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Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike

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Monk Season 5
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Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike is the second episode of the fifth season of Monk.

PlotEdit

The largest garbage strike in San Francisco history has just begun. Trash is piling up everywhere, and the sanitation union's boss, Jimmy Cusack, is promising a prolonged work stoppage. It's a nightmare scenario for Adrian Monk , and it's only made worse when Cusack is found dead in his office of an apparent suicide. Suspecting foul play, the sanitation union suspends all negotiations with the city, and hires Monk to look into Cusack's death. If Monk agrees with the police that Cusack's death was a suicide, the union promises to return to the bargaining table.

Monk and Natalie head to Cusack's office to inspect the crime scene. Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher explain that what is known is that Cusack was last seen alive in his office around 9:30 PM. A cleaning crew found his body that morning around 7:00 AM, dead of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of his head. The medical examiner has determined that Cusack died around midnight. The union's accountant, Ron Neely, tells Monk he talked to Cusack around midnight as he was going over the books for another round of negotiations and found some financial irregularities: apparently $304,200 had vanished from the pension fund. Cusack's only statement, "What took you so long?" and the tone in his voice suggests he was suicidal.

After Stottlemeyer, Disher, Neely and the other union reps leave, Monk and Natalie look around the scene. Monk quickly notices some clues that seem to suggest Cusack didn't shoot himself: The first is several scuff marks on the desk where someone propped his shoes up, and the fact that all of the cashews missing from a bowl of mixed nuts, meaning someone else visited Cusack and talked to him. The second is when Monk finds a picture of Cusack playing tennis and realizes that Cusack was left-handed, but the revolver was in his right hand when he died, though this appears to be explained away by the fact that his left hand is bandaged, like he'd sprained his wrist. It is when Monk analyzes the wingback chair where Cusack died that he finds more evidence contrary to the suicide theory: the position of the bullet hole and blood spatter shows that Cusack was leaning all the way back in his chair when he was shot, a position where he'd have no room to hold the revolver to his head. Lastly, why would a suicidal man also take the time to wipe the rest of the bullets in the chamber clean of fingerprints?

Nevertheless, Monk, eager to end the garbage strike, lies and tells reporters that Jimmy Cusack died by his own hand.


The next day, Natalie confronts her boss. She knows him too well by now to miss the signs that he's noticed foul play, and gives him an ultimatum: he comes clean, or she quits. Monk does so, and tells Captain Stottlemeyer that Jimmy Cusack was probably murdered. The Captain begins a full-on murder investigation, and the garbage strike continues.

Monk is called in for an interview with Mayor Ray Nicholson, and freezes when he sees that the Mayor's shoes are scuffed, and that Nicholson has a compulsive yen for cashews. Not only that, but the Mayor complains about having lost his umbrella, when an unidentified umbrella was found in Cusack's office!

In the rotunda of City Hall, Monk confers with Stottlemeyer in an excited whisper: he's not sure Mayor Nicholson is "the guy," but he was definitely in Cusack's office the night he died. Unfortunately, they happen to be standing in the famous "Whispering Spot" which transmits their voices directly across the rotunda to a group of reporters.

The strike worsens as the Mayor is now labeled the primary suspect in Cusack's death. Monk examines the crime scene again, and realizes what happened:

Here's What HappenedEdit

In an attempt to end the strike, Mayor Nicholson entered Cusack's office and shot him in the head, then placed the gun in his right hand. But seeing photos of Cusack on the wall, he realized that Cusack was left-handed, so he had to improvise. He ran to a local drugstore and brought a wrist bandage, then returned to the office and wrapped Cusack's left hand, making it seem like Cusack was forced to use his right hand to shoot himself. When he left the office for the second time, he left his umbrella behind.

But when Monk follows the trail to the drugstore, the clerk who was on duty shows them the receipt, which the customer left behind, and is 100% sure that, whoever the man was who bought the wrist bandage, he was not the Mayor of San Francisco. The mayor is innocent, and, for the first time, Monk is wrong!

The disorder and smell from the mounting piles of garbage are having an increasingly bad effect on Monk's rationality, not to mention his crime-solving abilities. In fact, Dr. Kroger has discovered that Monk is disposing of his garbage by mailing large boxes of it to him. The next morning, Natalie calls Stottlemeyer and Disher in a panic, to show them Monk, who has commandeered a garbage truck and is attempting to clean up San Francisco single-handedly. When Natalie reminds him that he has a case to solve, Monk gives a maniacal laugh and says he already has. It all came together, he explains, after he saw a flyer for an upcoming Alice Cooper concert, showing Alice sitting in a wing chair similar to the one Cusack was found in!

Here's What HappenedEdit

Alice Cooper, like all rock stars, is an avid collector of antique wing chairs, and was consumed with jealous rage after reading about Cusack's, so he broke into Cusack's office, beat Cusack up, and shot him to death - unfortunately, he put a bullet hole through the chair, which is why he didn't take it.

As Monk throws the switch on the truck's compactor, the compartment overflows and buries Monk in bags of garbage, sending him completely around the bend.

Exasperated, Stottlemeyer takes Monk to a "clean room," in a computer factory: hermetically sealed, soundproofed, and 100% dust and germ free. Monk's head clears, and within a few seconds, he solves the case.

Here's What Really HappenedEdit

Monk in a clean room

Monk about to solve the case in the clean room.

Now with his head clear, Monk suddenly remembers a clue he missed: according to the receipt from the drugstore, the man who purchased the wrist bandage to put on Cusack's arm also bought a few other purchases, including some bottled water and a pack of Belgian Gold cigarettes. Monk then remembers that Ron Neely, the union's accountant, was smoking a pack of cigarettes with the label "Belgian Gold" while they were at the crime scene. Neely makes more sense as a suspect than either the Mayor or Alice Cooper. Remembering the things Neely said in his statement, they realize that Neely was skimming money from the union's pension fund. When the union went on strike, he knew he was going to get caught because the books were going to be audited as part of the negotiations. To avoid being caught, Neely had to kill Cusack and blame him for the money.

Borrowing from Monk's earlier theory, Neely shot Cusack dead and made it look like a suicide. Midway through staging the scene, he realized that he had put the revolver in the wrong hand, forcing him to make an emergency trip to the drugstore to buy a wrist bandage. But Stottlemeyer points out that this doesn't explain why he grabbed the mayor's umbrella. Monk hence borrows from his original theory to explain: the mayor had visited Cusack's office a few hours before the shooting (that being confirmed by the matching scuff marks and the cashews). They were in a secret meeting and trying to find a way to settle the strike. This was an unofficial communication, since officially, as far as the public was to know, the city and the sanitation union were not talking. He forgot his umbrella when he left. The mayor could never admit that he was in Cusack's office because it would have been political suicide, and ruined his career.

Neely is arrested, the strike ends, and Monk is the union's new hero, having solved Jimmy Cusack's murder, ended the strike, and saved their pension fund from Nealy's skimming. They return to work, ending one of the worst crises Monk has ever had to endure.

Major EventsEdit

  • San Fransisco has a huge garbage strike which slowly drives Monk a little crazy.
  • The mayor of San Fransisco becomes a suspect in the murder of the sanitation department's union leader.
  • Monk manages to solve the murder, becoming the union's hero.

Background Information and NotesEdit

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