Monk: Mr. Monk, Private Eye
(S05E05) This episode was directed by Peter Weller, who also played the actor portraying Stottlemeyer in the season premiere, something I complete missed when I saw that episode. Shame on me.
The show also introduced a new love interest for Stottlemeyer, a no-nonsense real estate agent named Linda Fusco, played by Sharon Lawrence. They left their relationship pretty wide open by the end, so I suspect she'll be returning for more episodes, which is always cool because I like it when they take the focus away from Monk once in awhile and flesh out the side characters a bit more.
In this episode, Natalie, inspired by her late grandfather who started a toothpaste company in England ("talk about optimism!"), leases some office space and sets up a private detective agency for Mr. Monk. Their first client is the aforementioned Linda, who wants them to find out who dented her fender. She's convinced it was her ex-husband, but as they delve deeper they discover the man who did it is also the same man who drowned his lover by knocking her out, sealing her in a box, and dumping her over the side of his yacht (a yacht called "Lucky Lady" by the way. Never let it be said the Monk writers don't have a sick sense of humor).
One thing I noticed about this episode is that it didn't have the usual "Here's what happened ..." moment where Monk tells everyone how the murder went down. That's fine, because the episode was just as much about Stottlemeyer taking the next step after his divorce and getting back into the dating game. He even tries online dating, but that's not really his bag.
Monk trying to adapt to working as an independent detective spawned some very funny moments. During their first day on the job nobody calls to hire them, and at one point Monk calls Natalie from across the room to tell her he's been held captive against his will. When she figures out it's him she simply walks over to speak to him, but he still keeps talking into the phone. He also refuses to relinquish his business cards to his clients because they cost 85¢ each.
My favorite part of the episode, however, was Monk having to escape from the suspect's yacht by jumping into the water. Monk knows how to swim because he took a correspondence course through the mail, but he's never actually been in the water. He actually carries a card with him with swimming instructions written on it, which he reads carefully before jumping into the water and continues to read as he's thrashing around. Serendipitously, a toilet seat floats by which he could grab onto to stay afloat, but this being Monk he'd rather just continue thrashing until he's rescued.