Monk: Mr. Monk Gets a New Shrink
(S05E07) Dr. Kroger, Monk's shrink, typically plays a small role on the series. That isn't to say he's not important to Monk. Actually, he's very important to Monk, and Monk considers Kroeger's office his home away from home, the place where, as he tells Natalie, "it all doesn't happen."
When a cleaning lady in Dr. Kroeger's office is stabbed to death, Kroeger fears it may have been one of his patients. This becomes too much for him to bear so he decides to retire. Of course, Monk doesn't take this very well at all, and goes through all the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The difference is that Monk goes through them all in just a matter of seconds, and then repeats them over again as if stuck in a loop.
Kroeger suspects a patient named Joseph Wheeler, who once threatened him, may have been the killer. Wheeler works at Animal Crafters, a Build-A-Bear Workshop-type place, but his alibi checks out so they have to rule him out as the killer. Monk and Wheeler have a moment of solidarity when they realize they both lost someone very important when Kroeger quit his practice. They each stand clutching teddy bears and mourning the loss of their shrink.
Letting go is not something that comes easily to Monk. He shows up at Kroeger's house, and when Kroeger won't let him in he watches him through the window. Coincidentally, another patient named Harold is also stalking Kroeger, and the two of them square off in a rivalry to prove which one Kroeger likes more. Monk also tries to get Natalie to become a kind of surrogate shrink, but that doesn't quite pan out since Natalie insists on talking about herself, as well. Monk has to explain to her that her problems are irrelevant.
Back at the crime scene, Monk notices the cleaning lady had been vacuuming, which means the killer was actually going after her (she wouldn't have heard him if the vacuum was on). He suspects it wasn't a patient at all, and that Kroeger may have retired for nothing. At least, he hopes that's the case because his new shrink is missing half of his right arm, and the asymmetry really makes Monk uncomfortable, even as he tries to fix the problem by covering one eye while he's in session.
While Monk is outside peering into Kroeger's window, a rock is thrown through the house. Monk runs in to make sure everything is okay, and Kroeger's wife asks how he got there so fast since they just called 911 thirty seconds ago. Monk, for no other reason than the fact that he's Monk, actually recognizes the rock. Later he realizes it came from the courtyard near Kroeger's office, and he pieces together that another man who works in the office, Francis Merrigan, who he and Natalie met earlier, was using statues in his office to store and transport heroin, and killed the cleaning lady when she accidentally knocked over a statue and vacuumed up the substance, meaning he had evidence against him inside her vacuum cleaner.
In the final moments of the episode, Monk and Kroeger are kidnapped by Merrigan and taped to chairs in the back of a cargo truck. Monk, always having a one-track mind, tries to turn it into a session, but Kroeger refuses since, you know, he's afraid of being murdered. Luckily, Harold is just as tenacious about following Kroeger as Monk is, and he follows the truck to the hideout. Later Stottlemeyer and Disher show up, and a gun fight breaks out, culminating in Harold leaping in front of Kroeger to take a bullet for him. And yes, it actually happens in slow motion, and he actually screams, "Nooooooooo!" as he does it. Thank you, TV Crime Show Cliche No. 243.
All in all I thought this was a great episode, and it was nice to see Kroeger have a bigger part in it. In the end everything is back to normal (or abnormal, as the case may be). We also get a glimpse into Kroeger's home life, and discover that even though he's adept at helping his patients, his relationship with his own son is anything but amicable. Monk, as always, is the center of the Monk universe, but it's always nice to see a little deeper into the other characters, too.