turn his attention back to the case.
Using the ship's radio, Monk calls Randy Disher on the mainland, and asks him to look into Pierce's background. Monk then questions Whitaker in his quarters. Whitaker says the investigation has been closed, and Pierce definitely committed suicide. But as they talk, Whitaker removes a cream soda bottle from his refrigerator and takes a drink, and Monk recognizes another clue.
Palming a discarded bottle from his wastebasket, Monk takes it back to the wardroom, and confirms that the sticky piece came from the label of an identical bottle. As an experiment, Monk tapes the bottle to the muzzle of Albright's pistol, and finds that the bottle is effective as a homemade silencer. When Albright confirms that the soda brand is found only in Whitaker's private quarters, Monk realizes that Whitaker is "the guy." Now he knows "who," but not "why" or "how."
As he tries to mingle with the crew, Monk learns that, several months earlier, the sub crashed into an underwater mountain, a mishap apparently caused by the use of an outdated chart issued to the sub. One of their crewmen was seriously injured, and finally died in the hospital - on the same day that Pierce died.
In the sickbay, where Natalie's bunk is, Albright flirts a little, even going so far as to kiss her - but she pulls back, feeling some guilt over what feels like betraying Mitch.
When Monk checks back to the mainland, Randy has found more evidence: Pierce's family all swear positively that he would never commit suicide (for one thing, he was a devout Roman Catholic) and that, just before he died, Pierce made an appointment with a criminal attorney.
When Monk looks through some old navigational charts in the corner of the bridge, he finds a new, up-to-date one hidden in an old container. Armed with that, Monk confronts Whitaker in the torpedo room. He has figured out what happened:
Six months ago, the submarine struck an undersea mountain, which Monk is incredulous as to how it happened. Whatever the case, Whitaker knew it was a mistake that would have ended his career. He convinced Pierce to help him cover up the mistake, by switching the navigation chart with an old, outdated one. But a short time ago, when the injured crewman died, Pierce had an attack of conscience and was planning on revealing the truth.
Whitaker calls Monk delusional, and asks how he could have killed a man in a locked room. Unfortunately, Monk now has the "who" and the "why" but is still lacking the "how."
When Monk confers with Natalie in the sickbay, Whitaker slips a note under their door, passing it off as a note from Albright, asking them to go to a remote corner of the submarine. When they get there, they are lured into a locked room and sealed in. On the bridge, Whitaker arrives and orders the submarine to dive. The room - a ballast tank - begins to fill with water.
Luckily, before they drown, Albright tracks them to outside the ballast tank and finds the fake note, that Monk dropped when he "handed" it to Dr. Bell. Realizing the trap, he tries, without success, to open the door, then runs up to the bridge and confronts Whitaker, telling him that there are two people in the ballast tank, and if they drown, he will make sure the Navy knows who's responsible. Whitaker folds and orders the boat to surface.
In the wardroom, Whitaker pretends surprise and relief at finding Monk and Natalie there, alive and well. But Monk informs him that he's solved the case.
Here's What HappenedEdit
Pierce died before the "gunshot" that supposedly killed him was heard. Whitaker went to the cabin, and forced Pierce to drink a bottle of vodka at gunpoint. Then Whitaker shot him in the head with the silenced gun and placed the gun in his hand. To simulate a gunshot, he attached a firecracker to a lit cigarette, and dropped it into a vent behind the door, before locking the door and taking his place on the bridge. About five minutes later, he and Steven were outside the door when the firecracker went off. When Whitaker bent down to check Pierce's pulse, he slipped the keys back into his pocket, to complete the illusion that he had locked himself in.
Steven informs Whitaker that they have found the remains of the firecracker, and lifted a fingerprint from inside the vent. Summoning what remains of his dignity, Whitaker confesses, hands over command of the ship to Steven, and is confined to his quarters for the remainder of the voyage. Before leaving, he salutes Monk, saying that he only hopes the rest of the Navy will perform their jobs as well as Monk performs his.
Back in San Francisco, Randy greets Monk, as does Dr. Bell. Monk does a double-take, but Dr. Bell, anxious not to upset Monk, goes along with his belief that he was aboard the submarine the whole time.
Natalie and Steven embrace fondly, and make a date to see each other the next time his ship comes in.
Background Information and NotesEdit
- The U.S.S. Seattle is a fictional Ohio class submarine.
- Monk mentions having learned to swim through a correspondence course, as seen in "Mr. Monk, Private Eye."
- Albright reappears in the series finale, "Mr. Monk and the End," in which it is clear that he and Natalie are "going steady."
- Ted Levine is credited, but does not appear; this makes the seventh episode in which Stottlemeyer does not appear, after "Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum", "Mr. Monk Takes a Vacation," "Mr. Monk and the Airplane," "Mr. Monk Gets Married", "Mr. Monk and the Game Show", and "Mr. Monk Gets Stuck in Traffic."
- This is the last of several episodes, after "Mr. Monk Takes a Vacation," "Mr. Monk and the Airplane," and "Mr. Monk Gets Married," in which Disher appears, but Stottlemeyer does not.
- In real life, the aforementioned NCIS investigation into Jason Pierce's death would have probably included checking for gunpowder residue on his hands, and probably also checking for it on Whitaker's hands. A lack of residue on Jason's hands would have proven that he hadn't fired the gun. (Obviously the team from NCIS (TV series) was not involved in the case.}
- The gun Whitaker uses to kill Jason Pierce is a Walther P38. Real Navy officers actually utilize Beretta 92FS guns as their sidearms, however, the P38 was probably chosen because it would be easier to thread a cream soda bottle onto the short barrel. Additionally, none of the officers would be carrying their sidearms on them, but would rather store them in a weapons locker on the submarine.
- Medical officers, such as Steven Albright, as well as chaplains, would not carry firearms.
- Whitaker asks what Monk and Natalie are doing on his "ship" in the middle of a fleetwide exercise. As shown earlier in the episode, all Navy personnel refer to their submarines as "boats".
- Whitaker, Pierce, and Albright are wearing their working white service uniforms throughout the episode. In reality all senior non-commissioned officers and officers on all USN vessels wear service khaki uniforms on board ship whether on shore or underway -- for the obvious reason that white uniforms would get dirty very quickly in a confined space. Service whites are generally used for shore duty, informal events, or on-board inspections during the summer months. In the winter, they change to the blue uniforms.
- The ballast tanks on any submarine are inaccessible from the inside, making the idea of Monk and Natalie getting trapped in the tank impossible.
Natalie Teeger: These boats are so big they don't even feel like boats. They're like islands. It's like Hawaii. Think of it like that. We're going to Hawaii.
Adrian Monk: I believe you are the devil.
Adrian Monk: Look at that! Nobody's shaking hands, they're all saluting! Maybe I should enlist.
Natalie Teeger: No, Mr. Monk, please don't enlist. Don't even joke about it.
Natalie: Because I love America.
(Steven and Natalie start to kiss, then Natalie pulls back.)
Natalie: I can't.
Steven: Because of Mitch?
Natalie: I guess so.
Steven: I understand.
Natalie: You do? Then could you explain it to me?
Monk: We're going down! I mean, we're going down more!