Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse
1st edition 2006 paperback cover
|Series||Monk mystery novel series|
|January 3, 2006|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Followed by||Mr. Monk Goes to Hawaii|
Adrian Monk temporarily moves in with his reluctant assistant, Natalie Teeger, while his home is being fumigated. Following this, her teenage daughter Julie "hires" him to investigate the death of Sparky, a popular firehouse guard dog who was struck with an axe on the same night that a suspicious house inferno was occupying its owners. Meanwhile, Natalie begins dating the animal's chief guardian, hunky fireman Joseph Cochran.
Adrian Monk, the obsessive-compulsive modern-day Sherlock Holmes, is forced to move in with his assistant Natalie Teeger, who is the narrator of the novel, while his apartment is being fumigated. After laying down certain laws (namely, turning away the moving men bringing Monk’s refrigerator and bed into her house), Natalie finds her daughter Julie crying in her room. Julie tells her that Sparky, a firehouse dalmatian who visited her school during Fire Safety Week, was found murdered the previous night. Monk can’t bear to see Julie cry, and promises to check into the matter.
Monk and Natalie head down to Fire Station #28 in North Beach, Sparky's firehouse, to speak with Captain Mantooth, the commander of the engine company in question. Monk has a boyish fascination with firefighting – that is, with the rules requiring everything in the firehouse to be spotlessly clean and in perfect order. While he is lovingly polishing the already shining ladder truck, Natalie questions Mantooth, who tells her that Sparky belonged to one of their best men, Joseph 'Joe' Cochran, and always slept in the firehouse while Joe was on duty.
According to Mantooth, the crew was called to a multiple alarm house fire about four blocks from the firehouse around 10:00 PM in which an old woman was killed, having fallen asleep while smoking a cigarette in front of her television set. Sometime in the four hours between when they left and when they returned, someone sneaked into the firehouse and killed Sparky with a pickaxe. Monk examines the crime scene, and he explains what he believe happened: the intruder walked into the firehouse through the open garage doors, probably looking for something to steal (although oddly, for a burglary, nothing seems to be missing), and grabbed a pickaxe off the rack when Sparky ran at him. Since the killer didn't bring the weapon, Monk guesses that the attack was probably spur-of-the-moment. The only question is who, or why, would someone kill a firehouse dog, and what was it the killer might have been looking for? When Monk asks Mantooth if anything was missing or disturbed when they got back, Mantooth says the only thing he noticed missing were two towels; he doesn't think it’s important, but Monk is impressed to meet someone else who would notice that kind of detail.
Monk and Natalie walk from the firehouse the five blocks to the scene of the previous night's fire, intending to look for Joe Cochran. Instead, they run into Captain Stottlemeyer, who is treating the house as a crime scene until the arson investigator makes a decision. Stottlemeyer and the arson investigator believe that the death was an accident: Esther Stoval, the victim, was a chain smoker. They believe that she was smoking a cigarette, which fell onto a pile of newspapers, igniting them. The fire spread from the newspapers to the rest of the room, and then to the rest of the house. However, Monk finds evidence that suggests that Esther was actually murdered: from the victim's position on the couch, she couldn't see the TV, and was looking at an empty chair, making it obvious that she was talking to someone else. Furthermore, if she was watching TV when she died, then why is the remote on the other end of the coffee table from where her head was? The conclusion is that someone killed Esther, then set her house on fire to destroy the evidence.
Later that day, Monk and Natalie find Joe Cochran feeding the neighborhood’s stray cats while the investigations wrap up. Monk refuses to approach the cats (due to allergies), so Natalie goes to talk with Joe, and sparks immediately fly – Joe is not only ruggedly handsome, but big-hearted and courteous. When Natalie explains why they are there, Joe, a little choked up, says that everyone loved Sparky, and the only person with a motive he can think of would be Gregorio Dumas, a stuck-up dog breeder who lives across the street from the firehouse. Recently, Gregorio Dumas threatened the fire company with a lawsuit after Sparky impregnated his prize show poodle Letitia.
Monk and Natalie talk to Dumas, who cuts a ludicrous figure with his palatial accommodations for his poodle, and his descriptions of Sparky as a common mutt. When Monk asks where he was the previous night, Dumas says he was at home on Friday night, watching the firehouse to make sure Sparky didn’t try anything again. While watching, he saw a lone firefighter come out of the firehouse. When Natalie brings this up on a date with Joe later, Joe says that this is impossible: all of the on-duty firemen were at Esther Stoval's house that night and they never sent anyone back for supplies. Monk figures that perhaps Dumas saw the killer. In questioning Dumas, Monk also notices a strange detail: Dumas is so overprotective of his poodle that he keeps her in a locked kennel surrounded by barbed wire – so how could Sparky have impregnated her?
Before Monk can delve further on the firehouse dog case, he and Natalie are ordered back to the police station, where Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher have received the autopsy report on Esther Stoval. A lack of any traces of smoke or soot particles in Esther's lungs or nasal passages confirms that Esther was dead before the fire was started, and she was apparently suffocated with a pillow. They have what Stottlemeyer calls a perfect murder: by then burning down the house, the killer was able to destroy all forensic evidence that would have otherwise existed, including usable fingerprints and DNA. On top of all that, there is not a single witness to the crime.
Monk and Natalie ask around the neighborhood and they are dismayed to find that all of Esther’s neighbors despised her: she was a stereotypical “mean old lady”, who spied on the neighbors, complained loudly about their habits, and kept everyone up all night with the mewling of her innumerable cats. Worse, she was the lone holdout against a development plan by Lucas Breen, a local real estate tycoon, to demolish the houses on Esther's side of the street, and build an upscale condominium block. Now that she’s dead, the other residents are delighted to take their buyout from Breen and vacate the neighborhood.
Neighbors on both sides of Esther's street show similar stories - one of her next-door neighbors, who works at a local think tank, claims he had to research every new cat that Esther bought, and also mentions that Esther bought a type of cat known as a Turkish Van a few days before she was killed. He also notes that her house was like an enormous litterbox (as the dander would blow when it was windy out). A neighbor who lived across the street from Esther tells Monk and Natalie that Esther ratted him out to the cable company for hijacking their signal with an illegal converter box to watch a baseball game. He notes that he also sells antique cars to make some money (as he is unemployed), and when Esther saw people buying restored antique vehicles from him, she filed a complaint with the city clerk, who fined him for operating a business out of his house without first getting a license.
Joe asks Natalie out on a date, and she accepts gladly; while picking her up, Joe also wins over Julie by giving her Sparky’s firehouse badge and thanking her for caring enough about his dog to hire Monk.
The next day, Monk, Natalie, and Stottlemeyer interview Lucas Breen, who is both rich and influential (he holds a seat on the police commission), and CEO of the Breen Development Corporation. Breen admits he didn’t have a motive to kill Esther Stoval. In fact, for the record, if push ever came to shove, he could've always rewritten the zoning regulations on the block to evict her, or, if the worst came to happen, he could build his condo project around her house (Breen confides that it was only thanks to creativity that he was able to advance to the position he is currently at in the real estate industry). When Monk asks Breen for an alibi, Breen claims he was at a fundraiser at the Excelsior Tower Hotel downtown with his wife, the mayor, the governor and the governor's wife, and at least 500 other people. Leaving Breen's office, Stottlemeyer is exasperated that Monk had been needling Breen throughout the interview, and Monk says that he now believes Breen killed Esther Stoval.
When Monk arrives down in the lobby, he walks into the lobby flower shop, buys a bouquet, and presents it to Natalie and Stottlemeyer, saying that without a doubt, it proves Breen killed Esther: it's a distinctive, handmade bouquet identical to one that Monk saw in the house of Lizzie Draper, one of the neighbors who lived across the street from Esther Stoval. Monk has learned that Breen bought a flower bouquet from the shop for Lizzie just a few days before Esther was killed. He's figured that Lizzie is Breen’s mistress. Having remembered what Esther's other neighbors said about her spying habits, Monk figures that Esther had incriminating photos of Breen with Lizzie Draper, and she was blackmailing Breen, threatening to tell his wife, and he killed her to keep her quiet.
Back at the police station, Randy confirms that Breen's alibi for that night is rock solid. When Stottlemeyer asks about the alibi, Monk dismisses it: the fundraiser was crowded enough that Breen could have slipped out, killed Esther, set the house on fire, and reappeared several hours later without anyone noticing he had gone. Moreover, Breen designed and built the Excelsior, so he would know how to slip out without being seen by the security cameras. However, the flowers aren't solid evidence, and with no witnesses who can confirm that Breen was in the house that night, and that Breen burned down the house to get rid of all traces of himself, they won't be able to easily arrest Breen, lest so much as indict him.
But there is one question: how did Breen get to Esther's house? Natalie reasons that he couldn't have driven himself there because the press would have seen him leaving, and he probably wouldn't hail a taxi cab out of fear that the driver might remember him. Monk decides that Breen walked there.
To see if it is possible, Monk and Natalie park at the hotel to recreate the timetable Breen would have had to work with. They find one service exit to a back alleyway that is blocked from view from the street by a number of dumpsters, and decide that Breen used this door to exit and put himself at a safe distance from the press. To time themselves, they take the most direct route, figuring that Breen did the same thing. As they are passing one office building, a homeless man asks for spare change, and Monk gives him several packages of wipes instead. The man is not pleased.
After about 20 minutes walking, Monk and Natalie crest a hill and find themselves at Joe's firehouse. They decide to stop in and visit, reasoning that Breen would have had to stop around this point to catch his breath for a minute while on his way to Esther Stoval's house, even if he was on a tight schedule.
While they are at the firehouse, Natalie asks Joe some more questions about Sparky's habits, and Joe says that Sparky was allowed to run loose around the neighborhood when they were out responding to 9-1-1 calls. He doesn’t know where Sparky went while they were gone, but in the last few weeks, he always smelled like crap. Monk solves a piece of the case, and he and Natalie head across the street to confront Gregorio Dumas: it seems that Dumas has been tunneling into the basement of the firehouse, using the sewer line. He deliberately used his poodle to distract Sparky so he wouldn’t bark, while Dumas searched the basement, which historical records show is where a famous 19th-century train robber stashed his hidden treasure. Now Monk realizes why Sparky always smelled.
Dumas admits that he was in the firehouse on the night of the murder – and that he used the two missing towels to wipe the sewage off his shoes – but swears he didn’t kill Sparky, as it would have broken his poodle’s heart. He still mentions having seen the lone fireman leaving the garage, and in a way witnessed the crime. Monk believes him, and tells Natalie that Dumas saw Breen, who was posing as a fireman.
Here's what happened
Breen left the Excelsior and walked to Esther Stoval's house, having decided that he would try one more time to reason with her. He walked because that was the only way he could have made it there without being noticed (he couldn't drive himself because the valet and press would have seen him leave, and he couldn't take a taxi because the driver would have recognized him). When he got to Esther's house, she threatened to expose his affair with Lizzie Draper. He panicked, and quickly killed her, and then staged an "accidental" fire. He was running back to the hotel when he realized he had left something behind which would place him at her house that night. He couldn’t take the chance that it would be destroyed in the fire or could be traced to him, but by the time he realized it, the engines from Joe's firehouse had already passed him and he couldn't go back inside. He sneaked into the firehouse, but Sparky came at him and Breen was forced to use a pickaxe to defend himself. He stole a helmet and turnout coat, and when he got back to the crime scene, he slipped on the gear. He was able to then retrieve the incriminating item without any bystanders or emergency workers noticing him, and then returned the stolen gear to the firehouse before returning to the fundraiser.
As Monk and Natalie make their way back to the hotel, Monk explains to Natalie that he figured Breen had stolen a fireman's coat because when they first arrived at the firehouse, there was a coat facing the wrong way. The fire captain happens to have a system. As Natalie is asking Monk how they can prove that Breen was in Esther's house the night she was killed, she is almost mugged by a man with a knife, but she gets the better of him and Monk asks him whether he mugged anyone else in that area on the night of the fire. The mugger admits that he mugged Lucas Breen on the night in question and took Breen's wallet, and mentions that Breen reeked of smoke like he'd just fled from a fire.
Monk, Natalie, and Stottlemeyer confront Breen at his office, but he denies everything. They inform him about how they know he was mugged as he was making his way back from the fire. Stottlemeyer notes that Breen did report his stolen credit cards to his bank, but wonders why Breen didn't call the police about the mugging. Breen claims he was mugged while he was out having a cigarette, and claims that he was smoking a cigar to explain what the mugger said about how Breen reeked of smoke.
The next day, Monk quickly checks the weather patterns for that night and also examines “before” and “after” pictures of Breen at the fundraiser. He notices that in the "before" photo, Breen is wearing his monogrammed, tailor-made overcoat, but when in the "after" photo showing him leaving at midnight, the overcoat is gone.
Monk explains what he thinks happened: according to one weather chart, it stopped raining at around 9:30 p.m. Joe's fire company was dispatched at 10:00 p.m. If it took 40 minutes for Breen to walk from the hotel to Esther's house, Breen's time of departure could be placed at around 9:15 PM, so it would have still been raining when he first left. As a result, he wore his overcoat to stay dry. Monk figures that when he got to Esther's house, Breen must have hung his overcoat up and tried to reason with Esther, who threatened him with her incriminating images, and this provoked Breen into suffocating her. He then staged the fire and ran out of the house. Since the rain had stopped while he was en route to Esther's house, Breen forgot to take it when he left the house, and didn't realize his error until he'd travelled a few blocks, and was practically in front of the empty firehouse. He had to get that overcoat back, because – if it were like the rest of his wardrobe – it had monogrammed buttons with Breen's initials on them, and the buttons and scorched coat could have easily been traced back to him.
Monk and Natalie go back to the firehouse. Natalie claims that they're going back to find where Breen may have ditched his overcoat, but Monk quickly figures that Natalie also wants to check on Joe, and points out the clues in her behavior that he noticed (she never stopped reading past a newspaper article on a warehouse fire the night before that hospitalized two firemen, and she kept checking the clock to see if it was a good time to call). They try to figure places where the coat could have been ditched. While Natalie suspects that Breen ditched it at Lizzie Draper's house, Monk points out that that would have been very risky, and he theorizes that Breen probably disposed of the coat somewhere between the firehouse and the hotel. During their search, Randy calls Natalie to tell them that the mugger has confirmed that Breen was wearing his overcoat when he was mugged. Monk and Natalie search several dumpsters on the route, but when all of the dumpsters turn up empty, Monk sadly concludes that it must have already been collected – so the only way to find it is to root through the recently collected trash at the city dump.
Monk and Natalie go to the garbage dump and talk to Chad Grimsley, the manager, requesting him to hold the trash from the Excelsior Hotel for a few days so they can search it. They plan to go to Stottlemeyer to get their search warrants, but are forced to meet him at a homicide investigation near Sutro Tower. Monk quickly solves the homicide Stottlemeyer is working on the spot, but Stottlemeyer informs Monk that getting a search warrant for all that garbage isn't something that a judge will be likely to issue.
Unfortunately, the chief refuses to issue Stottlemeyer a search warrant, and orders him to stop harassing Breen with malicious accusations and start looking for other possible suspects. Stottlemeyer, however, still has faith in Monk's abilities as a detective, and as such knows that if Monk believes Breen is responsible for killing an old lady and a dog, he's probably right. So he decides to do the next-best thing he can do that will not get himself in trouble. Acting on Monk's theory that Breen stole a fireman's coat to get back into Esther's house, Stottlemeyer sends a forensics team to the firehouse to recover the firefighting gear that Breen might have utilized, as he believes that there is a chance that perhaps Breen left some fingerprints or DNA behind when he returned it. Randy points out that they don't know exactly which pieces of firefighting gear Breen wore that night, but Stottlemeyer admits that it is their only shot.
The next date, Joe and several recruited off-duty firefighters pitch in to help Monk and Natalie root through the garbage, but without finding the overcoat. That night, Natalie goes on a second date with Joe, and they get even closer, though Natalie is disturbed by how nonchalantly Joe takes the dangerous aspects of his job.
Their date is interrupted, however, when Stottlemeyer calls Monk and Natalie into a new homicide. A homeless man has been found bludgeoned to death with a brick in his encampment. According to the coroner, the man had been dead for two hours when he was discovered. Stottlemeyer notes that the cops are very lucky - a patrol car happened to be passing by and the officers saw the mass commotion that coincided with the body's discovery. Monk has a sneezing fit, noting that the man seems to have slept with cats. When he asks why he is here, Stottlemeyer shows him several packets of wipes in the dead man’s pockets, and asks if they knew each other. Natalie recognizes the dead man as one of the homeless men that Monk handed wipes to while they were retracing Breen's steps.
Monk realizes that, despite the freezing cold temperatures, the dead man has no coat, and when he ran into the man on the street, he was wearing a dirty and tattered overcoat. He immediately announces that Breen also killed the homeless man. Stottlemeyer is skeptical, noting that Monk is making Breen into a type of serial killer, but Monk thinks that Breen is just a man who has to keep killing just to get away with killing Esther Stoval. He explains where the homeless man fits in: after recovering his overcoat and returning the stolen firefighting gear to the firehouse, Breen walked back to the hotel, during which time he was mugged. Afterwards, before he returned to the hotel, Breen put his overcoat in one of the Excelsior's dumpsters (probably because it had been partially scorched in the fire, and hence was ruined; also, he would have had to explain to his wife and others how he was able to scorch his overcoat during the fundraiser). Later that night, the now-deceased homeless man picked it up. He didn't know about its origins, but when Monk, Natalie and Stottlemeyer were confronting Breen with their murder accusations, Breen saw the homeless man outside, and recognized the coat. Seeing the one piece of evidence that could send him to death row passing his building, Breen tracked the homeless man down, killed him, and then stole his overcoat.
The three race to Breen's house to try and recover the coat, but they are too late: Breen has incinerated the overcoat in his fireplace, and (while sniffling due to a bad cold) smugly informs them that they have no evidence left to connect him with any crime.
Monk trudges back to Natalie’s house, feeling defeated. He is made more frustrated that Stottlemeyer risks losing his badge because of this case, and this is a case where Stottlemeyer got dragged into the investigation. Monk flips through his favorite book of Marmaduke cartoons, and when he spots a Marmaduke cartoon in which Marmaduke chases a cat up a tree, he realizes that they still have a chance to arrest Breen. He explains his theory to Stottlemeyer, who is willing to bet on it, even though he knows that this is risky. He points out that the chief just reprimanded him that morning for what he has done, and he risks losing his badge or possibly even demotion. Randy offers to come along, but Stottlemeyer says he won’t risk Randy’s badge along with his own.
Stottlemeyer and Natalie confront Breen in his penthouse office, while Monk remains in the lobby. Monk calls up on a cell phone, and on cue, Natalie produces a white cat. Breen starts to sneeze, and Monk reveals his ace in the hole: Breen was sneezing explosively when they confronted him at his house. He claimed to have a cold, but Monk has just proven that he and Breen have one thing in common: they're both allergic to cats! The cat Natalie is carrying is one that Esther Stoval purchased just a few days before she was killed. Monk also remembers that he had a sneezing fit when he first met the homeless man who was later killed, and later had a similar fit when he was at the dead man's encampment. He initially thought that the man lived with cats, but there were no cat litters anywhere near the encampment. Now he realizes that cat dander collected on Breen's overcoat during the fire. Stottlemeyer reveals that they're already searching Breen's car and house they are going to match the danders they find to Esther's cats.
Breen cracks and makes a run for it, escaping the office in a private elevator. Stottlemeyer curses, knowing that if Breen manages to get out of the building he will disappear forever. However, Monk has a plan. As Breen is about to drive out of the parking garage, Monk grabs two bowls of clam chowder from the lobby restaurant and throws them at Breen’s windshield, blinding him, and causing him to lose control and crash. Breen, severely injured, and having lost several of his teeth in the crash, stumbles out of his car carrying a gun, wanting nothing more than to kill Monk before he goes to prison. Before Breen can pull the trigger, Randy suddenly appears and shoots the gun out of his hand. When Stottlemeyer and Natalie arrive downstairs, Randy tells them that he followed them because he thought they would need backup, though Stottlemeyer points out to him that he also violated a direct order.
Returning to the police station, Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher learn that the preliminary on the hairs found in both Breen's house and car have matched with Esther's cats. Stottlemeyer mentions that his review hearing has been suspended and has been replaced with a commendation event for Randy.
Satisfied, Monk and Natalie return to the firehouse to inform the crews that they have caught Sparky's killer. Joe is ecstatic and wants to take Natalie out to celebrate, but Natalie says she's come to a difficult decision: she is falling for Joe, but can’t get involved with another man in a dangerous job; she and Julie already lost Mitch, and she can’t go through that again. Joe is crestfallen, but accepts her decision.
Julie is so grateful to Monk for finding Sparky's killer that she organizes her bedroom just as he would like it. While Monk is preparing to move back home, Stottlemeyer drops by to tell them that the Breen case has been clinched by the amount of incriminating evidence they've been able to locate. They don't only have him just with the cat dander, but forensics has found Breen's fingerprints in a firefighter's glove.
Before Stottlemeyer leaves, Monk casually asks him to arrest Mrs. Throphamner, Natalie's elderly next-door neighbor who has been babysitting Julie. He says that she murdered her husband – she’s been wearing his dentures in place of her own, and constantly planting and re-planting her roses to conceal his decaying corpse buried in her garden. To Natalie’s astonishment, the neighbor confesses. Furious that Monk would let her leave Julie in the care of a murderess, on the assumption that she wouldn’t kill anyone else, Natalie stalks off, not trusting herself near Monk for a good week.
List of main characters
Characters from the television series
- Adrian Monk, the title detective, played on the series by Tony Shalhoub
- Natalie Teeger, Monk's loyal assistant and the narrator of the book, played on the series by Traylor Howard
- Captain Leland Stottlemeyer, Captain of the San Francisco Police Department's Homicide Division; Monk's oldest friend and former partner, played on the series by Ted Levine
- Lieutenant Randy Disher, Stottlemeyer's right-hand man, played on the series by Jason Gray-Stanford
- Julie Teeger, Natalie's teenaged daughter, played on the series by Emmy Clarke
- Sparky, a murdered firehouse dog
- Captain Mantooth, Fire Captain
- Joseph "Joe" Cochran, a senior firefighter
- Esther Stoval, an elderly woman and Lucas Breen's first murder victim
- Gregorio Dumas, a man who has held a grudge against Sparky
- Mrs. Throphamner, Natalie's next-door neighbor and babysitter for Julie.
- Aubrey Brudnick, Esther Stoval's next-door neighbor, and a worker at a think tank
- Neal and Kate Finney, some of Esther's other neighbors
- Burton Joyner, an antique car restorer who lived across the street from Esther
- Lucas Breen, CEO of the Breen Development Corporation
- Lizzie Draper, Breen's mistress and a stripper at a nightclub
- Marlon Tolliver, a mugger
- A Homeless Man
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|"Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing"|
|Episode no.||Season 5
|Directed by||Stephen Surjik|
|Written by||Lee Goldberg
|Original air date||July 28, 2006|
Stanley Kamel as Dr. Charles Kroger
Early one afternoon at Fire Company #53 of the San Francisco Fire Department, Rusty (Art Evans), a veteran firefighter, delivers lunch to his colleagues and then criticizes one crewman who cracks a dry joke. The fire captain (Rocky McMurray), reassures Rusty that they all admire him, but is interrupted when Monk arrives carrying a container full of smoke detectors.
Barely has Monk arrived when the station's two-tone call alarm goes off. A fire has broken out at a house just five blocks away from the firehouse. Despite Monk's protests, the crew jump onto the engine, and Monk can only watch as the fire engine drives away, sirens wailing.
Rusty tests Monk's smoke detectors one at a time by blowing puffs of cigarette smoke into them, and is surprised to find that Monk is overly cautious, having 30 smoke detectors for the five rooms, two hallways, and vestibule that make up his apartment.
They are interrupted when they hear a squeaking noise. Monk and Rusty look up as a man, Eddie Murdoch (Drew Powell), enters the garage. Acting like he is trying not to be noticed, Murdoch walks around the cab of the spare fire engine parked in the garage. Rusty walks around the back of the truck to confront Murdoch. Murdoch promptly grabs a shovel from the tool rack and delivers the luckless Rusty a fatal strike to the head. Monk hears an audible clang. He rushes over to investigate and is promptly attacked by Murdoch with the shovel. After a short struggle, Monk manages to grab the shovel. But as he is about to take a swing, Murdoch grabs a container of cleaning fluid and throws the contents into Monk's face. Monk staggers back against the truck, screaming in agonizing pain, and collapses.
A short time later, Natalie arrives looking for Monk. Hearing Monk still groaning, she rushes back behind the fire engine and finds him rubbing his eyes. As she helps Monk to his feet, she calls for help and instructs Monk to find a chair to sit down in. But it is apparent that Monk is blind.
Monk is rushed to the hospital to be examined. The doctor tells Stottlemeyer and Disher that the solvent that the attacker threw into Monk's face was composed of detergent and muriatic acid, causing severe optic nerve damage. Whether or not Monk's eyesight will come back is unclear at this point in time. Randy tries to reassure Monk that he and Stottlemeyer are doing everything they can to find the attacker, but Stottlemeyer cuts him off when he realizes that Randy is only making the crisis worse. Monk is very crippled at the loss of his vision, despite Natalie telling him that there's always hope.
At the police station, a School for the Blind teacher puts Stottlemeyer and Disher through an empathy exercise to teach them what Monk is dealing with (Stottlemeyer admits that he feels hopeless and Randy admits to feeling disoriented). Wearing blindfolds, they are told to stand up from the couch in Stottlemeyer's office, make their way to the water cooler on the other side of the squad room, and then pour themselves a paper cup of water. Randy does this rather clumsily, bumping into detectives' desks twice and knocking things over, while Stottlemeyer feels around with the palms of his hands and tries to reassure one detective that everything is under control. At the conclusion of the exercise, Stottlemeyer confides to the teacher that her advice is useless for a guy with Monk's personality, having known him for much longer than her. He expresses personal doubt that Monk will be able to function, given Monk's fragile condition. The teacher tells Stottlemeyer that it's up to him to make Monk function properly, getting him back to investigating. Stottlemeyer appears skeptical.
At his apartment, Monk has become quite upset at the fact that he might never see his pictures of Trudy again. Natalie convinces Monk to continue investigating, since Monk may not have sight but he does have the senses of smell, sound, touch and taste to rely upon. She tries to use examples of people who did great things while blind, like Mr. Magoo and blind singer Ray Charles, as role models that Monk can follow.
Midway through, Stottlemeyer shows up and asks Monk to accompany him down to the firehouse. Monk is unwilling to come along, pointing out that he gave Randy a detailed statement of what happened during the attack. Stottlemeyer gets Monk on his feet by reminding him that he can't make his condition a personal matter because Rusty was killed, making Monk the sole eyewitness in a homicide investigation.
Monk is brought back to the firehouse. After making a few mistakes with trying to locate items in the garage, Natalie suggests to Monk that he use his photographic memory to recreate the room as it was when he was attacked. Once they sit Monk down at the chair he was sitting in when Murdoch entered, it becomes easier for them to walk Monk back through his statement. Randy notes that according to his story, his attacker was 6'1", heavyset, with sandy hair, and was wearing a leather motorcycle jacket. He also reeked of rum, like he had been drinking. After Monk gets tangled up in the crime scene tape stretched between the wall and the fire engine's back bumper, Natalie walks him back towards the street. As he is leaving, Monk brushes his shoulder against a rack of firefighting protective coats, and suddenly stops. He immediately realizes that there were six coats on the rack before the attack, but there is one missing. The fire captain takes notice and agrees with Monk's observation. The obvious conclusion is that the killer stole it.
Some days later, Monk is later being assisted by a walking cane. He and Natalie arrive at the police station, where Stottlemeyer and Disher have brought in a potential suspect - a drifter named Jake Colbert. According to Stottlemeyer, Colbert has no alibi, is the correct height, and was found wearing the missing firefighter's coat. As Monk has no eyesight, he cannot identify Colbert as the guy through a regular lineup. Furthermore, Colbert swears that he found the coat in a Tenderloin dumpster. Monk is told that he must feel Colbert's face to identify him, and he does so, reluctantly at first. When Monk does so, he finds a wart on Colbert's chin, and he is certain that Colbert is not the killer, even though he was found wearing the fireman's coat when he was picked up.
Later, Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher travel to the alley where Colbert found the jacket. Reading from his notebook, Randy mentions that Colbert's story checks out. He claimed that he was in the alleyway that afternoon collecting bottles and cans and found the missing coat in a dumpster. He also found a firefighter's helmet which he gave to a couple of passing children. Monk is skeptical: Colbert found the coat at 5:00 PM, and Rusty was killed at around two o'clock, so why would someone be determined enough to attack two people to steal firefighting gear, but toss it away within a few hours? While they are in the alleyway, Monk is overly delighted to find that he can't see the alley's low-life inhabitants, including a pair of rats scrounging around in the garbage cans, the cockroaches, or even a dead cat, and actually for once sees the positives of being blind.
Stottlemeyer puts the lid on a garbage can to hide a pair of scrounging rats, and he admits that they are in the same neighborhood as the house fire that the fire crew was responding to when Monk was attacked. He notes that the young woman who lived there was killed in the fire, after she fell asleep smoking a cigarette in front of the TV. Monk, however, realizes that there might be something about the fire that's connected to the attack at the firehouse.
Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher travel to the burned out remains of the house. Monk feels his way around the bathroom (not caring at all about the fact that he is getting soot all over his hands), and then makes his way to the living room. Stottlemeyer notes that the fire was started when the victim fell asleep and a lit cigarette ignited a pile of old newspapers. The victim was a 27-year-old woman named Stefanie Preston. She had been working as a temp for Peter Breen Construction, a local construction company, for the past eight weeks. Although the file says that Stefanie lived alone, Monk finds evidence of a boyfriend: the presence of men's cologne in the bathroom, as well as the presence of two toothbrushes, and two different toothpaste tubes. In the living room, Monk picks up a scorched bottle on a table and notes that it smells of rum, and he remembers that his attacker reeked of rum. He also finds the impression of a rearing horse etched into the glass on the coffee table, next to a gob of melted plastic that used to be the TV remote, and realizes that something doesn't make sense: if Stefanie was "watching" TV, then why is the remote at the opposite end of the table from where her upper body would have been? With this, he realizes what the firehouse attack was about.
Here's What Happened
Murdoch strangled Stefanie, made it look like she'd fallen asleep on the couch, then started the fire by throwing a lit cigarette onto a pile of newspapers. As he was walking away, he must have stopped and realized he forgot something in the house, probably something metallic that could survive the fire and be traced back to him if the police ever found it. Murdoch could not simply go back to the crime scene to retrieve the object, however, because he'd made his realization just as a fire engine sped past him while responding to the fire. To gain access to the scene, he needed a firefighter's coat and helmet, so Murdoch went to the firehouse. After killing Rusty and blinding Monk, Murdoch grabbed a coat and helmet, and returned to the burning house. Murdoch looked like one of the real firemen, so in the chaos, none of the cops or real firefighters on the scene noticed him or questioned him as he slipped under the tape, walked right into the house, and retrieved the incriminating object.
Monk is elated, realizing that, even without his sight, he's still a great detective. In session with Dr. Kroger, Monk tells him that he feels liberated - losing his sight has halved the number of his fears, and he has a whole new life to "look" forward to. Troubled, Dr. Kroger thinks he's still in denial over his loss.
Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher visit a construction site to interview Peter Breen (Jamie Kaler), Stefanie Preston's boss. Breen suggests that Monk wait in the construction trailer, but Monk insists on being treated like everyone else. As Natalie guides Monk along, she has to stop him from touching some coils of barbed wire.
Although busy issuing instructions to workers, Breen admits that he knew Stefanie intermittently, and he hired her because his regular girl was on maternity leave. He also claims that he's never been to Stefanie Preston's house. When asked to supply an alibi for the approximate time of Stefanie's and Rusty's deaths, Breen claims he was on-site talking with some of his employees. Randy notices and takes an interest in Breen's Ferrari sports car. During their conversation, Eddie Murdoch comes up to Breen, and reassures Breen that he still has his keys. Breen tells Murdoch that they'll take care of that matter later. Monk hears a squeaking noise from the treads of Murdoch's shoes, and he recognizes the squeak as being the same consistency as that of the one he heard when Rusty was attacked.
Monk takes off after Murdoch, but Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher do not see him leaving. Monk catches up to Murdoch in another room, and quickly feels Murdoch's face, identifying him as the killer. Murdoch prepares to kill Monk to eliminate the sole witness to Rusty's death, using a saw, but Monk whips him several times with his cane and then hurls several objects at him, overpowering Murdoch long enough for Monk to steal his nametag and escape. Murdoch recovers, and chases after Monk, but by hiding behind a wall, Monk is narrowly able to throw Murdoch off course. Murdoch goes running up the stairs, thinking that he'll find Monk up there. After briefly getting lost, Monk stumbles into an out-of-order construction elevator, and tries to start it up. It shudders, only getting a few inches up, causing him to mistakenly believe that he has ridden it up to the top level of the construction site, and is balancing precariously on a girder high in the air (which is in fact sitting on the ground). He learns the truth when Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher rush in and find him ("Natalie, are you... flying?").
Monk quickly hands Randy the nametag he snatched from Murdoch. No sooner has Randy read Murdoch's name when there is a scream as Murdoch falls down a shaft to his death. Stottlemeyer and Disher identify him, and Randy suggests that Murdoch slipped while trying to escape.
Back at the hospital, Monk is examined again, and the doctor is cautiously optimistic, saying that Monk's eyesight is returning gradually. Monk, however, has lost all his former optimism after the humiliation of screaming for help while standing on a steel beam ten inches off the ground, and believes that there might be a chance that his eyesight might not return. Randy assures Monk that indeed, Eddie Murdoch is the person who killed Stefanie Preston and Rusty - they found soot-stained clothes in his house.
Natalie and Randy then leave the hospital, leaving Stottlemeyer with Monk. Monk is having second thoughts about the case: Eddie Murdoch definitely killed Stefanie Preston and Rusty, but what was his motive? Monk remembers how when they were talking to Peter Breen, Murdoch walked up and he said to Breen, "I still have those keys." He realizes that Murdoch may have been talking about the keys to Breen's Ferrari. Monk asks Stottlemeyer what the keychains to Ferraris like Breen's look like, and Stottlemeyer confirms that they are shaped like a rearing horse. They suddenly realize that the rearing-horse impression left on the coffee table at Stefanie's house during the fire came from Peter Breen's keys.
Monk and Stottlemeyer rush down to the morgue in search of the keys. Monk explains his theory. He explains that while Eddie Murdoch killed Stefanie Preston and Rusty, and he was the man that attacked Monk at the firehouse, none of it was his idea: he was hired by Breen as a hitman to carry out the job. Breen was the one having the affair; he had keys to Stefanie's house, which he loaned to Murdoch so that Murdoch could kill her and then stage an "accidental" fire. It was all because of the house keys that Murdoch went to the firehouse to steal firefighting gear to reenter the scene of the fire.
Monk and Stottlemeyer eventually locate Murdoch's body. They find the keys they are looking for in a plastic bag containing Murdoch's personal effects. Just as Stottlemeyer grabs the keys and tells Monk that they've found Exhibit A, one of the "corpses" rises from its gurney and casts off the sheet. It is Peter Breen, who has followed Eddie Murdoch's body to the morgue to recover his keys and destroy the one remaining piece of evidence against him. Breen knocks Stottlemeyer out, and then handcuffs him to a gurney, then grabs a knife to prepare to kill Monk. He also manages to take Monk's cane. Monk grabs Stottlemeyer’s pistol, and with his eyesight beginning to return just in the nick of time, shoots Breen in the chest, then leans down to check on Stottlemeyer, who realizes that Monk can see him.
A few nights later, Monk, having made a full recovery, is reading in his armchair, glancing up to admire his many pictures of Trudy on the wall.
- During the scene where Natalie is trying to keep Monk's hopes up at his apartment, she mentions that there have been a lot of blind people who have done amazing things. To prove her point, Natalie mentions Mr. Magoo, an animated cartoon character, and an amazing blind inventor, who appeared in a series of short films. She also makes a mention to American musician Ray Charles, who was blind by the time he was seven years old due to glaucoma. Ray Charles died in 2004, two years before "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing" was produced.
- When Monk is getting soot on his hands while searching Stefanie Preston's house, Stottlemeyer asks him if he wants some gloves, but Monk declines, saying, "No, don't need them. Out of sight, out of mind." By coincidence, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" was an episode of the TV series M*A*S*H in which Hawkeye Pierce was temporarily blinded. The plots of both "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing" and "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" are very similar. In both, the main character is initially despondent at the chance that their loss of eyesight might be permanent, and in both, the protagonist becomes fascinated with his other senses due to sensory deprivation. And in both, the sense of smell to find clues proves to be crucial. There are, however, a number of differences (Hawkeye loses his eyesight when a malfunctioning stove explodes, whereas Monk loses his when he is attacked during a robbery).
- The alarm at Fire Company 53 (two short tones followed by a buzzer) is the same alarm that is used at LACFD Fire Company 51 in Emergency!.
- The original version of "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing" had scenes in which actor Ron Rogge would have portrayed a welder. His scenes were deleted from the final version.
- When Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer, and Disher are in the alleyway where Jake Colbert said he found the fireman's coat stolen from Fire Company 53, a prostitute can be seen standing in the background behind Monk (not that she is bothering Monk, because he can't see her, nor can he see the cockroaches and dead cat in the alley).
- At least two characters in "Mr. Monk Can't See a Thing" got their names from actual people on the production staff for Monk. The teacher from the School for the Blind is named Shana, and is portrayed by Shana Stein, and fire victim Stefanie Preston gets her name from a person of the same name on the production staff.