Monk Season 8
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Season 7 THE END

Mr. Monk and the Critic is the sixth episode of the eighth season of Monk.

In this episode Natalie figures out a murder. There a just several problems. First the suspect is a noted arts critic who just gave her daughter's performance a bad review, which undermines her credibility. Second the man has an airtight alibi, which includes Monk and Natalie.


At a luxury hotel, late at night, a man knocks on the door of a hotel room insistantly. The occupant, Callie Esterhaus, eventually opens the door. In a scene viewed entirely from the man's point of view, Callie greets him enthusiastically, even though she is surprised he showed up early. She had already ordered room service, and gives him a bite of his favorite treat, a chocolate-covered strawberry. She tells him that she thought he was ashamed of being seen with her in public. At that point he guides her to the balcony, telling her he has something important to tell her. Once outside, he kneels, and offers a ring in a box (strangely, we wonder why the man is wearing gloves). Callie is ecstatic, and promises that she'll make him happy despite all the calls she's been making to him recently. She says it is the best night of her life and she could die right here. He then caps it off by doing just that: He promptly throws her over the balcony railing, and she plummets to her death.

We now go back in time about one hour.  Adrian Monk and Natalie Teeger are taking their seats at a theater a few blocks from the hotel, at which a group of community players to which Julie belongs is mounting a professional show. When Monk has a call of nature, Natalie refuses to accompany him home, since Julie is about to come on and sing a solo ballad. Monk steels himself to use the public restroom, but is enthralled when he opens the door and meets Gilson, the men's room attendant, whose eye for detail rivals Monk's, and who has made the bathroom into a shining palace.

Before the lights go down for the performance, Natalie glances up toward the mezzanine, and is surprised to see John Hannigan, the arts critic for the San Francisco Dispatch in a box seat. Natalie is a little nervous, noting that the Dispatch usually doesn't review community theater, but she is hopeful that soon her daughter's name will be all over the newspaper. When Julie comes on, Monk and Natalie are both swept away by her singing.

As they are leaving the theater at the end of the show, Natalie catches sight of Hannigan leaving, dropping something in a wastebasket on the way. Curious, Monk looks inside the wastebasket and immediately becomes suspicious: Why did Hannigan just throw out an unopened pack of cigarettes and an unused lighter? Julie, still wearing her old age make-up from her second number, comes out and tells Natalie that she's going to the cast party in her make-up. On their way home, Monk and Natalie see the crime scene at the hotel, and Captain Stottlemeyer at work. Monk asks if he can take a look and Stottlemeyer reveals that he anticipated that Monk might ask to help out.

Stottlemeyer and another officer with them in the hotel room figure that Callie Esterhaus was a jumper. She checked in alone and she died at around 8:35 PM, but Monk examines the room and notices several discrepancies with the suicide theory: For one thing, Callie ordered room service for two, like she was expecting to see someone. She also had a new dress laid out on the bed. Her hair was wet, indicating that she had just showered, and in the bathroom, Monk notices that there is a false eyelash missing from Callie's makeup kit, clues that suggest that her date showed up early. One of the chocolate strawberries on the room service tray has a bite mark on it. The officer in the room figures that the bite marks are Callie's, but Stottlemeyer tells him to not assume anything and just bag the strawberry. While they are doing this, Natalie notices the odor of men's cologne, although Monk, Stottlemeyer and the uniformed cop in the room deny that they are wearing it.

Stottlemeyer goes out to the balcony to take a look. Monk refuses to actually step onto the balcony because of his fear of heights, but from where he is, he spots another clue: based on where Callie landed, it would seem that she was thrown over the left side of the balcony railing, but there are several leaves missing from a bush on the right side of the balcony railing. Monk figures that Callie must have grabbed at the plant as she went over the edge. Stottlemeyer bends down and finds a pink ribbon behind the potted plant and notices that it has the word "Laski" on it. Natalie figures that the ribbon was from a jewelry box. Monk looks at the killer's footprints, and notices that it appears the man was squatting, as if he was proposing to her. He and Stottlemeyer theorize that Callie's date showed up early, popped the question, and he killed her when she refused.

Natalie is distracted, waiting for Lieutenant Disher to come back with a copy of the Dispatch's midnight edition. When he does, he is cagey, but Natalie snatches the paper and is incensed to read the review of the play, which calls Julie's performance "utterly forgettable." At the theater, Julie appears to take the criticism stoically, but Natalie is inconsolable.

The next day, Monk, Stottlemeyer and Disher go to Winberrie's, the restaurant where Callie Esterhaus worked at. Her co-worker says that Callie was private about her personal life, but she knows that Callie was dating a man who might have been married. Disher notes that they found a datebook in Callie's apartment with a name beginning with the initial "J". They are interrupted a bit by Natalie's obsessive grousing over Hannigan's review. Monk tries to tell her to stop torturing herself, noting that he's had more experience with obsessions than she has. After a few minutes, Natalie's grousing finally gets onto Stottlemeyer's nerves. He suggests that rather than whine about it and interfere with their homicide investigation, she vent her spleen to Hannigan's face, since his office is located a few blocks away. Natalie takes the advice.

At his office, Hannigan is meeting with his fiancée Diana Phelps, the owner's daughter, and talking about their upcoming marriage when Natalie comes in. Hannigan is unrepentant and collects his lunch from a delivery boy from Winberrie's. As they talk, Natalie notices the scent of Hannigan's cologne. Hannigan gives her the brush-off.

Back at the police station, Monk, Stottlemeyer and Disher are looking at a board containing the crime scene photos. Monk learns that there are no witnesses who heard anything - those staying in a room next to Callie's were gone at the time. He asks if there were fingerprints found on the balcony railing, and Stottlemeyer tells him that there were fingerprints, but belonged to the maid. They believe that they've got an intelligent killer who knew what he was doing - the fact that the guy left no traces of himself suggests that he wore gloves. Natalie walks into the room, and insists that Hannigan is the killer, using the very phrases that Monk generally uses. She points out several crucial pieces of evidence that back her up:

  • He regularly orders from Winberrie's, meaning he probably has met Callie Esterhaus.
  • His first name "John" matches an anonymous "J." in Callie's address book.
  • He wears the same cologne which Natalie claims she smelled in the hotel room.
  • The hotel is just two blocks down the street from the theater.
  • Lastly, he has one whopper of a motive: he is currently engaged to his publisher's daughter, Diana Phelps, and if she ever found out about Callie, his career -- not to mention his upcoming nuptials -- would have been ruined.

Of course, Monk, Stottlemeyer and Disher, the three "real" detectives, think Natalie has gone off the deep end over Hannigan's review. The one thing Hannigan doesn't have, they remind her, is opportunity. Monk reminds Natalie that Hannigan never left his seat during the performance, and Callie Esterhaus was killed at 8:35 PM, during the show. Natalie is adamant that he must have left the theater at some point - no one who actually saw Julie's singing could have written that review. To prove her point, Natalie has an obviously reluctant Julie sing an excerpt of her first number, the number that Hannigan called "forgettable". However, this doesn't get Monk to change his opinion about Hannigan. However, he, Stottlemeyer, and Disher agree to at least think about Natalie's suspicions when they have a chance (though in a tone of voice that indicates that they aren't interested).

Natalie goes to the extremes. Sometime later, Monk is at his apartment and ironing his magazines when he gets a phone call from Natalie. She mentions that she's at the police station... and she's been arrested.

Monk goes to the police station and is exasperated to find that Natalie was trespassing on Hannigan's property and was searching his garbage. She continues to insist that Hannigan is guilty. Stottlemeyer brings Hannigan in and it seems that Hannigan has offered to drop all charges against Natalie. Natalie refuses to drop the matter and accuses Hannigan of murdering Callie Esterhaus. She shows all a Chinese dumpling she took from his garbage. She claims that the bite mark on it matches the bite mark on the chocolate-covered strawberry from the crime scene, but Disher is forced to admit to Natalie that unfortunately, they can't match the bite marks because the strawberry in question was too soft for them be able to create a cast of it. Hannigan claims that he's seen this all the time - most stage mothers are unstable, and - to some extent - delusional - and tells Natalie to stop living vicariously through Julie. Hannigan checks his pocket watch, informs them that he's got to finish writing a column back at his office, and leaves the police station. He tells Natalie to keep the dumpling, and Monk and Stottlemeyer are forced to restrain Natalie to keep her from physically attacking Hannigan.

Natalie still refuses to give up, and she "hires" Monk by refunding her latest paycheck back to him. Monk says it's moot, since that first check will bounce, but she badgers him.

Monk and Natalie go back to the theater and examine the box seat (where he is briefly overcome by his acrophobia), and Monk finds some interesting clues: For one thing, the theater manager mentions that Hannigan normally sits in the orchestra section , but on the night Callie Esterhaus was killed, Hannigan specifically requested the box seat. Monk wonders: why did he ask for this particular box seat on the night of the performance? Monk also notices that the EXIT sign in the hallway outside the box is burned out. However, when he removes the panel, he realizes that someone just unscrewed the lightbulb inside. He realizes that this would make the box completely dark whenever the stagelights went down. Natalie figures that when the lights went down, Hannigan switched himself for an inflatable dummy, but Monk reminds her that he was also clapping his hands, and figures that a hired imposter may have been there.

Suspicious, but not conclusive, Monk takes a break and treats himself to another visit to the men's room. Monk asks Gilson if anyone could have snuck out of Hannigan's box seat, observing the exit that is near Hannigan's box seat in section B. Gilson explains that that exit leads to a fire escape, which ends in the alleyway behind the theater and wonders why Monk is asking. Monk explains what happened and admits that Natalie might be right about Hannigan slipping out of the theater to kill Callie. He asks if Gilson saw anything that was unusual that night, but the attendant says he didn't.

Later that evening, Hannigan is in his car in the theater's parking garage when Gilson approaches him and hands him something. Hannigan asks Gilson why he had to take a night off from work just to deliver him a gift. Gilson reminds Hannigan of a favor he did for him on the night of the murder, and asks Hannigan if he's involved in something. Hannigan pretends not to know what Gilson is talking about. Gilson mentions his encounter with Monk earlier that day, and Hannigan quickly realizes that Monk is on to him. Hannigan asks Gilson to help him unload some boxes from the car. As soon as Gilson leans inside the trunk, Hannigan strikes him over the back of the head with a crowbar, and then loads Gilson's body into the trunk.

Monk and Natalie are called to the hospital where Stottlemeyer tells them that Gilson suffered blunt force trauma, and was hit from behind with something like a bat or a crowbar. Disher mentions that some construction workers discovered Gilson under a freeway off ramp. Monk asks if he can talk to Gilson, but Stottlemeyer says that that might not be for a while - he's in a coma. Natalie believes Hannigan is responsible for this attack, and Stottlemeyer is exasperated. Monk, looking at Gilson's personal effects, notices a watch with a luminescent dial, and a gift box with nicotine gum, and he solves the case.

Here's What HappenedEdit

Monk remembers that just before Julie's solo, he and Natalie kept looking up at Hannigan's box. The man in that seat wore a wristwatch, and he lit up the luminescent dial to check the time. But Monk remembers that when Hannigan was at the police station, he didn't wear a wristwatch at all, but he did check a pocketwatch. Monk deduces that the man in the box seat was not Hannigan, but was actually Gilson, and they'd switched places.

Hannigan needed to recruit an accomplice who could function as his alibi for the murder. When he went to the bathroom, he duped Gilson into helping him. Hannigan likely told Gilson that the show was at least two hours long and there was no intermission. He claimed that he wanted to take a cigarette break (thus the unopened box and lighter Monk noticed afterwards outside the theater) at some point, but it would be embarrassing for him to be seen leaving in the middle of the show, so he wanted someone to take his place for a few minutes. To convince Gilson that his story was legitimate, Hannigan handed him some nicotine gum and also showed him a lighter and a pack of cigarettes. Gilson obliged him: when the lights went down just before Julie's solo, Hannigan and Gilson switched places, with Hannigan handing Gilson his hat and scarf. Gilson posed as Hannigan for about ten minutes time, during which Hannigan snuck out of the theater via the back exit. He ran two blocks up the street, killed Callie Esterhaus, then snuck back into the theater and returned to his place.

Natalie is gleefully triumphant, but Randy glumly tells her they can't prove it - nicotine gum and a wristwatch aren't enough proof, and Hannigan will just retain a lawyer and deny everything. Monk begins to agree... but then goes still and smiles, having realized that there is another way to prove Hannigan guilty.

Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher visit Hannigan at his office. Hannigan acts exasperated, but Stottlemeyer says they have not come about his review or about Callie Esterhaus's murder, but rather have come to question him about a different matter - an attempted date-rape. On cue, Randy escorts in Julie, whose shirt-sleeves have been torn. Julie claims that she went to Winberrie's, and while she was waiting for some friends, Hannigan bought her a drink at the restaurant. She says that Hannigan then offered to walk her to her car, and the next thing she remembers, she was struggling with him in the parking lot as he tried to rape her. Randy mentions that Julie's story checks out - her shirt was torn and she has extensive bruises. Hannigan insists that he was at home all night, writing, but Stottlemeyer asks Hannigan how that is true when Julie claims he gave her his business card (which Disher produces in an evidence bag).

Baffled and scared, Hannigan swears positively that he has never seen Julie before in his life....which is his fatal mistake. Monk then asks everyone in the newsroom if they heard what he said. After they nod he introduces Julie and mentions that Julie was in the show that Hannigan claims he saw that night. Hannigan insists that Julie wasn't at the curtain call but Natalie points out that she was wearing a wig to play an old woman for the final routine but in the earlier scene, the one he allegedly criticized, she looked exactly like she appeared in front of him. Monk points out that Hannigan's failure to recognize Julie is what incriminates him in Callie Esterhaus's murder: if he had seen Julie's solo, he would have recognized her. He was thus caught in a lie.

Hannigan is lost for a response except to ask for a lawyer, and he is arrested. As he is led past her, Natalie smugly hands him a copy of the review, and says it is now a safe bet that he will remember her daughter's name for the rest of his life.

A few days later, at Natalie's house, Julie has gotten a letter from UC Berkeley. Monk agrees to read the letter once he opens it, and takes it home to use his letter-opening equipment. Natalie insists he do it there. Monk very slowly opens it and very slowly reads the mailing address, pointing out the bad print. He finally reads that Julie was accepted and Natalie and Julie scream with joy, interrupting him. He insists on starting over and finishing the entire thing. While he reads back over the address again, they slip out to celebrate.

Background Information and NotesEdit

  • Though it is not apparent to Natalie (for she had never seen the ring), another clue that Hannigan is the killer is revealed to the audience: in the newspaper office, Diana Phelps is wearing the same engagement ring that Hannigan had shown to Callie Esterhaus before he pushed her over the balcony.
  • The opening scenes of the murder are shown from the killer's POV. This was a theme used in earlier murder mystery movies and TV shows but one of the few times the killer's voice is heard.
  • The murder of Callie Esterhaus occurs at the Blakemore Hotel. This is the same hotel where Diane Brooks was almost murdered by her husband Kyle in Mr. Monk and the Class Reunion. Since the Blakemore Hotel was just up the street from the theater and the UC Berkeley Campus, this places the theater within two blocks of UC Berkeley.
  • Hannigan's arrogance was another fatal mistake. Had he given Julie a good review, Natalie would never have obsessed over it and confronted him and picked up on the clues.
  • They could have proven that Hannigan was the killer by testing the strawberry for DNA.
  • This is the second time an assistant of Monk's had been arrested for actions relating to an investigation (in Natalie's case, snooping Hannigan's premises), with Sharona Fleming having previously been arrested in Mr. Monk and the Panic Room for her rescuing Darwin, a Chimpanzee that was presumed to have murdered Ian Blackburn, from the Animal Shelter before he could be put down. Coincidentally, in both episodes, the female assistants also were convinced heavily of things their co-workers didn't believe, albeit regarding the exact opposite elements (ie, Sharona was the only one of them who thought Darwin had been innocent, while Natalie was the only one of them who thought Hannigan was guilty).
  • Monk had no problem sitting next to a one-armed (and thus uneven) man in the theater despite having problems seeing a one-armed therapist in the episode Mr. Monk Gets a New Shrink.
  • It is questionable whether or not the "proof" that the police has "created" by setting a trap for Hannigan with Julie would be permissible. Hannigan unknowingly exposes himself, and using this as evidence may violate the nemo tenetur se ipsum accusare principle, i.e. that an accused must not be forced to testify against themselves.

Memorable QuotesEdit

Natalie: He did it! I don't know how he did it, but he did it.
Randy: (indicates Monk) That's what he always says.

Monk: (answers phone) Hello?

Natalie: Mr. Monk?
Monk: Natalie?
Natalie: I'm sorry to call you so late.
Monk: Are you all right?
Natalie: I'm down at the police station.
Monk: What are you doing there?
(shot of Natalie, sitting handcuffed at a table)
Natalie: I've been arrested.

Adrian Monk: Don't hug me. You're going to want to hug me, but don't hug me.

Natalie: Why?
Monk: You were right about Hannigan, he's the guy.
Natalie: (hugs Monk) Oh, I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!

(after the summation)

Natalie: (raising her hand) Excuse me? May I say something?
(Monk nods.)
Natalie: (dancing around, poking Stottlemeyer and Disher in the midriff) I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!