Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Mr. Monk Meets Willie Nelson

This is my entry in the Small Screen Blogathon hosted by Maddylovesherclassicfilms.

I came upon the TV show "Monk" midways through the first season.  Episode 10: "Mr Monk Takes a Vacation", to be exact.   But I was immediately attracted to the character.  For the most part, Adrian Monk is the exact opposite of me.  He is organized to a fault; I couldn't get to my front door in the dark without tripping over something.  He washes each dish immediately after use; I let dishes pile up for days.

The biggest attraction to the "Monk" series for me was his obsession with solving the murder of his wife Trudy, an event that happened some 5 years prior to the series beginning.  (The year, 1997, shows up on the tombstone which we see at the end of this episode we are discussing today.  The date, revealed in a later episode was Dec. 14, 1997)

Monk is a modern equivalent of Sherlock Holmes, a man with an astounding memory and one who has the ability to see details that elude his police friends, thus helping him to solve complicated cases, such as one that occurred when the ex-girlfriend of an astronaut supposedly hung herself while the astronaut was doing a space jaunt.  Monk believes the astronaut was responsible and eventually solves the case, due to his ability to notice certain inconsistencies with the "suicide".

"Monk" was the first TV series of which I ever bought a single season, and have since acquired all 8 seasons.  I usually get in at least one episode a week, and even though I know how each one ends intimately, I still find them fascinating.

Monk: "Mr. Monk Meets the Red-Headed Stranger":

At a rehearsal for an upcoming concert, Willie Nelson and his band do a run through of "On the Road Again".  After the rehearsal, Willie confronts his road manager, Sonny Cross (David Anderson) and accuses him of juggling the books, because there is a missing balance of $400,000.  Willie tells Sonny if the books don't balance before they get ready to leave to return to Austin "you won't be going back to Austin".

The band is scheduled for a meeting to which Sonny shows up and encounters a sign that says "J. Cross Use Side Door".  When Sonny goes around the corner there are shots.  Willie comes around the corner sees Sonny shot and a woman, Wendy Maas  (Jackie Richardson)  yelling for the police.

The story becomes more complicated when it is evident that the woman is blind.  Monk is called in as a consultant.  A surprise to everyone who knows Monk, he and his wife were (and he still is) big fans of Willie Nelson's music.  (He later confesses to having all of Willie's albums!).

Early on Monk becomes convinced that Willie is innocent, and not just because he is a fan.  The first clue is the note that was left for Sonny.  It said "J. Cross" (his first name being Jason), but Willie only knows him has "Sonny".  But the only other person in the alley was the blind woman.  And Sonny had been shot twice, once at point blank range, which the blind woman could have done, but second shot was in the back as he was trying to run away.

Some of the more interesting and funny scenes occur as Monk tries to investigate the murder.  My favorite is when Monk and Sharona get on Willie's tour bus.  Monk immediately notices an odor and says "Do you smell that?", to which Willie responds "No.  And you don't either."  (Hint:  Just in case you are unfamiliar with Willie nelson, that doesn't imply Willie sprayed the place with "Winter Gardens" air freshener...)

There is always a ubiquitous scene in which Monk is confronted with his germophobia.  In this case Willie invites Monk, who is a fairly decent clarinet player to sit in on a live radio broadcast to play clarinet on "George on My Mind".  One of the band members attempts to show Monk how close to the microphone to play and puts his lips on the mouthpiece.  Monk now can't play the piece because of his fear of germs and ends up whistling his solo, a funny scene.

Monk, during his investigation, observes several clues that helps him solve the case.  In case it isn't obvious, Willie is not guilty.  Of course, if you are a frequent watcher of the series, you know if Monk says "He's the guy", the person to whom Monk is referring IS the culprit.  On the same wave, if Monk is convinced someone is not guilty, that person is always innocent in the end.  So who killed Sonny?  Well, without giving it away completely, remember the Sherlock Holmes maxim about what happens when you eliminate the impossible.

The final scene has Willie and Monk playing a duet over Monk's wife's grave, a tender scene to end the episode.

Monk aired for 8 seasons.  All are available on DVD.  Fair warning, you may want to clear a couple of weekends for binge watching after watching one episode.  I suggest highly that you watch them in order because occasionally one episode will make a reference to a previous episode and almost all of the season ending episodes involve clues leading to the discovery of who killed Trudy Monk and why.  And thankfully the producers had the foresight to wrap up the series in the last episode of the final season so that we faithful followers got to see Monk resolve the mystery.



  1. Monk wasn't available in our area when it originally aired and I haven't gotten around to it in the years since. Obviously, I am missing something pretty special.

    PS: I'm not obsessively organized, but I do wash dishes immediately upon use and this drives my husband and daughter crazy!

    1. There are several Monk episodes I think are essential viewing to start with. I don't recommend the series finale until you have watched most of the series, otherwise you won't really get an affinity for Monk's obsession with solving the murder of his wife. But some of the better single viewing episodes are "Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect", "Mr. Monk and the Three Pies", "Mr. Monk Gets Jury Duty", "Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike", "Mr. Monk and the Rapper" (which features Snoop Dogg and has a rap version of the opening theme). Of course thats only a few of them but they are among the best.

    2. I thoroughly wash my dishes before I put them in the dishwasher. Family is similarly driven crazy.


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