"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Monk: Mr. Monk and the Genius

I really thought this was going to be a superb Monk. It had all the elements of a top notch cat and mouse affair, starting with guest star David Strathairn -- so brilliant in Good Night and Good Luck as Edward R. Murrow -- as a chess grand master, Patrick Kloster.

The set up was elegant; Kloster's wife hires Monk to investigate her murder because she is certain her husband will follow through on his perfect plan to kill her. Within a day, she's dead and the chess master has an airtight alibi. How did he do it? It was a Columbo gambit, and only a genius like Columbo -- or Monk -- could figure it out.

The clues to the mystery fell into place without any great surprise or twist. The wife was poisoned when she drank from a secret stash of oleander laced wine, which was never found. That was just Monk's supposition after swiping the flowers from the garden. That would be inadmissible evidence because he had no warrant to get them from Kloster's home. Then he actually tried to plant the evidence -- again, not very smart or Monk-like.

The scene that preceded the planting of evidence was the "moment" for the show. Leland suspected that Monk was about the "cross the line" and manufacture the evidence to get Kloster. In a well-written and nicely directed scene (Monk's face is shot in half-darkness and Stottlemeyer is shown as a mirrored reflection), Monk reveals that the wife touched his hands when she convinced him to take the case in a way that was just like Trudy. Monk couldn't just "let it go." He had to make Kloster pay for his crime.

But the way Monk finally figures out how the headstones were switched, by recognizing the castling move in a chess match as Patrick's method of switching the corpses, was too elementary. What goes unexplained is how on earth Kloster could have moved the headstones before the police appeared to dig up his first wife's body? How could he have done it without a trace? Monk was there for the exhumation and didn't notice a blade of grass unturned -- how likely would that be?

So, overall, an episode that promised a lot, but wasn't grand or masterful at all.

Other points of interest:

Finally, a scene with Natalie bitching about her job and how much -- little -- she gets paid to be his assistant. Is Monk having money problems because of the house? He should have reminded her of that debacle.

Julie's flirting with the young chessman was cute, especially Natalie's pride/upset at how good her teenaged daughter is at getting to the guy.

It was a relief that Randy wasn't made to look like an idiot for a chance. In fact, his predicting that Stottlemeyer would in some way spill his coffee and he'd be forced to clean up the mess was very prescient.

Would Monk really have not endorsed the $5,000 check unless tricked into it? The guy has to pay his rent.

What a relief when Monk finally tells Kloster that he's sick of the chess metaphors! It was becoming a bore.

I liked the way Kloster was dressed like Monk in the first scene; no tie, buttoned up. As the episode progressed, his look became less and less Monkish.

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