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Monk: Mr. Monk is Underwater

by Allison Waldman, posted Aug 16th 2008 10:21AM
Monk and Dr. Bell"It's funny how the mind works."
-- Monk to Dr. Bell

(S07E05) You kind of knew when you put together the words Monk and submarine you were going to get an unusual episode, didn't you? As a longtime Monk watcher, you 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 you accept that and move 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

-- That establishing shot was one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in San Francisco, the Grand Victorians. Does Natalie live there? If so, what's she doing working for Monk?

-- Speaking of which, what were those references to Davenport Toothpaste and Natalie's background. Is there a back story I missed or have forgotten?

-- 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 you knew it was a process shot.

-- The bit with the silencer bottle on gun, I think Michael did something similar on Burn Notice. Whatever, it worked really well. Better than the motive for the commander killing Pierce.
What did you think of Casper Van Dien as Steve?
I liked him and want him to return100 (64.1%)
He was fine, but I don't want to see him again40 (25.6%)
He wasn't much. Ship him out and forget him.16 (10.3%)

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Worst Monk yet. From the fake looking submarine to that horrible admission of guilt at the end. Bad all the way around.

But I still love ya Monk!

August 22 2008 at 12:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Monk episodes used to be Monk trying to figure out two of the following three things: who the bad guy is, why the bad guy did it, and how the bad guy did it. Now it's gone to being just ONE of those three things, and usually just the last one - HOW the bad guy did it. We know who it is within the first few minutes, and we're quickly given a motive.

August 18 2008 at 7:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

How can you mention William Atherton as an S.O.B. without noting Ghostbusters?!?!?!?

"Yes, it's true. This man has no dick."

August 18 2008 at 2:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

We have awfully high standards for Monk. We have to have a good mystery that he can solve in an hour minus commercials. We have to have Monk do his typical monkisms. We have to have the comedy, the relationships in place including Natalie to Monk, Randy, The Captain and the doctor all working in their spots in the show. We have to have the humor but it also has to be a good Sherlock Holmes caliber detective situation. If anything isn't just right, someone is disappointed. I felt that this episode hit 90% of those requirements. I liked seeing Natalie flirt which took her mind off of how nutty Monk was being. The imaginary doctor got a little old but it was fun when we got to see the doctor that only Monk could see. The crime was pretty ridiculous but who cares about that after all. If Monk were solving ordinary cases that happen in our towns each day, we wouldn't need the show for entertainment.

August 17 2008 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Burroughs's comment

I partially agree. I can live with the fact errors and such, but I really feel they have lost their own grasp of who Monk is, what he would know, and what he would do. For a network whose slogan is "Characters Welcome," losing their grasp on the nature of their own flagship character is sad.

August 17 2008 at 6:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Also, Monk said he couldn't swim, but we have seen him swim at least twice - most recently in last year's finale when he faked his death by falling off a pier and swimming to shore. Bad continuity. Sigh.

August 17 2008 at 10:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Rick Beaudin

Ballast tanks are accessable but not as was shown in the show. Access is by a large plate which is sealed by a good 30 or so large bolts (I was in the Navy for 6 years) that would have to be undone first. There would be no lights and also are rarely large enough for anyone to do anything but squat once inside.

August 17 2008 at 9:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ed Venture

Ok, anyone that's been on a sub can you answer this? Aren't the ballast tanks outside the interior skin of a sub? Would you really have a door to the tank accessible from inside the sub? And with cool EL lights on the wall to boot.

That was the only part of the episode that seemed silly to me. I though Monk's coping mechanism was actually well done.

August 17 2008 at 3:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I really didn't like this episode. It was obvious who "the guy" was from the moment we saw the captian in the cold open. But even moreso than that, the notion that the bilge in a submarine is a room with electric lights that are always left on, behind a standard door that anyone can walk into at any time, is simply the most asinine thing I've ever heard. My gosh, even if a the bilge WERE something like that, basic safety measures would require a safety mechanism to open the door from the inside incase someone were in there while it started to flood with water.

You don't just open a door and walk into the bilge on a submarine. What if someone left the door open? Whole sub would fill with water as it went under?

Having them walk into a "radioactive" place on the nuclear submarine would have been more believable, and that's not saying much.

And the CGI effect others mentioned looked like a cartoon. Come on, history channel documentaries have better CGI than that. Much better.

I felt like I was watching a really cheap, B movie ripoff of "Crimson Tide."

I also don't like how Monk has all these different coping mechanisms for bad situations. After an earthquake, he can't speak English and just mubles (but thinks he's talking normally). When he was burried alive, he went into a trance and dreamt of Trudy. Plenty of others, those are the first two that come to mind. In fact, in one episode (at the winery, I think it was) it was suggested that Monk invented a character as a coping mechanism to deal with the anniversary of Trudy's death. Monk was SURE he had talked to a guy the previous night, but nobody else remembered the guy. Everyone said Monk had just thought him up as a coping mechanism, and after a while Monk himself started to believe it. But sure enough, the guy did exist and there was a conspiracy to hide him. So, it's been established that Monk does NOT imagine people as a coping mechanism. It's not like Monk hasn't been in horrible, near-death situations in many episodes. Merely being on a submarine doesn't come close to any of the "uncomfortable situations" in which Monk has found himself over the years.

Yet this is the first time he's imagined his therapist as a "coping mechanism." What makes it worse is that since the death of Dr. Kroger, he's only been with this therapist a short time, certainly nowhere near as long enough as to be as trusted to him as Kroger was. Yet he never imagined Kroger as a coping mechanism. This is one more step in the "Monk" writers being lazy and just turning the show into a mockery of the Monk character. He's supposed to have OCD which makes him a good detective. He's not supposed to be insane.

This is the first time Monk has acted like a silly, loony idiot. I'll never look at the character the same way again. He's been a borderline joke for 2-3 seasons now, but he's an official joke after this episode. We've really come to Monk talking to an imaginary friend? Why didn't he just go unconscious and talk to Trudy, like he usually does? Because that wouldn't be silly and move the plot. Oh wait, the "imaginary Dr. Bell" thing didn't even move the plot. It served no purpose at all other than to make Monk look silly and stupid.

August 17 2008 at 2:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm undecided on the importance of the CGI and the naval credibility, so I'll stick with something I know: regardless of the fact that the other episodes are all called "Mr. Monk and the...," this episode should have been called "Ocean in My Pants."

August 16 2008 at 10:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Toby OB

Seeing Casper Van Diem in the naval uniform confirmed my belief he should be the actor cast to play Chris McGarrett in the proposed sequel of 'Hawaii Five-O' (where he would be playing Steve McGarrett's son).

Something about his look in that uniform made me think of Jack Lord.

August 16 2008 at 7:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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