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Monk Season 3
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Season 2 Season 4

Mr. Monk and the Game Show is the eighth episode of the third season of Monk.

PlotEdit

At her house in the Hollywood Hills, television assistant Lizzie Talvo angrily confronts her boss, Treasure Chest host Roddy Lankman, with proof that he's been helping a contestant to cheat, and threatens to expose him to the show's producer -- Dwight Ellison, unless he quits the show. Roddy gives in, and promises to do so that very evening. But out of her sight, he switches the videocassette she has made as proof with another one, then grabs her car keys and sneaks out to her garage, where he cuts her brake line.

That evening, Lizzie sits down to watch the show and before the bonus round, Roddy declares he has an announcement to make about his future: he's just renewed his contract for a further five years, and assures his fans that he's not going anywhere. Furious, Lizzie grabs her "evidence" and jumps into her car. But while navigating the winding road on the hills, she is unable to slow down before she hits a sharp turn, and the car crashes through the guardrail and rolls down the hill.

A few weeks later, in San Francisco, Sharona is out of town visiting her ailing mother, leaving Adrian Monk in the care of his annoying neighbor, Kevin Dorfman. As Monk is forced to deal with Kevin recalling every single occasion where he ate egg salad, there's a knock on the door. To Monk's astonishment, it's his father-in-law, Dwight Ellison, who needs his help. Dwight currently is the producer of Treasure Chest, and is convinced the current champion is cheating, so he asks Monk to come to Los Angeles to help him figure out what's going on. Monk begs off at first, mentioning that he doesn't go anywhere without Sharona, but Kevin volunteers to take her place. Monk and Dwight head to L.A., with Kevin in tow.

Upon arrival, Dwight immediately takes Monk to the studio before the next taping and introduces him to the current champion, Val Birch. A brief conversation is enough to convince Monk that Dwight is right about Birch being a moron. Case in point: Birch says he was in "Frisco" the past year, and apparently thinks the fog is controlled by the city and he cannot identify the name of the Golden Gate Bridge (mistakenly calling it the "Golden Bridge"). In plain words, Birch is a complete moron. In the meantime, Kevin speaks to Lankman and lets it slip that Monk is investigating the show.

Backstage, before the show starts, Lankman and Birch have a whispered conference. Lankman warns Birch that people are getting suspicious, but Birch reminds him that he's going to continue winning until he says they're done, or else. As it turns out, Birch has discovered that Lankman was behind Lizzie Talvo's death and is blackmailing him in return for keeping quiet.

Monk and Kevin sit through the taping, watching from the front row of the audience as Birch wins yet again. Monk can't understand how Birch is cheating, though it's obvious Birch is doing that - for instance, in the question, "Which monarch is sometimes known as the Tragic Queen?" he pronounces the answer as "Mary An-toy-net" instead of "Marie Antoinette" and he gets a visual question involving a picture of the Monticello mansion right without even turning to look at the photo as did the other contestants. Dwight explains that, for the last two weeks, he has been writing the questions himself, and they remain sealed in confidential envelopes until they are opened during the show - no one, not even Roddy, is allowed to see them beforehand. Monk becomes convinced that Birch and Roddy are working together, but if Roddy is using some kind of code to slip Birch the answers, Monk can't see it.

Later that night, Monk and Kevin go to the Ellisons' house for dinner. All of his memories of Trudy come flooding back; this is her childhood home, after all. Monk cannot bring himself to enter Trudy's old bedroom - it's just too emotional for him. Talk turns back to the mystery at hand, and Dwight mentions that Roddy Lankman has run into financial problems recently, primarily in the form of accumulated gambling debts that got so bad that he was forced to declare bankruptcy in January. There was also Lizzie Talvo's unfortunate death in a car accident, which hit Lankman pretty hard. Dwight also mentions that even if Val Birch is being slipped the answers, it's very hidden - he's analyzed every frame of every show where Birch has won, and Roddy never gestures or changes his voice, or even blinks as Kevin suggested.

Monk also learns something interesting - he remembers that Lankman mentioned how Birch goes fishing up in the Bluestone Valley. He also learns that Lizzie Talvo's "accident" happened in that same location. Monk and Kevin check out the crash site. In addition to various pieces of wreckage from Lizzie's car, they find a discarded soda can with the tab lodged inside the can. Knowing that Val Birch has a habit of popping the tabs off and sticking them in his cans, Monk realizes that Birch was at the scene. Monk also finds in the brush nearby an envelope containing the incriminating "tapes" that Lizzie was trying to deliver to Dwight when she crashed.

Monk and Kevin next visit Birch's house at a time when he isn't home. Although the door is unlocked, they decide not to break in - rather, Monk holds Kevin by the back of his pants as Kevin leans in through the door. While Kevin is leaning through the front door, Birch's answering machine picks up an incoming call about a new car that Birch has purchased. The machine also indicates that there is an old message saved on it. Monk finds a pencil that has been chewed on, and when he compares it to the pencil Kevin received from Lankman before the taping they watched, he realizes Lankman left it when he stopped by, probably to talk with Birch about how to cheat. More interesting for Monk is the message about the new car: it indicates that Birch bought the car before he even went on the show.

The mystery deepens, and Monk realizes that he has to get closer to Treasure Chest to break the case, primarily because Lankman refuses to talk to him or answer inquiries about Lizzie Talvo or the cheating allegations. With no other choice, Monk does the unthinkable: he asks Dwight to put him on the show... as a contestant!

Once on the set, Monk introduces himself and gives thanks to Sharona on TV. As the first round of the game begins, Monk's OCD comes to the surface, and he tries as hard as possible to fight the urge to wipe a smudge off of his buzzer. But as the game progresses, he starts to study the interaction between Roddy and Birch closely, and cracks the code. Dwight notices the look on Monk's face cluing him so, a "tell" that Trudy must have mentioned.

The codeEdit

The code, as Monk explains it to Dwight during the commercial break before round 2, is simplicity unto itself: each question is presented as a multiple choice with four possible answers (A, B, C, or D). Roddy feeds Birch the correct answer by holding the card by a particular corner depending on which answer is correct.

Dwight prepares to call the police, but then Monk realizes that cheating isn't all these two are guilty of. After hearing a phone call of a staff member which goes to voice mail, he realizes they are guilty of worse crimes. He asks, and Dwight confirms, that Lizzie Talvo died on May 2nd during the show. Monk quickly tells Dwight not to call the police yet, as doing so might give Birch and Lankman a chance to make bail and destroy the evidence. He asks if he can make a phone call during the game. Dwight says that, under the rules of the game, Monk can telephone for outside assistance, but only if he makes it to the bonus round.

The show resumes, and Monk engages Birch in a neck-and-neck race to answer the questions, often before Roddy finishes asking them, and sometimes even before he can ask the question. At the end, Monk comes out on top, and Birch is sidelined for the first time. For the bonus round, Monk is asked, "Who was the first president to receive a Nobel Peace Prize?" (the answer, though not mentioned, is Theodore Roosevelt) He asks to make his telephone call and he explains the case.

Here's What HappenedEdit

As Monk has suspected, Birch was out fishing in the Bluestone Valley and saw Lizzie Talvo's car fly off the road above him. The car tumbled down the hillside, and landed upright not too far from where Birch was standing. He rushed over to check on Lizzie, and started to call 911 on his cell phone, but then she said something that incriminated Lankman. Realizing that he could make an easy payday, Birch hung up, and instead, called his answering machine to make a recording of Lizzie's dying words. It was sufficient evidence for Birch to blackmail Roddy, who put him on the show, and helped him win, again and again, for protection money.

To prove his claim, Monk dials Birch's house number and presses a few more numbers to instruct the answering machine to play back the saved message: Lizzie, accusing Roddy of cheating and sabotaging her car. As the message ends, security guards enter and inform Roddy and Birch that the police are there to arrest them.

Dwight thanks his son-in-law for his amazing detective work, and Monk responds simply, "Thank you for Trudy."

Back at the Ellisons' house, Monk finally enters Trudy's room. Though he's filled with great sadness, he moves about her room, looking at her belongings, including her diary, in which she says that, no matter what sad memories she might have, she feels she has only good things to look forward to. Adrian can't bring her back, but takes some solace from her words.

Background Information and NotesEdit

  • First appearance of Melora Hardin as Trudy Monk (replacing Stellina Ruisch).
  • Though credited, Bitty Schram, Jason Gray-Stanford, and Ted Levine do not appear, due to the episode being produced while those three actors were in contract disputes. Due to this episode, Tony Shalhoub is the only cast member who was in every single episode.
  • This episode was produced between "Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month" and "Mr. Monk and the Red Herring." It was presumably intended as a stop-gap after Bitty Schram's unexpected departure from the show, while her replacement was being cast.
  • Kevin Dorfman reappears after his introduction in Season Two's "Mr. Monk and the Paperboy." He refers to his winning the lottery in that episode, and explains the subsequent disappearance of his fortune through the combination of a number of factors, including two gold-digging wives, gambling, and a dishonest accountant.
  • Birch called San Francisco "Frisco". As implied by Stottlemeyer back in "Mr. Monk Takes Manhattan", San Franciscans hate that version of the name, although Monk doesn't seem offended.
  • The fact that Lizzie Talvo finds a road where she can gain such a high speed before she hit the brakes the first time is kind of hard to believe. Most people's first step for getting in a car is to depress the brake pedal (and in most cars, you have to push down on the brake pedal in order to move the transmission). If a car is parked in a driveway, it's likely that the person will brake in the driveway backing onto their street. It's unlikely anyone would get on a road where you could travel at such a high speed on a winding road without braking. The brake line should have been cut enough where Lizzie probably would have noticed a problem or it gave out before then.
  • Monk says the police didn't investigate Lizzie Talvo's death because it wasn't a criminal investigation. Her car went off a road for no reason, and a casual check would have revealed that the brake line was cut rather than frayed. There should have been an accident investigation that would have determined if she had even tried to brake before hitting that curve.
  • The answering machine message that Monk hears at the house of Val Birch says that the "640" has arrived. There is no Mercedes Benz 640, nor has there ever been one. There is, however, a BMW 640, so it is possible that the dealership also carries the BMW brand and Monk wrongly assumed that it was a new Merc that Val had ordered.
  • On several of the questions, Val and Monk both ring in and their buzzers can be heard simultaneously. However, Jeopardy! and similar game shows invariably have "lockout"-type buzzer systems that prevent more than one buzzer signaling at a time.
  • Most game shows (and specifically Jeopardy!, which is being parodied here) do not allow contestants to buzz in before the question is completely asked. On Jeopardy!, doing so will result in the player's buzzer being locked out for a quarter of a second. Also, all game shows have a time limit on how long you can take to answer questions (in Jeopardy!, it's five to seven seconds).

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