I kind of knew when I put together the words Monk and submarine I was going to get an unusual episode. As a longtime Monk watcher, I know that enclosed places are not Adrian-friendly environs, so when an old friend of Natalie's -- hottie Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) as her late husband Mitch's buddy, Lt. Steve Albright -- asked Monk to investigate a suspicious death on the U.S.S. Seattle, trouble would ensue. Was it a contrived situation to get Monk trapped on board? You bet, but I accepted that and moved on.
What made this episode unique was how Monk reacted. Initially, he ran for the hatch like a crazed three-year-old. But then Adrian concocted a coping mechanism. This was a Monk first. To deal with claustrophia, he envisioned Dr. Bell by his side.
It was like Harvey, the movie in which Jimmy Stewart has an invisible best friend named Harvey, a giant rabbit. To the world, Jimmy's character, Elwood P. Dowd, is completely daft. In a similar fashion, Monk spent this entire episode conferring and talking to an invisible Dr. Bell. Monk appeared delusional, but the illusion allowed him to cope with the situation and solve the case. It was actually pretty funny.
Is it possible that Monk is getting better -- at least better for him? Since his illusion was Dr. Bell and not someone else, that means he's bonded with the new therapist. If the late Stanley Kamel were alive, this illusion might have been Dr. Kroger. Still, Monk's subconscious chose someone who can help him deal psychologically, as opposed to Leland or Randy, who would have been there to help solve the crime only.
It was pretty obvious that Commander Whitaker was the "guy," especially because William Atherton always plays an S.O.B. Remember the Die Hard movies? He was great in the pompous, over the top, "I am the Lord on this boat," scene. But there was little doubt that he was the killer.
While there wasn't much suspense, I liked the character development for Monk and the hint of a romance for Natalie. They left it out there that Steve might be back for Christmas. He's single, she's single. They clearly have chemistry. It's time for Natalie to complicate her life with some love. And, finally, if there was any question about Monk and Dr. Bell, it's been answered. When the shrink appeared at the end of the show to meet Monk at the pier and they walked off together, it was like the fade out of Casablanca, "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
Other points of interest:
With all the references to NCIS, I half-expected to see Mark Harmon make an appearance! (Too bad it's a different network).
As the water filled the sealed room, Monk panicked -- naturally -- crying, "Ocean in my pants."
The shot of the U.S.S. Seattle from the pier was pretty good CGI work, although I knew it was a process shot.