Although I have ticked "contains spoilers", I would reiterate that this review DOES CONTAIN SPOILERS (in fact, if you haven't seen the episode, it is POINTLESS!) So if you've not yet seen it, STOP READING NOW!!!
Okay. The thing is, "Monk" runs 40 mins 30 secs, including titles and credits - so they have to be CONCISE. And I get the impression that a couple of bits got CUT from this superior episode of this superior show.
First, early on, Gwen DeWitt (the killer's wife) informs us that her dog is an Australian Shepherd. This later becomes relevant when the victim's pups are born without tails - like HER dog.
But the dog belonging to Amanda Castle (the victim) was an Aussiedoodle - which is a cross between an Australian Shepherd and a Poodle (I know this because I HAVE one) which was ALSO relevant.
I mean, it CONNECTS the two dogs - but the fact was NEVER MENTIONED. You may say - so what? Well, if they did not intend to use this fact, why mention it in the first place?
Then there is the fact that Steve DeWitt wrapped the corpse in his carpet. AGAIN, the fact he has a NEW carpet is MENTIONED - but not followed up on. This despite the fact the corpse had by now turned up wrapped in a carpet (very Cleopatra).
Again, so what? Well, the fact that DeWitt was unwise enough to leave his carpet with the body is AGAIN RELEVANT. It MUST have held his DNA (hairs, etc.)
Now I do not know Californian Law - perhaps DNA evidence is inadmissible in court if the accused refuses to provide a sample (which DeWitt certainly WOULD have). But if that is the case, surely it should have been STATED?
All of which makes this writer think there MUST have been a longer version of this episode - or at least, the script. If so, it is a shame they couldn't have edited the show down to fit its slot, WITHOUT CUTTING the missing bits.
Shown as it was, it INFURIATED the observant viewer who DID notice these things - and expected them to LEAD somewhere.
Of course, Mr Monk's buttoned-up shirt and lack of tie has ALSO never been mentioned. But the fact Monk has OCD makes the reason OBVIOUS to anyone who has ever tied a tie - he'd never leave the HOUSE!
Therefore, one can forgive the writers THAT one - one presumes they are simply crediting the fans with INTELLIGENCE. But the failure to follow the Australian Shepherd and carpet connections HAS to have been forced on them by TIME constraints - which is SAD.
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'Monk' has always been one of my most watched shows when needing comfort, to relax after a hard day, a good laugh or a way to spend a lazy weekend.
Season 8 up to this point was a mixed bag, with a few very good episodes ("Someone Else", "Voodoo Curse", "Mr Monk and Sharona" and particularly "Foreign Man"), a few decent ones ("Favourite Show", "Happy Birthday Mr Monk" and "Goes to Group Therapy") and a few disappointing ones ("Critic", "Takes the Stand" and especially "UFO"). "Mr Monk and the Dog" is not a classic 'Monk' but up to this point in Season 8 it's one of the stronger faring ones, reminding me of Season 3's "Mr Monk and the Kid", but a canine version and this time with a murder as the crime and not an abduction.
The mystery, although still well-paced and intriguing, has been much stronger elsewhere in 'Monk', here the how, why and who aspects are too obvious too early and that wasn't as forgivable as some other "obvious mystery" 'Monk' episodes (and there are a fair few of them) with things that needed to lead somewhere and be explained but instead were left open-ended, much more could have been done with the dogs connection and the significance of the carpet.
Did consider talking about the goof with the toilet seat, open for the obligatory dog-drinking scene that happens seemingly all the time with on-screen dogs but something that Monk would have down (actually not abnormal behaviour by the way). Decided not to because, apart from the odd episode where there is continuity or goofs that are really sloppy ("Mr Monk and the Game Show" is a notorious one), nobody watches a 'Monk' episode to tear it apart for goofs.
Otherwise, "Mr Monk and the Dog" is another very nicely done episode. The best thing about it is the chemistry between Monk and the dog, it is immensely charming and boasts many very funny and incredibly touching (especially when Monk touches Shelby without gloves with Trudy's portraits as background, like with Tommy in "Mr Monk and the Kid" it was the sign of Monk showing affection for somebody other than Trudy while treating them on the same level as he would her) moments. Season 8 may have its problems, but it has been good for resolving things, giving closure and sees Monk's gradual progression in making real progress and overcoming phobias and problems instead of resolving it all in one go.
Another delight is Shelby, an adorable dog who can't say a word for obvious reasons but conveys a wide range of emotions and expressions. The antics between her and Monk are both hilarious and poignant, their bond giving the episode a lot of heart and more than makes up for a mystery that could have been stronger. With that being said, the mystery is not a dull one and engages, with a great set up with the crime (which is different to what one would expect). Unlike "Mr Monk Goes to Group Therapy" the murderer's actions at the end didn't feel out of kilter because we know from the opening scene about what is said being the truth. Monk solving it through thorough medical deduction (like old "classic" 'Monk) instead of baseless too fast conclusion jumping was good too.
Natalie, Disher and Stottlemeyer and true to character and hardly wasted, would have liked more of Natalie (who is still the down-to-earth, sympathetic character that we know her for) but Disher and Stottlemeyer do have some funny bits, especially when they talk of Shelby not testifying in court.
One of the best things about 'Monk' has always been Tony Shalhoub, who was as Monk consistently one of the best things about every episode regardless of what material is thrown at him.. It was essential for him to work and be the glue of the show, and Shalhoub not only is that but also at his very best he IS the show. Have always loved the balance of the humour, which is often hilarious, and pathos, which is sincere and touching.
Traylor Howard, Jason Gray-Stanford and Ted Levine are all solid, Shelby is a delightful presence and Wallace Langham does a good job. The writing is quirky and wry, with some very funny lines from Monk but also some thought-provoking ones.
Visually, the episode is slick and stylish as ever. The music is both understated and quirky. While there is a preference for the theme music for Season 1, Randy Newman's "It's a Jungle Out There" has grown on me overtime, found it annoying at first but appreciate its meaning and what it's trying to say much more now.
All in all, very good but not quite great. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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