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Season 2 Season 4

Mr. Monk vs. The Cobra is the eleventh episode of the third season of Monk.


Author John Ricca sits up watching his own interview on a talk show about the release of Paper Cobra, his new book on deceased martial arts star Sonny Chow, which purports to expose Chow as a fraud. Someone knocks on the door, and when he goes to answer it, a shadowy figure dressed in a ninja outfit breaks into his apartment. Ricca tries to run, but is beaten to death with a set of nunchakus.

The next day, Natalie Teeger is having trouble adjusting to her new job as Adrian Monk’s assistant. For one thing, Monk is so cheap that he refuses to reimburse her for certain work-related expenses, simply because he never did for Sharona. She threatens to quit, but is interrupted when she receives a phone call on the murder.

At Ricca's apartment, Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher are already conducting their investigation into the murder. Randy informs Stottlemeyer that he already has a possible theory about the murder: Ricca’s book was highly critical of Chow, purporting to expose him as a fraud, and some of Chow’s more crazed fans (Randy included) had a strong motive to hate Ricca.

Monk and Natalie arrive at the crime scene. Stottlemeyer notes that the killer broke in from the roof around 4:00 AM, but for some odd reason, after the murder, he fled by riding down the elevator. Randy notes that the nunchucks used as the murder weapon have insignias of ones used by Chow in one of his earlier movies, but whether they belonged to the killer or to the victim is unclear given Ricca's occupation. An officer passes them a videotape showing the ninja riding down the elevator at approximately 4:07 AM, however, it is impossible to make out the perpetrator's face as he's wearing a hoodie. The medical examiner informs them that Ricca managed to grabbed some hair off the killer's head, meaning that they might have a good chance at having solid DNA. Monk is skeptical - how could the victim have grabbed any hair off the killer when the tape shows that the killer was wearing a hood? They then notice that Ricca apparently wrote the word “CHOW” on the floor in his own blood. Excited, Disher mentions rumors that Chow faked his own death, making him a suspect.

Stottlemeyer drops by Monk’s apartment that night with a file. He asks Monk if he remembers a convention Stottlemeyer attended in Atlanta a few years ago. He then explains that something happened he never told Monk about: when he got there, he hailed a cab at the airport, and he recognized the driver as Harold Burnshaw, the former head of the FBI Atlanta field office until the 1996 Olympic Games bombing. He'd ruined his career by accusing the wrong guy and booting it big time on national television. Then Stottlemeyer reveals why he's bringing this up: 20 years ago, Sonny Chow froze some of his own blood in the event he ever had to undergo surgery, giving them bulletproof DNA to compare. The hair found at the crime scene is undoubtedly Sonny Chow’s, despite the fact that he’s been dead for six years. Stottlemeyer needs Monk more than ever, because he is aware of how his career will be ruined if he goes public and then gets proven wrong.

Monk and Natalie visit a martial arts school run by Sonny’s mentor, Master Zi, where Sonny retreated after he fell ill. Zi swears to them that Sonny is dead, he died in Zi’s own arms. Hoping to catch her boss in an awkward fix, Natalie asks Master Zi whether he thinks Monk should be paying her expenses. To her consternation, Zi agrees with Monk: as his employee, her first loyalty should be to him, not her own pocketbook.

Zi also steps closer to Monk and senses something of his tragic past. He gives Monk a candle and a set of matches, to remind him of the light when he is surrounded by darkness.

The police call Monk and Natalie to a cemetery, where they have gotten a court order to exhume Sonny Chow’s coffin. Disher excitedly tells them about clues which hint that Chow faked his death, because an Asian man of similar appearance disappeared the day before Chow’s death. While the coffin is being lifted, Stottlemeyer recognizes one of the gravediggers, an ex-con named Chris Downey, who has been recently paroled after serving six years for aggravated assault on an off-duty cop, but who escaped suspicion on an armed robbery charge. He shrugs off Stottlemeyer’s questions, then quickly swallows some pills from a bottle.

In the mortuary, the coffin is opened, and the morticians take dental x-rays of the corpse inside. As they wait for the results, Natalie confronts Monk again about her expenses. She mentions that he is still paying rent for an office downtown, and wonders why he needs that. Monk says it is Trudy’s old office, which he refuses to close. Aggravated, Natalie grabs the pillow from out of the coffin and hits him with it, causing an unusual amount of pain.

Stottlemeyer comes back, saying it is official: the corpse is Sonny Chow’s. So the question becomes, why would anyone want to frame a dead man for murder? Disher mentions that there is a Sonny Chow museum in Daly City, and Monk becomes intrigued.

He and Natalie visit the museum, run by a crazed fan named Eddie Frankel. He mentions that there was a break-in a few days before the Ricca murder, but the intruder didn't steal anything. Monk looks in one of the display cases and sees a hairbrush that supposedly belonged to Sonny Chow. Examining it further, he sees it is a fake, meaning that whoever was behind the break-in stole the original.

When he sees the symbol that Eddie stamped onto Natalie’s hand, he says he’s solved the case, and drags her back to the cemetery quickly. As he searches Sonny Chow’s coffin, Natalie asks him for the last time whether he will pay her expenses. Caught, he says no, and she quits, walking out. But as soon as she’s gone, Chris Downey sneaks up behind Monk and knocks him out with a shovel. The scene then cuts to Downey heaping dirt onto a freshly-dug mound of earth.

Natalie comes back into the mortuary, wanting to apologize for running out earlier. She sees that Monk is nowhere to be found, and that one of the empty coffins is missing. She calls Stottlemeyer in a panic.

As Downey drives his truck out of the cemetery, the police intercept him. They order him out of his car, and Stottlemeyer demands to know where Monk is. Downey smugly informs the captain that he’ll tell the police where to dig, as soon as he’s taken to the airport and lifted off in a private jet... but then he collapses from a heart attack, dying before he can tell them where he buried Monk.

Here's What HappenedEdit

Inside the coffin, Monk lights Master Zi’s candle to give himself light. He hallucinates that he is walking through the San Francisco Botanical Gardens with Trudy, to whom he gives the summation:

Six years earlier, Downey robbed a courier of a large fortune in diamonds. During the getaway, however, he assaulted an off-duty cop. Before he went home, he went to the cemetery and hid the jewels in Sonny Chow’s coffin (specifically, inside his “death pillow”), which was scheduled to be buried the next day, figuring that he could always come back years later to retrieve them. Subsequently, without the jewels, the police were unable to charge Downey with theft when they arrested him  and he ended up serving six years for the assault.

When Downey was paroled from prison, he went back to the cemetery to dig up the jewels, but was stunned to find that while he was in prison, a Sonny Chow fan club based in the Philippines had placed a huge granite monument over the grave, too heavy for him to shift aside by himself. He got back his old job at the cemetery, and then stole the hairbrush and killed Ricca, leaving the hair behind to frame Chow for murder, in order to get the police to get a warrant to exhume the coffin.

The police dig all over the graveyard, trying to find Monk before he runs out of air. The task seems hopeless, but then Stottlemeyer notices a traffic light has gone out, and realizes that Downey must have cut a utility line while he was digging, allowing them to narrow down the area. As they dig frantically, a technician holding sonar equipment over the ground hears Monk talking from inside his coffin, saying "I love you" to Trudy.

Just before his air runs out, the police dig up the coffin and open it. Monk is lying inside, eyes closed, with a blissful smile on his face.

Having been rescued by his faithful assistant, and with Trudy's blessing, Monk finally closes Trudy's office downtown, and places her things in storage, so he can afford to pay Natalie what she needs.


Master Zi: (blindfolded) A great sorrow has entered this room.
Adrian Monk: That would be me.
Master Zi: And there is a woman with you... she is very beautiful.
Natalie Teeger: How can you tell?
Master Zi: I could hear Mr. Huang's heart beating faster. (takes off his blindfold and sees Natalie) Now that I see you, it is obvious why.
Master Zi: You are on a quest, Mr. Monk.
Adrian Monk: That's right.
Master Zi: You live in a very dark place. The darkness is your fear. (gives him a candle and match) Take this as a gift. Light is your weapon, Mr. Monk. Be the light.
Adrian Monk: You are a wise and learned man, Master Zi..
Master Zi: As are you.
Adrian Monk: It must be a heavy burden, to bear such tremendous wisdom.
Master Zi: It is a gift... and a curse.
Stottlemeyer: Well, that was the opposite of fun.
Stottlemeyer: All right, listen up! We figure he's got about forty minutes of air if he’s not panicking. (pause)
Stottlemeyer: Figure on fifteen minutes.


  • This is the first episode showing Natalie in her new official role as Monk's assistant.
  • On the Monk Cast Favorites Marathon, this episode was listed as one of Traylor Howard's favorites.
  • This is the first episode in which a character says, "I love that word," in reference to the word "alleged" or "allegedly." In this case, Downey says that when Stottlemeyer recognizes him. The second is "Mr. Monk and the Birds and the Bees," when Disher is explaining who "the Lovely Rita" is.
  • When Monk's coffin is dug up by Stottlemeyer, the candle he is holding has wax melted all over his hands. But in the next shot of him, the candle is not melted, and his hands are clean.
  • With technology's advancements, it seems very impractical to dig frantically all over a graveyard for bodies. In reality, scanners that detect body heat would be used.
  • It is highly improbable that a man with an unstable heart (Downey) would beat a victim to death with a pair of nunchakus.
  • Sonny Chow is later referenced by Hal and Monk while they are watching one of his movies in the episode Mr. Monk Makes a Friend.