The real novelty was Monk's getting in touch with his inner child. That and Tim Bagley returning as Harold Krenshaw. It's always fun when Monk's nemesis shows up, but this was a reborn Harold. Thanks to his new shrink, Dr. Kleinman, Harold wasn't interested in competing with Monk. He just wanted to embrace the wonders of life.
I get that Harold pushes Monk's buttons and therefore seeing him happy upset Adrian. But there was a lack of continuity here, because for no discernible reason, Monk was dissatisfied with Dr. Bell. After the submarine show, Monk and Dr. Bell were completely in sync. In this show, Monk complains to Natalie that he's getting nowhere in his therapy. "I've been talking for eleven years. I want to get better." Wow! That was a revelation. Perhaps it's the result of his inability to make a lasting connection with Layla in "Mr. Monk Falls in Love"? If so, it would show some growth, albeit painful growth, on Monk's part.
So after one session with Dr. Kleinman, played in a too brief appearance by The West Wing's Richard Schiff, Monk is hypnotized to a happy place. Ding, ding, ding -- Monk becomes a little boy. The Adrian as a child bit was rather gimmicky, but Tony Shalhoub played it to the hilt. You got to figure that all actors really enjoy the chance to become six year olds. It's a tried and true plot device.
Monk as a boy is free and goofy and a frog-lover. He finds a frog while working the case -- sort of -- and names him Hoppy (nearly Happy). He gorges himself on pancakes. He withholds nothing when confronting suspects. It was great that even though he was a boy, he still had the keen observational skills to see that Aaron Larkin was having an affair with his assistant. Of course, the observation involved the woman having "cooties," but he still saw what nobody else did.
Not surprisingly, Monk becomes bored with the case -- he's only six and grown up police work is no fun. When Sally Larkin is questioned, his misbehaving leads to him throwing a tantrum and saying he hates them all, but not before he finds the gum on her shoe, the key to solving the crime.
Perhaps it was fitting that it was Monk himself that brought him back to reality. In the playground, Monk saw his reflection and realized the truth. He takes Hoppy back into pond at the Larkin estate, saying, "At least one of us can be free." Freedom is something Monk cannot achieve because in the end, he's right back where he was. He can't embrace pancakes or the wonder of a mother bird feeding her chicks. He doesn't get it. Hypnosis wasn't the answer.
Other points of interest:
Monk's vision of childhood isn't his own. It's the childhood he always wanted.
Playing a boy, Monk did some really gross things, including the fart noises, commenting about Natalie's body odor, and speaking out. My favorite line from little Adrian was, "She's a liar, Stottlemeyer."
When Dr. Kleinman tells Monk to leap, he says that a net will appear. Monk wonders who's "Annette?"
The moment I saw the headline in the tabloid that Sally Larkin was an actress, I knew she was "the guy."
Disher mints, Randy's do-it-yourself gum making kit. The whole idea of gum on the shoe being re-eaten was disgusting. Monk being the one to eat it makes it twice as gross.
The first black and white reenactment of how Aaron was killed in the cabin was really funny. I'm used to Monk's "this is how he did it" moments to be completely factual and this was a goof on that.