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Mr. Monk Goes Back to School is the first episode of the second season of Monk (TV series).


Monk takes a job as a substitute high school teacher at Trudy's alma mater to determine whether an English teacher really jumped from a clock tower while committing suicide, or was murdered by an ex-boyfriend.


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A schoolteacher, Derek Philby has been carrying on an affair with his fellow teacher,Beth Landow. But the Friday night before the SATs, while they're making out in her car, she threatens to bring their affair into the open if he does not leave his wife. Derek promises to do so that very night, telling her to meet him in "their spot" the next morning before the SATs.

The next day, Saturday morning, Derek is proctoring the SATs in a classroom at Ashton Preparatory High School when, across the campus, Beth plummets from the school’s clock tower and lands on a car, killing her instantly and setting off the alarm.

Trudy Monk went to the same high school, and her best friend, Arleen Cassidy, is now the headmistress. The police have ruled Beth Landow’s death a suicide, but Arleen doesn’t believe it. She approaches Adrian Monk, who agrees to investigate.

When Monk and Sharona arrive at the crime scene, Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher are just finishing up. Despite their insistence that this was a suicide, Monk notices several problems with the suicide story: Beth was a "first-rate English teacher" according to Arleen, but the suicide note, besides being typed and not handwritten (making it impossible to determine if Beth wrote the note or not), contains several grammatical errors. Also, she happened by pure coincidence to have landed on Derek Philby's car. Curiously, Derek had his doors unlocked (as this is a rather safe neighborhood), so why did he feel the need to activate his car alarm?

Derek happens to be the school's most popular teacher, and has just accepted a prestigious position as headmaster at another private school. When Monk interviews Derek, he notices the imprint of a wedding ring in Derek’s wallet, where adulterers often hide it. Asked as to why he decided to park his car over by the clocktower when there is faculty parking much closer to the classrooms, he mentions that he was planning on taking a jog after the tests. Monk deduces that Derek was having an affair with Beth, which gives him a solid motive for killing her. The problem is, his alibi is airtight: he was proctoring the SATs at the time she fell, all the way across the campus.

Monk volunteers as a substitute teacher to investigate Derek further. Almost immediately, his obsessive-compulsive habits make him the butt of students’ laughter, and the victim of a prank by one arrogant student (a prank involving a chalk eraser loaded with chalk dust being thrown at him while his back was turned), who happens to be Kyle Patterson, the son of the school's gym coach. Monk ends up deeply traumatized by the prank and Sharona finds Monk frozen and mumbling to himself in trauma, and then disciplines Kyle, even resorting to stomping on his foot, to which she boasts that she can't get terminated for doing such a move. When the coach finds out about what Sharona did, he gets cross with her. Monk attempts to defend Sharona, making him an enemy of the coach in the process.

Later, while talking with some students in the cafeteria over lunch, Monk learns that Derek showed no surprise when the panic alarm went off; while everyone else got up and rushed to the windows to investigate, he barely looked up from his desk. In fact, Derek can barely disguise his smugness when Monk questions him. Like most suspects who think they have covered their tracks, he thinks Monk is a joke.

But later that day, the school’s groundskeeper approaches Derek as he's waiting to be picked up by his wife, and tells Derek that he lied to Monk earlier that day about seeing anything unusual that morning, and will keep his mouth shut in exchange for money.

That night, Derek breaks into the groundskeeper’s house and lays a cunning trap: he punches a teeny-tiny hole in the house’s gas line, so that the room fills with gas fumes. He then rigs the door to the living room by planting a matchbook on the door, with the match heads pointing down, towards a scratch pad glued to the floor. Sure enough, when the groundskeeper enters his home and swings the door open, the matches spark and cause an explosion, killing him instantly.

When Monk, Sharona, Stottlemeyer and Disher show up the next morning at the remains of the house, the fire captain tells them that it looks like a possible accident: there was a pinhole rupture in the gas line, the groundskeeper came in, and tried to relight the pilot because he wanted to make a fire and he succeeded in blowing himself up. Monk, however, quickly proves otherwise: for one thing, it was a pretty warm evening, so the groundskeeper shouldn't have had any reason to light a fire (Monk is temporarily distracted when he ends up punching the window due to one glass pane surviving the explosion intact, which he cannot bear to ignore). Furthermore, the air conditioner was on, and the flue was closed. Now there have been two "accidental" deaths of persons working at the same school. Stottlemeyer starts to wonder if perhaps there is a possible link between someone killing the groundskeeper and the death of Beth Landow.

Monk continues his undercover job at the school, despite the threat of a beatdown from the coach. Meanwhile, Stottlemeyer and Disher search Beth Landow's apartment and find some more interesting details: for one thing, her apartment is very much in order, which seems odd if she was planning on jumping. On her deck, they discover a set of sunglasses. Randy notices that they have a heavy prescription. This indicates that Beth was almost blind without wearing eyeglasses, so where are the ones she was wearing when she was killed?

Some research by Sharona leads to Monk discovering a potential motive for Derek to kill Beth: she was pregnant when she died. Monk believes Derek was the father, and Beth threatened to tell everyone about their affair, which would have cost Derek his marriage and his job. But Derek arrogantly continues to stick to his own story. It's clear that he's getting more and more unsettled as Monk catches onto him. He points to two tanks in the classroom, one containing a snake and the other a mouse. He says that if the snake had eaten the mouse while never leaving the sealed airtight tank, how could he have done it.? After all one cannot be in two places at the same time. He uses the phrase "QED" to make his point. Monk replies the snake may have an alibi, but he still did it.

Monk and Sharona go to the top of the clock tower to look at the scene again. Sharona suggests that Derek used an accomplice but Monk dismisses it. Monk quickly gets dizzy from his fear of heights and they begin to head back down, and then Sharona spots something: Beth's eyeglasses, lodged in the clock room right behind the gears that control the clock hands. If Beth jumped from the roof, what are her eyeglasses doing in the clockroom?

As they are about to leave, they are confronted by Coach Patterson, who has warned Monk to expect him when he least expects him. He's about to give Monk a beating, but this remark causes Monk to look at the clock, and he solves the case. He also thanks the coach for helping him solve the case, even stating he'll give his son an "A" in gratitude, although the coach is quite confused as to why Monk is acting this way, not realizing that he inadvertently helped Monk solve his case.

Monk goes back to Derek to inform him that he's on his way out since the administrators have found a fulltime replacement English teacher. Derek seems openly disappointed, suggesting that Monk would have been a great teacher. But Monk admits he'll still be on campus, just not teaching. He reveals that he's caught a break in Beth's murder: her eyeglasses weren't on her body when she jumped and they were nowhere near the clock tower. He informs Derek that tomorrow morning, the police will be coming to the campus and they are going to turn over every rock on campus until they find the eyeglasses. Monk explicitly doesn't mention that he has in fact already found the eyeglasses.

Here’s What Happened[]

That evening, Derek goes to the clock tower, climbs up the stairs, and finds the eyeglasses wedged under the gears. He grabs them and hastily retreats. But just as he comes out the door, he finds Monk and the police waiting for him. Monk says he’s figured out how he did it:

Derek met Beth that morning on top of the clock tower, ostensibly for a rendezvous, but when she turned her back, Derek knocked her out with a piece of wood. Then, he carried her body down to the clock room, opened the face of the clock, and draped her body over the minute hand of the clock face. While he was lugging her down the stairs, her eyeglasses were dislodged. He laid the body out at 8:15 a.m., when the hand was horizontal. This gave him five minutes to return to the classroom to start proctoring his SAT starting at 8:20 a.m.. He simply let gravity do the rest, like a well engineered science experiment. Ten minutes later, when the hand pointed to 8:25, the angle of the clock hand reached a point where Beth’s body slipped off and fell onto Derek’s car and set off the alarm, which he had activated. He positioned the car to “catch” her and activated the alarm so that everyone knew she "fell" at a moment when he was nowhere near her.

Derek assumed a big risk hiding the body in plain sight for those ten minutes, but he didn't think it was too risky. After all, that side of the tower faced the athletic field, which was completely empty that Saturday morning as everyone was taking the tests. However, the groundskeeper happened to see Derek or saw the body while it was on the clock hand, but Derek took care of the sole witness later.

Derek says there is no proof, but Monk indicates the glasses he is holding. Derek claims that he found them on top of the tower, from which Beth must have jumped, but Monk says that he planted them behind the gear box in the clock room only two hours ago, where he'd found them, knowing that only Beth Landow's killer would look for them there. That is enough to arrest Derek for both murders. Monk then throws back his phrase "QED" in his face --Quod erat demonstratum (Thus it is proven.)

Later, Sharona and Arleen watch as Monk visits one of Trudy’s favorite spots at the school.


  • This episode is also the first to feature the theme song It's a Jungle Out There as the official theme tune for the series, replacing the original instrumental version by Jeff Beal.
  • There are three continuity errors at the end of the episode. First, when Derek says he found Beth's glasses on the roof, Monk can be seen shaking his head at the end of the shot, but at the start of the next shot, his head isn't moving. The second, happens only seconds later - as Monk describes that Derek actually found Beth's glasses in the clock room, the camera switches to Derek with nothing behind him. After the camera switches to Monk a second time proving he did it, it switches back to a surprised Derek, this time with pillars behind him. The last one happens before Derek is arrested, Lt. Disher takes Beth's glasses, but in the next shot, the glasses are still in Derek's hands and Lt. Disher is not holding them.
  • The character of Beth Landow is based on Monk writer and wife of show creator Andy Breckman, Beth Landau.