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"Mr. Monk Is at Your Service" is the twelfth episode of the fifth season of Monk.

Plot Edit

In his palatial mansion, young billionaire Paul Buchanan is bullying someone on the other end of a phone call about the design for his new motor yacht. His butler, Edward Stilson, enters the parlor with his master's cocktail. When Buchanan hangs up, he confronts Stilson, whom he has now identified as the anonymous blackmailer to whom he has been sending money for the last several months, in the form of marked money. Stilson begs his master's forgiveness, and promises that it will never happen again. Buchanan agrees with Stilson, then grabs a pistol and shoots him dead with it to guarantee that it won't, and then proceeds to burn the most recent blackmail note in the fireplace.

A week later, Adrian Monk goes to see Dr. Kroger with terrible news: the SFPD has announced a four-year hiring freeze; by the time it is lifted, Monk will be too old to be eligible for reinstatement. For Monk, it is the end. Dr. Kroger encourages him to be positive, and start thinking about applying his talents in a different direction.

A day or so later, Monk and Natalie are seen having brunch with Natalie's parents. As they converse, Peggy mentions that Paul Buchanan has been asking about Natalie recently. Natalie is disgusted at the mention of Paul's name, but Peggy reminds her that she "is not getting any younger," and could do much worse. Natalie begs to differ - Paul is a well-known creep. Bobby and Peggy say she should sympathize with his family problems. Only last year, his father and stepmother both died in a car accident. Peggy and Bobby elaborate, with Bobby using the butter tray, the salt and peppershakers, and the pate dish, to simulate the scene.

Here's What (Supposedly) HappenedEdit

According to Bobby and Peggy, Ralph and Camilla Buchanan were driving home in an imported Morgan (Ralph was an antique cars collector) when they hit a dangerous sharp curve on Sweeney Road (Monk remembers seeing a "SLOW DOWN" sign while driving up there). They hit the guardrail at about 80 mph and Camilla (who wasn't wearing a seatbelt) went flying and hit her head on a big rock, and died instantly. Ralph survived and called 911 on his cell phone - and had a fatal heart attack during the call. Bobby takes relish in recreating the accident, using the butter dish as the car and the pate as the rock. While Bobby is doing the reenactment, Monk notices several details that are off: for one thing, Camilla hit a large rock on the side of the road, as though she was launched out the right side of the car, but the car was an imported British Morgan, in which the passenger seat is on the left side. Moreoever, Natalie remembers from her childhood that Ralph was very strict about passengers in his car wearing their seat belts. Natalie seizes on Monk's discomfiture, and immediately hits up her father for a down payment on Monk's fee - they are now officially on the case.

Monk and Natalie drive down to the crash site. Monk does notice that a few sections of the guardrail are newer than the rest of the rail, meaning that part of the railing was damaged. However, he can't be sure if this was murder unless he has the police report and pictures with him. Natalie is convinced that Paul killed his parents. When she takes out her cell phone to call her parents, she gets no signal - meaning Ralph could not have called for help from there, given a lack of reception..

Monk and Natalie drive up to the Buchanan estate. Monk is awed by the massive size of the house, and Natalie decides to reveal why she has an axe to grind against Paul Buchanan - he essentially stalked her for three years in high school, and she still believes he beat up her boyfriend the week before her senior prom. Unable to face seeing Paul, Natalie gives Monk a cell phone and drives off (even as Monk tries to convince her that she is overreacting).

Monk goes to the garage to inspect the Morgan. But while reorganizing some wrenches on a tool cart, one of the mechanics spots him and mistakes him for an expected job applicant. Rather than raise suspicion, Monk goes along with this, and is next seen sitting in the living room waiting for Paul Buchanan.

When Paul appears, it is clear that he was just hunting, as he is carrying a shotgun. Not having planned to suddenly go undercover, Monk has to improvise several lies - he claims to have lost his resume when Paul asks for one. When asked for his name, Monk uses a phony name - "Adrian Melville" - gleaned from the spine of a book he notices in the room, and when asked for former work acquaintances, Monk has to use his real acquaintance's names (such as "Leland Stottlemeyer of the San Francisco....Stottlemeyers"), and even brings up Natalie. Monk is surprised when Paul mentions that Natalie has a tattoo, as he's never seen it before in his life. Paul gives Monk the job of butler, and also gives him Stilson's old room.

Later, Monk calls Natalie from his room to mention his change in plans. Natalie thinks it's great, and tries to convince him that by having a chance to look around, maybe he can find evidence to bring to Stottlemeyer. The call is cut short when Susie, Buchanan's housekeeper, knocks on the door. Monk has to hang up, and gives Susie his approximate size for his uniform. She apologizes for the mess left behind by Stilson, who she says apparently "left" after having a fight with Paul about back pay, but Monk is skeptical: why are all of Stilson's suitcases still present?

That night, Monk is obsessively rearranging the table for an upcoming family luncheon, even at 2:30 AM. Mrs. Murphy, one of the household staff, is exasperated and points out that the luncheon isn't until Sunday. When Monk is repositioning people at the table, Mrs. Murphy tells him that he can't put Paul next to Monica and Clara, his stepsisters. Apparently, they were kicked out after Ralph and Camilla were killed.

At the police station, Captain Stottlemeyer and Lt. Disher are skeptical of Natalie's murder theory. Stottlemeyer plays a tape of Ralph Buchanan's 911 call, in which he frantically says to the operator that his wife has been injured and her neck is broken, before gasping out that he is having chest pains. Moreoever, the autopsies confirmed that Ralph and Camilla Buchanan died as a result of a heart attack and the crash, respectively. Natalie insists that Paul is capable of murder, but Monk airily dismisses her suspicions. He announces that he has to get back to work, having found a new vocation that fits his talents. Cursing, Stottlemeyer says that he is trying to persuade the department to lift the hiring freeze, but Monk refuses to listen.

Back at the estate, Buchanan is impressed by Monk's habits. Monk proceeds to show his new cleaning system, which he calls "the Monk way" of doing things at the house. To avoid blowing his cover, he creates a hillarious (but apparently very convincing) lie about being raised in a monastery where the monks were so demanding that they were cleaning over 18 hours a day. While Monk discovers random clues to Stilson's murder, include a scrap of the blackmail note in the fireplace, he is so caught up in his new domestic duties that he fails to realize their significance.

Monk presides over a family luncheon at the Buchanan home, at which Paul is snubbed by his two stepsisters, Monica and Clara. In private, Monk learns that Paul refused to share a penny of his vast inheritance after the sudden deaths of their parents.

By faking interest in Paul's advances, Natalie is able to show up at the luncheon, and takes the opportunity to snoop around the house (although she has to fake being pregnant by utilizing a pillow in order to keep Paul off her long enough). In the garage, she finds the driver's log for the car Paul's father was driving on the night of the accident, which show that he actually returned to the house on the night he died. Unfortunately, Paul discovers her and realizes that she's on to him. As she's driving away, he threatens to kill her parents, unless she, and they, agree to accompany him on a hunting expedition into the woods. She has no choice but to agree.

After Paul, Natalie, and Natalie's parents have departed, Monk finally snaps out of his delusion and puts the case together when he knocks over a stack of Stilson's magazines and realizes that words have been cut out of some of the pages.

Here's What HappenedEdit

Monk rushes to the woods, where Paul takes Natalie on a separate path. He trains his shotgun on her and forces her to put on a vest. Just as he's preparing to shoot her, Monk shows up armed with a shotgun he took from one of Paul's hunting buddies, and shoots a bird. Natalie takes advantage of the distraction to grab Paul's shotgun, and both of them train their weapons on Paul as Monk gives the summation:

Paul's father had died of a heart attack, most likely just after he'd returned home. Paul likely found the body first, and when he did, he realized that there was a problem: under the terms of his father's will, his stepmother would inherit everything unless she predeceased her husband, in which case it would all go to him. Paul acted quickly - he put the body into the trunk of the car his father had been driving. Then he used a lie to lure his stepmother out of the house, likely a story about an "accident", and drove her down to the curve on the road. Once there, he bludgeoned her with a rock, then unloaded his father's body from the car and staged the bodies to make it look like an accident. Unfortunately, with no cell phone reception, Paul couldn't make the 911 call directly from the scene, so he had to walk a short ways up the road to get a signal. It was easy for Paul to impersonate his father because his voice was incredibly similar. What tipped Natalie off to the fact that the call was not made from the accident scene was the fact that there were a lot of frogs croaking crazily around the crash scene, but there was no ambient noise in the background on the tape.

Though not mentioned, it is implied that Stilson had seen Paul's parents at home on the night of the murders, and this was the reason he was blackmailing Paul.

At that point, Natalie's parents arrive, and are shocked not only to see Natalie's fake stomach, but also seeing her and Monk holding shotguns on Buchanan.

Afterwards, Stottlemeyer gives good news to Monk: the commissioner agree that the hiring freeze didn't apply to Monk - after Stottlemeyer threatened to quit the force unless the commissioner made that change. This means that Monk will still have a chance at rejoining the police force. As they leave the office, it is clear that Monk still is carrying some of his butler mannerisms, including helping Stottlemeyer with his coat.

Background Information and NotesEdit

  • Relations between Natalie and her parents have apparently improved since she saved her brother's life at his wedding, in "Mr. Monk Goes to a Wedding."
  • According to the list (which Natalie is required to carry around with her), Monk's fears include possums, soccer riots, frogs, and hailstones, in that order.
  • Monk also says that he's scared of frogs, yet in "Mr. Monk Get's Hypnotized" he picks up a pet frog that he finds in Sally Larkin's yard and names it 'Hoppy'. However, it should be noted that Monk had undergone an attempted hypnosis treatment to suppress his quirks and various phobias, which backfires.
  • When one of the maids complains about Monk's obsessive attention to detail, Monk quotes the famous nursery rhyme, "For Want of a Nail...."
  • The premise of Paul's scheme, that an inheritance turns on which of two people has died first, was similarly used in Dorothy L. Sayers's mystery novel The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club.
  • It is odd that no one in Paul's household hears the unsilenced gunshot when Paul executes Stilson, as they appear to accept that Stilson simply quit without notice.
  • Stottlemeyer makes reference to his threat to quit in "Mr. Monk's 100th Case," as well as to a "hole in the Comissioner's wall about the size of my fist."
  • Traylor Howard really was pregnant during the production of this episode, so her stomach is concealed behind an object in every scene except during the scenes where Natalie is utilizing a pillow to feign a pregnancy to Paul Buchanan. For instance, when Monk and Natalie are at the crash scene, Natalie is standing against her car with the driver's door open to conceal her chest.
  • This episode marked the last appearance of Natalie's parents.