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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.


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?


On a beautiful Saturday, the San Francisco marathon kicks off. One of the competitors is legendary marathoner Tonday Mawwaka of Nigeria, 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. Meanwhile, actress Gwen Zaleski is watching the marathon on television, half-hoping to catch a glimpse of her lover, Trevor McDowell. Then she looks around and sees Trevor himself standing behind her. There is a scream, and her body plummets from the balcony of her apartment.

Monk and Sharona pass the death scene in their car, and stop as Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher arrive. Stottlemeyer says murder is a possibility, but Monk says it's a certainty: Gwen hadn't finished painting her toenails before she went over the rail. As they investigate the apartment, the medical examiner calls and confirms that she was strangled to death before being thrown.

A number on Gwen's speed-dial leads them to McDowell, an arrogant local furniture magnate. McDowell admits that he was having an affair with Gwen, thus admitting a strong motive for killing her. Trouble is, his alibi is perfect: he was running in the marathon, and all the runners were tracked by microchips secured to their shoelaces. Monk is sure that McDowell did it, but the computer shows that McDowell ran the full 26 miles.

Stottlemeyer's theory is McDowell used an accomplice, getting another runner to carry both his own and McDowell's microchip. But Monk visits the marathon office 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.

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). Monk then visits Tonday. 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, Monk sees McDowell keeping pace with Tonday for several miles, then dropping off-camera for the bulk of the race, then suddenly reappearing a few feet ahead of Tonday for the finish.

Although Gwen's shifty ex-husband has already been arrested, Monk is more convinced than ever that it was McDowell who killed her. Retracing the marathon route, Monk finds a bend in the road where McDowell could have dropped out without being seen by the other runners, the exact place where McDowell disappeared from the video. He speculates that McDowell left the race, changed clothes, paid his deadly visit to Gwen, than rejoined the marathoners at the finish line (as they recreate McDowell's route on foot, Monk is easily exhausted, indicating that his athlete days are long behind him).

After Gwen's ex-husband's alibi checks out, Stottlemeyer and Disher are trying 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 worked out a relay of his chip between six other runners. Disher proposes while rewatching the race that McDowell may have placed the chip on a poodle and may have given it drugs somehow.

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, sweating heavily, and then at the finish line, hardly perspiring. McDowell laughs, knowing the computer readout proves that he never left the race and that the computer trumps everything. Frustrated, Monk goes home and watches, again and again, the video of Tonday's run... and finally solves the case.

Here's What HappenedEdit

McDowell's chip never left the race, but it wasn't with another runner - it was with the video crew documenting Tonday's run. McDowell hid it beneath the sidecar on the camera bike. Monk believes that it's still there, since McDowell would have no reason to remove it, and no one who found it would know what it was. He planted the chip there using a Hide-A-Key heel, then started the race like normal. He followed Tonday and the bike for a few miles, and when he got to that curve in the road, McDowell quit the race completely, while his chip continued on, passing through all the checkpoints. McDowell had a change of clothes in the bushes so he could cross town without being seen. After committing the murder, he rejoined the race near the end, a process made easier by the mass confusion at the finish line. His alibi would be airtight and no one would ever think he left the race. 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. Luckily for the case, the plastic Hide-A-Key container he used to attach the chip, floats, allowing the police to retrieve it.

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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