So, this is the only Monk thread now, right? Anyone interested in writing a favorite episode list, as clichéd as that is?
“Mr. Monk Meets the Dale the Whale” (S1:E3)—the solution surprised me when I first saw it (I was convinced that, somehow, DtW had committed the murder himself), though in retrospect it’s the only solution possible. Still, creating an evil Nero Wolfe for Monk’s archenemy is a genius idea, even if none of the other Dale episodes were as good as this first one.
“Mr. Monk and the Billionaire Mugger” (S1:E7)—this one’s ingenious, and the kneepads are one of the best clues in any mystery TV show. One of the handful of Monks that demonstrate that, at the show’s best, its plots could be just as clever as anything from Death in Paradise or Jonathan Creek.
“Mr. Monk Takes a Vacation” (S1:E10)—the plot’s tricky, with some excellent clues, though the identity of the killer comes out of nowhere. With that said, the comedy, often supplied by the hilarious Polly Draper, is some of the series’ finest.
“Mr. Monk and the Airplane” (S1:E13)—a good, solid Columbo-esque inverted mystery with top-notch comedy. Shows, in Monk’s signature style, how we can know the killer from the beginning and still be surprised by twists in the plot. The Wings stuff, though short, is a hoot.
“Mr. Monk Goes to the Ballgame” (S2:E16)—another ingenious cryptic clue: “Girls Can’t Eat 15 Pizzas”! Perhaps the best usage of the much-used-in-Monk six Napoleons trick.
“Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect” (S2:E20)—some of the show’s best plotting, and its trickiest alibi. The trick is a bit unbelievable, but the sheer audacity of it is a delight, and it’s fair-play.
“Mr. Monk and the Paperboy” (S2:E23)—the six Napoleons trick again, but well-hidden and genuinely baffling. Improves on a similar and surprisingly decent Murder, She Wrote episode (“If It’s Thursday, It Must Be Beverly”).
“Mr. Monk and the Three Pies” (S2:E24)—another good usage of the six Napoleons trick, though by this point it’s in nearly every other Monk episode. The chemistry between Shalhoub and John Turturro as his brother, though, is hilarious.
“Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa” (S4:E54)—the trick, a variation on Christie’s Peril at End House, is not too difficult to figure out, but Monk’s detective work is good, the Christmas spirit is nice, and we’re never quite sure exactly who the intended victim is.
“Mr. Monk Goes to the Dentist” (S4:E60)—fairly basic plot, but everything else—the filmmaking, the suspense, the comedy—is top-notch.
“Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike” (S5:E63)—hilarious! One of the show’s funniest episodes, and the cameo (which I won’t—can’t!—spoil) comes out of nowhere in the best possible way and is brilliant. Plot’s not half bad either. Great episode.
“Mr. Monk is Up All Night” (S6:E86)—brilliant. The identity of the killer is not the shocker, but every element on which we thought the plot turned is wrong, with a hidden narrative underlying the narrative we saw. To paraphrase critic Nick Fuller, it’s one of the glorious sequences in detective-stories, like the journal in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd or the Harlequinade in “The Flying Stars,” where the truth is right in front of our eyes but we still don’t see it. Monk himself, by trying to bring about justice, indirectly causes a crime. The last twist, about the woman with whom Monk is obsessed, is a bit unbelievable but emotionally and dramatically satisfying. Also: again, hilarious.
“Mr. Monk and the Genius” (S7:E95)—pure Columbo, in the best possible way. The titular genius, chess master (and wife-murderer) Patrick Kloster, is so smug and arrogant that we can’t wait to see him get his comeuppance; he would be right at home in facing off against the good Lieutenant. How he tricks Monk is ingenious, as is Monk’s payback. Even at this late in the game, the show’s still got it.
“Mr. Monk and the 12th Man” (S2:E22)—related to but not copied from Queen’s Cat of Many Tails. The motive is good, but the writer needlessly shoots himself in the foot by then turning it into another six-Napoleons trick halfway through. Thus is ingenuity wasted.
“Mr. Monk Goes to Vegas” (S3:E43)—rather ingenious, but I picked up on the central deception in the first five minutes. The writer comes up with an excellent solution halfway through that he decides not to use as the “real” solution for some reason. Wasted ingenuity again.
“Mr. Monk and the Voodoo Curse” (S8:E116)—not without a few flaws, and the plot is basically borrowed from Christie’s The A.B.C. Murders. I guessed killer, method, and motive without much difficulty, but that method is good (if close to William DeAndrea’s The HOG Murders). The voodoo theme is fun, though.
“Mr. Monk is Underwater” (S7:E98)—one of the series’ few impossible crimes, and the other two, “Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico” and “Mr. Monk and the Panic Room,” cheat badly in their solutions. This solution is simple and fine but covered in needless complexity; there’s no point to the firecracker except to give Monk a clue. The hallucinated Dr. Bell and Natalie’s flirting with the sailor, though, are nice touches.
So there ya go! You don’t have to do write-ups as I did if you don’t want to—but what are your favorites?