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A Monk Fun Page Episode Review

If you haven't seen the episode yet and you'd like to be surprised, it's probably best to read no further. Just bookmark this page and come back when you're finished.

I may have come into "Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa" with heightened expectations. I'd waited so long and the reviews were so good that I was expecting It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas all rolled into one Monk episode. Instead, it was something all its own: not a holiday spectacle, just a gently humorous and sentimental, look at contemporary Christmas with a slightly homicidal backdrop. Considering the episode wasn't their idea (USA Network requested it), I think the Monk team handled it rather well.

David Breckman is the credited writer of the episode. He also wrote or co-wrote a dozen other episodes including my favorite "Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum" to which I think this episode has a couple of similarities. David also has a new pilot called Underfunded which he's developing for USA network with Ross Abrash who wrote "Mr. Monk and the Employee of the Month." It’s intended to be a companion show for Monk.

The episode is directed by Jerry Levine (no relation to Ted) who has not only directed a number of episodes, but also played Kenny Shale, Sharona's ambitious, deputy mayor boyfriend in "Mr. Monk and the Twelfth Man" who Mrs. Ling liked better than Monk. I confess that I've considered his directing, which includes "Mr. Monk Goes to the Office," "Mr. Monk Gets Stuck in Traffic" and "Mr. Monk Goes to Jail," rather pedestrian. However, he really has done some brilliant work with other episodes like "Mr. Monk and The Girl Who Cried Wolf," "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever" (the dueling summations!) and now "Secret Santa."

Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree

So where'd they get the typewriter?

The episode opens with a view of the city skyline, featuring the holiday lights of the Embarcadero Center and the Bay Bridge at sunset. A beautiful shot of San Francisco always softens me up for the rest of a Monk episode. Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, the bouncy Brenda Lee tune, plays as a gloved hand injects a fake brand of port with bubbly, nasty looking strychnine-ish poison.

The killer wraps the bottle, ties it with a beautiful bow and tops it all off with a candy cane. Then the killer uses a vintage Underwood Standard Master Model typewriter circa 1947 to type a name on the envelope. We only see bits of the name at this point, but we know it's addressed to Captain Stottlemeyer because we all read the preview tag line: When a detective dies at the police department Christmas party after drinking from a poisoned bottle of
port intended for Captain Stottlemeyer, can Monk find the killer? (What kind of question is that? It wouldn't be much of a show if he couldn't.) So I'm thinking, wow, a vintage Underwood Standard Master Model typewriter circa 1947! That's got to be a clue!
In a suspenseful yet economical sequence, we follow the bottle to Alice's desk, right outside Captain Stottlemeyer's door. Alice doesn't even glance at it, but the camera zooms in for a close-up and again I'm thinking that the typewriter will trip up the killer because some of the keys are worn down producing partial letters. That's easy to trace, right? Maybe not, but it was good enough evidence for the old school detectives.

I think it would be nice for Stottlemeyer to get some much needed office help and a person of the female persuasion around the squad room. Too bad Alice won't quite fit the bill.

"Adrian Monk is coming"

We fade back in on the bottle (so the suspense can continue to build) and Detective Terry Chasen in the background hanging the "Merry Christmas" banner. Some people may have been surprised by who the killer was, but I bet everyone had him pegged for the victim from the get go. Chet Grissom (Detective Chasen) also appeared in "Mr. Monk Goes to Vegas" and "Mr. Monk Goes to the

decking the halls
Office" as, at the time, an unnamed detective. On both previous occasions he was rather uncool with Monk. Chasen's reaction of "Aw, hell!" upon learning that Adrian would be attending the party irritated me a bit, too. I'm not going to miss this guy. I always appreciate Stottlemeyer's effort to accommodate Monk, in this case by seeing that the banner is hung correctly. It's sweet.

Alice appears efficient and she blends in well in her cop uniform. I wouldn't have suspected her at this point if I hadn't known all along. She gives the Captain the message from his wife "She said her mother's sick and she won't be able to make it tonight."

"Her mother's...? Well, that's too bad."

The tone, and his briefly frustrated expression, convey that he doesn't believe Karen's mother is sick, that he knows she doesn't want to come to the party and that they're probably having marital difficulties. He tries to cover up his disappointment and his tone with Alice changes, not exactly flirtatious, but friendlier. "You looking forward to our little party, Alice?"

When Stottlemeyer mentions Terry in his boxer shorts Alice does a pretty good job of looking disinterested, (of course if the Captain were standing by my desk smiling I probably wouldn't give Chasen, or any other man, a second thought either) but it's at this point that she hands Stottlemeyer the poisoned port. That little "Help me, Rhonda" anecdote probably steeled her resolve.

The Randy Disher Project

Randy may sing better than Stottlemeyer but his guitar playing is not as good. (Yes, I think that was really Ted playing.) Of course, he was "just tuning it up."

"It's a nice guitar," he tells the Captain. "It's Karen's," says Stottlemeyer. And there's an edge to his voice that indicates he's still a bit upset that

Randy plays

Karen isn't going to be there. Randy offers to jam and reveals that "I used to have a rock band back in high school: The Randy Disher Project.

"That's a good name how'd you come up with that?" says Stottlemeyer with a perfectly straight face. The teasing seems lost on Randy. Does he think the Captain has never heard of The Alan Parsons Project? "My name's Randy...Disher and then project." This won't be the last we hear of The Randy Disher Project by the way. It's going to crop up later in season 4.5. and I think it's great that they lay the foundation here.

All the Disher Stottlemeyer stuff seems more substantial to me than the Julie-Monk-Natalie sequences. Also they kick up the suspense a notch when Randy grabs the deadly bottle. "I love port." He loves port. He sings, he wears jeans and he has TiVo. I may be falling in love with Randy.

"I think I'll take it home to Karen," says Stottlemeyer. A peace offering, perhaps? In any case, he puts his foot down: "Randy, I'm taking it home." At this point Alice's plan could so easily have gone wrong and Randy could have been the victim. Bad Alice! Brilliant maybe, but not very careful. Randy also narrowly escaped death by Neptune Bar in "Mr. Monk Goes Home Again" and demonstrated the same reluctance to give up the contaminated candy. Randy must have a guardian angel. Oh wait... He's the plucky comic relief. Thank goodness, he's safe.

"Somehow it's still beautiful"

The visual joke of the half decorated Christmas tree is amusing, but the impact was spoiled for me by having seen the promo so often. (The official site is set as my home page, so I must have seen it 100 times.) "Is it beautiful? Snow?" Julie asks suddenly revealing a hitherto fore hidden obsession with the common meteorological phenomenon.

Julie and Snow Globe

"You've never seen snow? Oh, it's very beautiful. No two flakes are the same, but somehow it's still beautiful." It was a perfectly written line with a perfect delivery: so thoughtful, poignant, amusing. So Monk. Bravo.

The next bit, however, seems a little awkward when Natalie asks Julie if she's okay with Mr. Monk being there. Is Monk staying with them? Or does she mean just because he's there for the tree trimming? Perhaps that was previously a special mother-daughter time? It's still a strange question to ask Julie as they're about to walk out the door. Why should Julie mind if Monk's there when he'll be gone in a moment anyway?

Monk brings in Trudy's gift to let us know what a sad time the holidays can be for him. “You never open it." "Nope." But Monk is getting a little happiness this Christmas, not only from his memory of Trudy, but from sharing this holiday with his friends. "It's going to be a great party; I'm not completely dreading it."

Wal-Mart: $15

We zoom in past the Happy Holidays sign and follow the conga line through the Captain's office as a jazzy version of Deck the Halls plays. Natalie boogies over to Disher and admires his sweater. Clearly she's already spotted the guy in the identical sweater and she's ready to play her little joke on Randy. She continues her cute little dance while he explains the sweater's dubious origins. Then she dances away and returns with

sweater detective
Sweater Detective, as he's called in the credits. He sure makes the most of his two word line: "Wal-Mart, 15 dollars." Wal-Mart is a Monk sponsor. So the writers worked in the product placement, while at the same time sort of slamming Wal-Mart and writing a very amusing scene. Yes, Randy's feelings were a bit hurt, but Natalie makes up for it with one of her special Christmas kisses.

Monk's idea of a great party is arranging the beautifully decorated cookies. Adrian's frank discussion with Alice is sad and funny and tactless, especially in light of how bad (and murderous) she feels about being alone. He compounds his faux pas with "for people our age." Her expression is priceless. Rachael Harris does a pretty good job of making me sympathize with Alice.

O Holy Night!

The opening shot of this scene, as the camera pans around Monk and eventually comes to rest on Stottlemeyer singing, is breathtaking. What's Monk looking at or thinking about? I'm guessing Trudy. Probably the last time he was at a Christmas party was when Trudy was alive. When he turns around to watch Stottlemeyer singing it's as if he's coming out of a trance.

Monk listens

Both Monk and Natalie look fondly at Alice as she mouths the words to the song. If only they knew how totally unimbued she is with the Christmas spirit. Stottlemeyer also seems to gaze at Alice as he sings the song, but maybe that's just the way it's cut.

Stottlemeyer pauses to remember the words. "And yonder breaks.... a new and glorious morning." It's just such a nice touch. It's Stottlemeyer singing, not Ted Levine, all in character as he stumbles over the words and doesn't hit all the notes. For a minute there as Randy comes in with the harmony, it's really quite beautiful.

Does anyone remember the Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet of Little Drummer Boy? That's what this reminded me of with the contrasting styles. Randy is also very much in character as he sings. And by the way he has really cute hands.

Monk's reaction is so perfect with that sweet smile of his and tears glistening in his eyes. It was quite a moment. "That was great," Stottlemeyer tells Disher. And it was.

All of Alice's Good Will Towards Men has apparently been sucked out by one man in particular. She doesn't hesitate to go ahead with the murder plot against him, announcing that it's Secret Santa time.

Stottlemeyer and Disher sing

Stottlemeyer and Disher Sing O Holy Night

Monk is so eager to give Stottlemeyer his gift and as with Benjy in "Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect" Monk can't wait for Stott to open it. He just tells him what it is. "It's an air purifier, for your house." He gets a similarly unenthusiastic response, but it's nice to see the special affectionate knuckle knock again. "Do you know what eBay is?" asks Stottlemeyer. (Ooo, Oooo I know: a new corporate sponsor.) "Ebay? No," replies Monk. "Good." The implication being that Stottlemeyer intends to sell the air purifier on eBay at the first opportunity. Once again a neat and amusing way to work in the product placement, but the Captain's probably better off just exchanging it.

Alice tells Adrian "I'm your Secret Santa." If you didn't already know, that should have been a big clue that she was the culprit. After all it's called "Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa." She's even in the title. And she literally hands him the first clue. The card folded to go into the envelope that's too small. "It's a funny card,” Monk observes. “You can tell by the explanation points." As he opens it Stottlemeyer peers over his shoulder saying "What'd you get?" and then mouths something to
Monk gets a gift

Alice when he sees Monk's reaction. I think it was something like 'I told you he'd love it.' My impression was that he advised Alice on what to get Monk. And his little chuckle seems to confirm it.

The Sock Monkey needs a better agent

The next scene where Stottlemeyer looks for his gift is where I thought the Sock Monkey might be making an appearance, but he was apparently off at the invitation only Sock Monkey Christmas Ball and the only appearance he makes is on the back of Randy's (and Sweater Detective’s) sweater.

[The Sock Monkey guest-starred in season three's "Mr. Monk and the Panic Room." He was used by Stottlemeyer during his interrogation of Darwin the chimp. The Sock Monkey also popped up in a subsequent episode, ("Mr. Monk Gets Fired") behind Stottlemeyer's desk. I had hopes, since the Captain's desk was featured in "Secret Santa," that the Sock Monkey would make another appearance, but that didn't happen.] After drawing my attention to the sock monkey's absence, Alice suggests the bottle of port. This means of course, if you've already deduced it's Alice, than you can also deduce that Chasen is the intended victim. Stottlemeyer gives the unfortunate detective the last Christmas present he'll ever get.

sock monkey
The camera pans through the party past a smooching couple (seriously, get a room already) and a token Menorah. Chasen pours himself a cup of port and doesn't even offer it to anybody else. (Miss Manners says if you don't know you're bottle of hooch is poisoned you should offer to share with other party goers. Of course a half dozen dead bodies would have made for a pretty depressing holiday.) Randy cuts in on Sweater Detective who is fondling said sweater and attempting to chat up the girl with the tight, unseasonably low cut blouse. Randy gives Sweater Detective an adorably mischievous look as he hands the young lady a drink. Monk is already making good use of his whisk broom by dusting off Natalie. In the background Chasen does a spit take and a great swan dive into the snack table. It was really a very well done death scene. They did their homework on the effects of strychnine, which is characterized by powerful and extremely painful convulsions, there being no impairment of cognitive or sensory function. Death occurs as a result of respiratory arrest, due to spasm and paralysis of the respiratory muscles. Symptoms usually begin within about 20 minutes of ingestion of the poison.

The lethal dose is about 5mg/kg body-weight, in other words about 350mg for an adult. The wide open eyes and the onset of rigor mortis almost immediately following death are also indications of strychnine poisoning. That's one of the funnest parts of writing mysteries, researching poisons. (By the way, I have a great book called Deadly Doses which I bet the Monk writers also own.)

The dead guy

Randy, as usual, is quick to react, but it's too late for Chasen. Stottlemeyer picks up the bottle of port. Monk stands by with a horrified look on his face. Perhaps the "Prince of Darkness" phrase is running though his head and he's worried that people will stop inviting him to parties.

We're sixteen minutes into the episode, before the murder occurs. Usually, of course, it's in the teaser. I think since this was a special Christmas episode they wanted to give it a different feel. The only other episode which I can recall where we have to wait that long for the mystery is "Mr. Monk Goes to the Asylum," one of my favorites and also written by David Breckman. I like the leisurely pacing, which gives so much time for character development and holiday cheer, yet still delivers an effective little mystery.

"There but for the grace of God"

With a little prompting Disher delivers the gruesome news: "Poison, some kind of strychnine. Simple, effective, anybody could have made it." (Especially a cookie baking whiz like Alice.) So the Captain asks "Couldn't he have tasted it?" Good question. "Port's a pretty heavy drink, isn't it?" Monk asks the only ex-bartender in the room. "It's really strong," Natalie says very somberly. "He wouldn't have tasted it in that," Monk speculates. I beg to differ. Port, a fortified wine, may be heavy, but it's also quite sweet. Strychnine is extremely bitter and it would significantly change the taste of the port. Of course, Chasen may have noted that it tasted funny, but continued to drink it. Or he could have stopped drinking it after having already ingested a fatal dose. However, I think, if I were Alice, I would have used a cheap brandy rather than a port. To each her own, of course. I guess it got the job done.This was meant for me," Stottlemeyer says, obviously feeling pretty guilty. "There but for the grace of God," Disher comments, which may seem inane when applied to the Captain's situation, but it works pretty well if you think in terms of how close Randy came to drinking the stuff himself.

"Captain, I'm sorry," says Natalie. "He was only 38 years old. Was he married?" Okay, Natalie, that's starting to irritate me. She asked the same thing about the murder victim in "Mr. Monk Goes Home Again." You know, those of us who are single would like to think that our lives are also valuable. Stottlemeyer informs us that Terry Chasen had a wife, with whom he recently reconciled, and (just in case that’s not tragic enough for Natalie) twins.

Cue Alice, who brings in the coffee and confesses it was her idea for the gift exchange. "Alice you can't blame yourself." Yes, yes she can, but I think she really blames Terry. Detective Robbins (Dylan White) enters the investigation. He's another one of those well drawn smaller characters that the Monk writers do so well. In fact I was so impressed that I dropped Dylan an email and he has now agreed to do an interview for the website, which I hope to have up shortly.

Detective Robbins

"Whoever sent it knew you did business with them," says Natalie. "That narrows it down, right?" It wasn't helpful in this case, but she's getting to be quite the little detective, isn't she?

Even though there are other suspects, the Captain already has a theory: "It was Frank Prager." Disher, in one of his take charge moods, wants to pick his team to investigate the other leads. “I’ll take Monk," he says after careful and unnecessary consideration. I enjoyed Adrian's enthusiastic and childlike reaction to being picked first and I loved Stott pulling him over to his team. "No, I'll take Monk." I'm sure being picked first was not a frequent experience for Monk growing up. Can anyone tell me if this abhorrent team picking process is still practiced in schools? It's a cruel thing to do to a child and a cruel thing to do to wide-eyed Detective Robbins, who waits on the sidelines as he's passed over in favor of amateurs. Stottlemeyer says that they'll meet back there at noon. It's already light out, so they've been up all night.

"I was pretty toasted"

Stottlemeyer recounts his near death experience: "Four months ago, it was a Tuesday night, I came out of the bar 2:00am. They took my keys. So I'm walking home. I was alone. I was pretty toasted." I could be wrong but a married man usually doesn't go out drinking alone on a weeknight and get so toasted they take his keys and make him walk home, unless he's got a problem.

Leland, pretty toasted

It's another indication that the Stottlemeyer marriage might be going through a rough patch. Again it's very nice to see them laying the ground work for a future episode. That's how continuity is born.

Stottlemeyer's theory on why Prager missed him is pretty weak.

"Maybe he was as toasted as I was. Maybe it was a miracle." "Maybe it was," says Monk, but he's doubtful. He has a hard time believing in miracles. He turns his attention to the bullet holes that are still adding mystique to The Spot. "Two, one, two," he says looking at the pattern. The viewer is deliberately misdirected. If you're focused on Monk, as most audience members are, you're going to try to make it fit the pattern he suggests: "2-1-2." Very nice.

bullet holes

Stake Out

Natalie's not very good at stake outs, but at least she doesn't bring her boyfriends along. "Natalie this is a stake out. You never know how long. That's what makes a stake out so much fun." Now we know. After a quick game of twenty questions, Natalie asks Monk what he wants for Christmas. "A miracle," he says. Again her dialogue seems awkward in this scene. You know how some people start a discussion by asking you what you think when they really just want the opportunity to tell you what they think? Well, Natalie's one of those people. The natural thing to do would be to find out what Monk meant by saying he wanted a miracle for Christmas. Is he thinking about Trudy, solving the case, an AIDS vaccine, the end of the Iraq war, what? Natalie simply doesn't care; she just wanted a chance to natter on about Julie's snow obsession. Tahoe's not that far. You've got an SUV, go show her snow.

"It hasn't snowed in San Francisco for nine years. The last time it snowed was the day Trudy died." Monk tells Natalie. I hate to question Adrian's arithmetic, but Trudy died in 1997 according to her headstone and in November according to the coroner's report on her murder. That would make it just over eight years ago. So Trudy died either 8 or 9 years ago when she was 34 or 35 years old after graduating from high school when she was 15 or 16 or 17.
Stake Out
Aaack! They're messin' with us. They know we're trying to keep track. Also it may have been snowing in Monkland the day Trudy died, but we haven't had any measurable snowfall in San Francisco since 1976. There was a dusting of snow in December of 1998. I remember it fell in big fluffy flakes for an hour or so, but it didn't stick.

Silent Night

Monk and Natalie sing Silent Night

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"That went well"

The whole caroling scene seemed vaguely reminiscent of the "kissing fern" scene in "Mr. Monk Gets Drunk" to me. As a cover story the caroling idea was pretty good and they probably picked Silent Night because they both knew the words. So where'd they get the candles? When Monk mentions that his candle is dripping and Natalie tells him it's supposed to, the first thing I thought of was the candle "continuity error" in "Mr. Monk Vs. The Cobra." I think they may be slyly alluding to it here. And speaking of sly allusions didn't Monk's references to "creative differences" and "we wish them well" remind anyone else of the rhetoric at the time of Bitty's departure?

—The Powers That Be said: "Monk has decided to go in a different creative direction." Bitty's People said: "She wishes everyone connected with the show continued success."

Charlotte Prager (Michelle Azar) is pretty trusting, letting a stranger use her bathroom and leaving an even stranger stranger alone with her daughter. Monk gets his chance to talk to Dori and he lies like an old pro: “How do you know my name?” she asks. “Your Daddy told me." Apparently lying is just not that big of a problem for him. Of course, it's pretty easy to lie to children.

"The fact that it's horrible doesn't bother you?"

"These people have forgotten the true meaning of Christmas."

“Which is what?”

"Which is leaving me alone." Bwaahaha. Good one. I'm with Monk. Thank goodness they invented the internet so I never have to go to a mall during the Christmas season again. Natalie, however, loves it. (I think there's a good chance Natalie's a masochist.) At the mall, she recognizes her old boss whose karmic punishment for having once sexually harassed her is an eternity working there. "How many jobs have you had?" Monk wants to know. I think her mother said it was 17. In any case, the guy "owes her a favor" and Natalie's ready to collect.

She makes an adorable elf (and elf is really her basic job description, isn't it?) I myself think she's prettier with darker hair and big pointy ears. She announces Santa's arrival and Monk reaches out to lightly touch an ornament. It is almost magical. I can only assume that he was told the Santa suit was brand new or he would never have put it on. It does look brand new (and no doubt it was in real life.) I like the tentative steps up to Santa's chair and the lame "ho, ho, ho."

I also like Natalie's explanation to the kids. "Magic wipes. Yeah, wiping is fun!"

Natalie Elf
Monk lays a finger aside of his nose in a very Santa like gesture, but in this case it means "No touching Santa's face. And try not to breathe on Santa. And Santa's not always jolly, sometimes Santa's a little bit sad." It's a good thing she warned them. Bring on the kids (most of them making their screen debuts): the squirmer, the kisser, the cougher and the rock polisher ("You're Santa's favorite.") with his little sweater and his little shirt buttoned all the way up.
Rock Polisher

Of course, the cutest of all is little Trudy. "Are you okay?" she asks when she sees that Santa is indeed a "little bit sad." Yes, it's totally inappropriate of Monk to tell a five year old about his wife's violent death (somehow the bomb is now under the passenger seat. Makes more sense really. If it was under the driver's seat there wouldn't be enough left of Trudy to mutter "bread and butter.") They can't just leave it right there, so they have little Trudy (Hannah Contrucci) give him a great big hug. Awwww. Perfect. "Okay, you're done," he says tearfully. "Ho, ho, ho."

When he gets little Dori on his lap he's a whole different Santa. Now he's doing his job and he's perfectly at ease, with just the right Santa tone. He's also not in the least bit tentative as he darts off Santa's platform to chase Frank Prager through a crowded Mall.

"A nunny quality"

They're not taking any chances with Prager. They've got an army outside the Church of the Three Ladies, but they're no match for the one nun inside the church. Sister Heather (Clare Carey). Randy's right, she has a "nunny quality" She's straight out of The Bells of St. Mary's or The Sound of Music. "My father once taught me an important lesson,” She says. “There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness." (If he did he stole it from the original author of the phrase, 19th century American humorist Josh Billings who also said, among tons of other stuff, "As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.")

Sister Heather
"He's your father, too," Sister Heather tells Stottlemeyer. Darn, it's hard to argue with a nun. So apparently they end up taking Frank Prager in without the aid of a sniper.

The interrogation of Frank Prager doesn't yield much, except a nice compliment for Monk ("best detective in the free world") and the realization that Frank Prager has been watching too much Sesame Street with his daughter... This assault was brought to you by the letter M. "M for Michael." Well, Stottlemeyer doesn't "need an M. No cop does." Meanwhile Natalie has a good cry over Prager's journal and once he's taken away Stottlemeyer admits, "He's not the guy." Now, Monk is the one who's all business: "Okay, moving on." The whole group is very much in sync in this scene, but they're fresh out of leads.


"Merry Christmas, Alice!"

Skip ahead to Christmas day. Julie's finished decorating the tree and now she's decorating people. Monk gives her a gift and for once he doesn't tell the recipient what it is before it’s opened: the Cadillac of first aid kits. Doesn't anyone teach their kids to act as if they appreciate their gifts? Julie and Natalie give Monk a goldfish. I guess he really doesn't pay her much. "It's a living thing," he says. "Is it going to die?" If you keep it in that bowl it will and the proper aquarium is going to cost a whole lot more than the fish.

"Not for a long, long, long time," Natalie tells him. I get the feeling she's going to have two fish she'll be replacing on a regular basis. Julie spills the fish food. Monk jumps up to get the whisk broom and finds the card. Finally it clicks.

Natalie takes the time to change her blouse and they all show up at Alice's. "Merry Christmas, Alice," says Stottlemeyer. He likes irony. The whole gang joins in on the summation. When Disher reveals that Alice and Chasen had been involved for six months she quickly and bitterly jumps in to correct him: "Seven, seven months."

"You know I don't drink Port," Stottlemeyer tells her. I wonder how that came up at the office. Monk finishes the summation: "It was like a magician doing sleight of hand you had everybody looking the wrong way." He concludes with an almost admiring, "It was brilliant." Ding! The cookies are ready. Being accused of murder is important, but sugar cookies burn easily. You have to pull them out right away. I think they all realize at that moment that Alice is a little insane. Stottlemeyer follows her into the kitchen motioning to the others to wait and speaks to her gently. "Alice, where is the poison?" "It's in the basement," she tells him as the others come in. That's right, with the typewriter. Don't forget the typewriter. "How'd you know?" She asks.
Merry Christmas Alice
Monk shows her the card. "It came with the whisk broom, which by the way I've been using. It really is fantastic." That particular line also reminded me of "Asylum" when Monk tells Dr. Lancaster, "You really were the best doctor I ever had."
"Alice you mixed them up," he tells her. "I mixed them up. I'm usually so organized," Alice replies. Come on, she knew that card was going to Adrian Monk. She must have wanted to be caught. She throws down the cookie sheet. "I just couldn't live without him." Stottlemeyer and Disher exchange a look. They're probably thinking, that doesn't make any sense. Hardly any really. I guess there's no use expecting a killer to be honest, but I think what she meant was, "If I couldn't have him, no one could." The original script had Alice the poisoner offering them all cookies. I think this conclusion was a little better, a little darker. And I think we've all had another reminder that office romance is a bad idea.
Alice confesses

Trudy's Gift

O Little Town of Bethlehem plays in the background as Stottlemeyer hands Prager back to his family demonstrating his grasp of forgiveness and the true meaning of the holiday. I guess. I don't know, but it was a nice thing to do and Stottlemeyer feels good about it.

Meanwhile back at Natalie's "Aren't you curious?" she asks as Monk examines the little green box. "No, I love not knowing." I understand why he can't open it. It would sever his Christmas connection with Trudy, his coping mechanism for the Holidays. I think it's similar to the reason he hasn't solved her murder. Once he does, subconsciously at least, he thinks he'll lose her forever.

Julie, giggling like she's been at the port, runs past them outside into the falling snow, which we all knew was coming because it's in the freaking promo. They might want to leave us with one or two surprises. Otis Redding's version of White Christmas plays. Natalie is nearly as excited as Julie and gives Monk a Christmas kiss. He reaches up to wipe it away, but doesn't. He steps out into snow, twirling, gazing upward, accepting it as Trudy's gift to him and his own Christmas miracle.

Instant. Christmas. Classic.


Not Knowing

xmas snow 1xmas snow 2xmas snow 3

Otis Redding's White Christmas


A poem inspired by "Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa"

We met in late green summer
and knew right from the start
we’d found the pieces missing
from each one of our hearts.

With Christmas snows soft falling,
before her down I knelt.
No fear, no hesitation—
I said just what I felt.

In my hand a box, too small to hold
my life, my love, my heart, my soul,
yet filled with these and one more thing—
a question, a promise, a delicate ring.

We married in bright springtime.
The whole world seemed as new.
We loved without the knowledge
her years would be so few.

Adrian and Trudy
Adrian and Trudy

She died in late brown autumn.
On cold dead leaves I knelt,
far past the point of living
and numb to what I felt.

At my feet a box, too small to hold
my life, my love, my heart, my soul,
yet she was there; she lay within--
I’d kissed her cold lips, smoothed her hair, touched her skin.

Pale seasons passed like clockwork
though time became unreal
and while my heart kept beating,
I knew it would not heal.

Trudy's Grave

I found her gift in winter,
as in despair I knelt,
all wrapped in green like springtime,
and I realized I felt.

In my hands a box, too small to hold
her life, her love, her heart, her soul,
yet filled with these and all good things—
her care, her joy, our love everlasting.

Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa


Here are a few more pictures from "Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa," broadcast on December 2nd 2005.
santa1 santa2 santa3 santa4 santa5

Click on images above for larger images. Pictured: Jason Gray-Stanford as Randall Disher, Ted Levine as Leland Stottlemeyer, Rachel Harris as Alice Westergren, Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk, Traylor Howard as Natalie Teeger -- NBC Universal Photo: Michael Yarish

And the USA Network Ad


How did you get the role on Monk?

I'd met the casting director once before at a general reading. He liked me and called me in for a different episode which I didn't get. But he called me back for "Mr. Monk and the Secret Santa" which I'm very happy about, not only because of the work but, well, the part was bigger than what I was first called in for.

How did you prepare to play Det. Robbins? What did you think of the character?

Not really much time to prepare. I was on set two days after I got the job. As for the character, I liked him. I liked that he seems to already have a history with the main characters, particularly Disher and Stottlemeyer. I just hope to have the opportunity to come back and play some of that out.

What’s the atmosphere on the set like? Relaxed? Tense?

I think comfortable is the best word. Everyone is very generous and open and professional. They - and by "they" I mean the cast AND crew - all made me feel very welcome and part of the team.

How long did your scene take to shoot?

The scene didn't take that long at all really, which was impressive considering the number of angles they set up. Everyone is very much on their game and everything seems to work quite smoothly on that set.

You worked with the entire cast: what was your impression of each of them?

I wish I had the opportunity to get to know each of them better personally. But they are all very gracious actors - everyone is very invested in the success of the show and I was honored that there were moments when they even asked for my input on things.

Jerry Levine was the director of the episode: what was he like to work with?

Jerry is very easy to work with. I'm sure that comes from his previous experience on the show as well as his experience both behind and in front of the camera. He seems to come from a place of knowing how he wants a scene to work and at the same time is both open to suggestion and open to allowing things to just happen organically and then bringing it all together.

Det. Robbins seems like the kind of character they could bring back. If they did what would you like to do with the character?

I'd like to see what Robbins' relationship is with Disher and Stottlemeyer. I mean, why didn't Disher pick him? Of course it was funny, but maybe there's more there. Do Robbins and Disher compete for Stottlemeyer's attention or approval? Is Robbins the desk detective while Disher gets to go out in the field and is there some animosity there? Robbins seems to know Monk and Natalie as well. Maybe Robbins aspires to be like Monk. Maybe Robbins has some not-so-neat habits that make Monk queasy. Maybe Robbins has a secret crush on Natalie and thinks Natalie pays more attention to Disher. Who knows? Whatever they come up with, I know it'd be fun to play.

Did you watch the show before you got the role?

Oh, yes. I've watched the show since the first season and have always enjoyed it, which made it that much more exciting to get to be a part of it.

Any phobias of you own?

There's nothing to fear but fear itself. Although I will admit I have overcome a mild case of OCD - I used to have this thing about checking and rechecking locks. I'm much better about that now.

What do you enjoy most about acting? And least?

Acting is playing. It allows me to put myself in situations I probably would not otherwise be in and then finding out how I respond - and then getting a response from an audience or a viewer. It's like a flow of energy.








As for least - you've heard the expression "Hurry up and wait." There's a lot of that. Lots and lots of waiting around and prep time for only a few moments of acting.

Professionally speaking, what’s the one thing you’d most like to do that you haven’t done yet?

I wish I could narrow it down to one for ya. There are SO many things I want to do, so I guess the ONE thing I would most like is the opportunity to do them all!

You’re currently appearing as the Genie in the Aladdin stage show at Disney, right? What’s that like? How does the stage acting compare with television?

Well, stage can be a lot like TV given the right material and venue. But c'mon, I play a blue genie in a 2,000 seat theater. I would have to say - at least as far as this gig goes, I'm a lot more over-the-top on stage.

Can you give me a little information about your background. Where you’re from? How you got into acting? Were you named after the singer or the poet?

I'm a rare breed - a native Southern Californian. I got into acting when I was in Kindergarten and played George Washington in a class presentation. I loved being in front of an audience so much, I did it every chance I got. I'm very grateful to be making a living doing what I love. As for my name, I was allegedly not named after either, but if I were, knowing my folks, it'd have been the poet.

What’s next on your agenda?

I'm still contracted at Disney for a while so that's nice. I have nothing else solid as of yet, so I just hope to continue auditioning - and booking work - to build more of a name for myself in the industry, build my resume, and generate enough buzz so that eventually work will find me instead of the other way around. And if that includes coming back to Monk - I'm all for it!

Do you know how old Jason Gray-Stanford is?

I don't. And if I did, I don't know him well enough yet to share.


Visit Dylan's official site for more information.


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