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Mr. Monk and the Marathon Man

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Mr. Monk and the Marathon Man is the ninth episode of the first season of Monk.


SynopsisEdit

Monk knows that a local furniture magnate threw his young mistress off the balcony of her 21st floor apartment. However, the man has a perfect alibi: he was across town running in a citywide marathon. How can the suspect be in two places at once?

PlotEdit

On a beautiful Saturday orning, the San Francisco marathon kicks off. One of the competitors is legendary marathoner Tonday Mawwaka of Nigeria, Adrian Monk's boyhood hero. He and Sharona wait eagerly on a street corner to catch a passing glimpse of Tonday, but Monk is distracted by a nearby spectator's askew sweater and thus misses seeing Tonday run by.

Meanwhile, actress Gwen Zaleski is watching the marathon on television, half-hoping to catch a glimpse of her lover, Trevor McDowell. She fails to see Trevor himself entering through the front door. The moment she hangs up the phone, Trevor reveals himself. The baffled Gwen tells him that she thought he was in the marathon. There is a scream, and her body plummets from the balcony of her apartment.

Monk and Sharona are driving when they see the police activity outside Gwen's building. They appear just as Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher arrive. Stottlemeyer says murder is a possibility, but Monk says it's a certainty: Gwen apparently hadn't finished painting her toenails before she went over the rail. Stottlemeyer asks Monk if he'd be willing to stay and help out, and Monk is more than willing to accept.

As they investigate the apartment, the medical examiner calls and confirms that Gwen was strangled to death before being thrown. Monk learns that Gwen lived alone, but there's evidence she had a boyfriend: she keeps cigars in a humidor and beer in her refrigerator. Somebody apparently was also paying Gwen's bills because she was in unemployment, someone who also bought her a lot of gifts. Then Monk observes an unusual smell: chamomile, a wild herb that is used to make tea. He also makes an interesting observation: on Gwen's speed dial, the name for her third number is not listed. He concludes that number three must be a secret lover she didn't want anyone to find out about. They call the number, and find themselves speaking to Trevor McDowell.

Monk, Sharona and Stottlemeyer track McDowell down to one of his newest showrooms as he, his wife, and his two sons tape a new commercial. After sending McDowell's family away (on the pretense that they want to talk to McDowell about an employee passing bad checks), they break the news of Gwen's death to McDowell. McDowell admits that he was having an affair with Gwen, thus admitting a strong motive for killing her. He also confirms that he was paying Gwen's rent and called her building manager to say that he was going to terminate the lease. As for an alibi, McDowell says that at 7:55 AM, when the murder happened, he was on Haight Street, running in the Marathon. He claims he completed his run in 3 hours and 41 minutes, a personal best for him.


Monk thinks McDowell is the guy. He and Sharona go to the marathon committee's offices to interview the employees and pull McDowell's record. To their surprise, McDowell's alibi checks out: he was running in the marathon, with a time of 3:41:22, and all the runners were tracked by microchips secured to their shoelaces to the nearest tenth of a second. There's no way that McDowell could have left the race, because the runners passed through checkpoints every few miles along the route, and McDowell's chip records show that he didn't miss a single checkpoint.

Stottlemeyer and Disher interrogate Gwen's shift ex-husband Arthur, who apparently had a restraining order against her a few years ago. However, he seems impossible to break, and he claims he was at home in bed when the murder happened. Monk tells Stottlemeyer he's still convinced McDowell is guilty of the murder, for one reason: Gwen was killed before she was thrown off the balcony. The killer did this to establish the exact time of her death, and would only do it if he had an alibi for 7:55 AM. Stottlemeyer, however, sticks by the fact that McDowell's chip passed through all the checkpoints. The only possible theory he has as to how McDowell beat the microchip would be if he had his chip passed off to another runner.

Monk visits the marathon office to look into Stottlemeyer's theory. and finds that no other runner matched McDowell's time exactly. In fact, only one other runner finished within a few seconds of McDowell: Tonday. Monk and Sharona visit Tonday at his hotel suite. They bond instantly, but Monk can't dismiss him as a suspect. They review videotape documenting the race (which Tonday says was his last), during which a news crew recorded every inch of Tonday's valedictory run. In the video, McDowell keeps pace with Tonday for several miles, before dropping off-camera about 65 minutes in, only to suddenly pop back up a few feet ahead of Tonday for the finish.

Monk and Sharona then retrace the marathon route to try to recreate McDowell's timetable. Monk is trying out a new pair of running shoes that Tonday has given him. They quickly find the place where McDowell disappeared from the video, about an hour into the race. Monk observes that it is at a point where the course crosses a bridge, after which it makes a fork to the right. It is a curve that is also a blind spot, with no room for spectators. Starting the stopwatch, Monk and Sharona walk over to the bushes on the left side of the course. Monk quickly finds a clue: chamomile leaves, matching the smell he detected in Gwen's apartment. Monk surmises that McDowell must have had a change of clothes stashed here before the race, so he mimes changing his clothes. Once Monk is done "changing," they try to figure out how McDowell got to Gwen's apartment. Sharona points out that McDowell couldn't have driven because the streets in the area were closed off. Monk then sees a cable car stop nearby and gets an idea.

Monk and Sharona take the cable car up the hill. They are 17:20 into their timetable. As they ride, Sharona laughs when Monk tells her he used to be a track and field star in high school - until his burgeoning O.C.D. symptoms cost his team a championship (Monk was obsessed with fixing his uneven shoelaces at the beginning of a race).

When the cable car arrives at Lombard Street and Hyde Street at the top of the hill, Monk and Sharona get off, and run up another hill to the entrance to Gwen's apartment building. They are now 24:10 from the point where McDowell left the race. They quickly decide that McDowell didn't take the elevator, but took the stairs to avoid being seen. When they make it up to Gwen's 21st floor apartment, Monk is easily exhausted, indicating that his athlete days are long behind him. He lies down on the couch while he determines what happened: McDowell entered the apartment while Gwen was doing her nails, and surprised her. She asked him something like, "I thought you were running the marathon." He strangled her, then lugged her body to the balcony and pitched it over the railing. It would have been 39 minutes since he left the race. He then left the building the same way he entered, and rejoined the race near the finish.


Monk confronts McDowell with his theory that McDowell murdered Gwen after she threatened to tell his wife about their affair. He shows McDowell "before and after" video stills of McDowell: at mile six of the marathon, his shirt is completely drenched, but at the finish line, he's not even perspiring. McDowell laughs, knowing the computer readout proves that he never left the race and that the computer trumps everything.


Gwen's ex-husband's alibi checks out, so Stottlemeyer and Disher try to make Stottlemeyer's accomplice-runner theory work, but with no success: the only way the times could have matched up exactly was if McDowell somehow bribed at least six other runners to work out a multi-way relay of the chip. Disher proposes while rewatching the race footage that McDowell may have placed the chip on a poodle and may have somehow drugged it.


Frustrated, Monk goes home and watches, again and again, the video of Tonday's run... and finally solves the case.

Here's What HappenedEdit

Monk summons Sharona and tells her he has solved the case. As they drive, Monk explains that they've been looking at the case from the wrong angle. Their assumption had been that McDowell passed the chip to another runner, like Tonday, but this didn't work because the times were not a perfect match. But in rewatching the video broadcast, Monk has suddenly realized that there was one other person in the race that was neck-and-neck with Tonday: the motorcycle unit driving the video crew that documented Tonday's run.

McDowell never even attached his computer chip to his shoe. Instead, he taped it beneath the sidecar on the camera bike, possibly with a Hide-A-Key container. He then started the race like normal, keeping pace with Tonday and the bike for a few miles to make sure his time matched up with video footage of him. When he got to that curve in the road 65 minutes in, McDowell quit the race completely, while the camera bike continued on with his chip still stuck to it, passing through every single checkpoint. McDowell had a change of clothes in a backpack stashed in the bushes so he could cross town without being seen. After committing the murder, he rejoined the race near the end. Due to the mass chaos at the finish line, it was easy for McDowell to rejoin without anyone seeing him. His alibi would be airtight, and no one would ever think he left the race. Monk believes that the chip is still on the bike, since McDowell had no reason to remove it, and no one who found it would know what it was.

Unfortunately, McDowell, after seeing a news report on an inquest into Gwen's death, reaches the same conclusion and goes to retrieve the chip. He gets there just before Monk and Sharona do, and takes off running with the chip in his hand.

Monk's old marathon skills return as he chases after him. With incredible force of will, Monk overtakes McDowell, and tackles him within yards of the shoreline. Unfortunately, he is too distracted doing his victory dance to notice McDowell get up and toss his chip into the water. The police arrive and arrest McDowell, and Monk approaches McDowell to suggest that he should have realized that the Hide-A-Key container he used to attach the chip floats, so the police have irrefutable evidence to convict him.

Sharona and Monk arrive at Tonday's hotel to taxi him to the airport. As a farewell gift, Tonday gives Monk the headband he wore for his famous victory in Los Angeles in the 1970's. Monk is overwhelmed, but cringes when Tonday mentions that he hasn't worn or washed the headband since then.

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