|Season 7 (Monk)|
|Season 6||Season 8|
Monk goes up against a Bobby Fischer-type chess genius who always appears to be two steps ahead of Monk.
The episode begins in Adrian Monk's apartment while he is signing Natalie's checks. Much like on any other payday, they're soon having another argument about pay, with Monk refusing to pay Natalie overtime money. She becomes enraged, to the point of screaming in frustration, and reminds Monk that he still owes her over $1,800 in back pay. Their fight is interrupted, however, by the arrival of Linda Kloster, the wife of grandmaster chess player and qualified genius Patrick Kloster. She asks for Monk's help, claiming her husband is planning to murder her.
Linda, who admits she's a former alcoholic, explains that Patrick has been threatening to kill her for weeks but that she has no way to prove anything. He has a $10 million insurance policy taken out on her, but he is currently in Vancouver playing in a chess tournament. Natalie figures she's safe until he gets back, but Linda isn't convinced. She takes Monk's hands and asks him to take the case, and he promises to do it if she dies. She offers them a $5,000 check for their troubles.
Linda goes back to her house where the housekeeper expresses her concern for her, as Patrick is playing another opponent on TV, obviously winning. Linda's current plan is to simply take a small nap, stashing a pistol under her pillow for safety. The housekeeper goes downstairs, converses with the cook, and when she comes back upstairs, she finds Linda dead on the bed.
Down at the police station, Monk and Natalie are arranging police protection with Captain Stottlemeyer when Lieutenant Disher comes in to inform them of Linda's death. He is hesitant to immediately announce it, saying he's aware Stottlemeyer might drop his coffee mug, but when Randy says Linda has died, Stottlemeyer immediately instead hurls his mug at the window, shattering it. Monk wants to get to the scene as soon as possible, and they immediately head down to the crime scene.
Arriving at the scene, Monk quickly asks for the cops and technicians to clear out so he can look around the bedroom. He looks closely at the body, and the rest of the room. The medical examiner has ruled a heart attack as the likely cause of death, there was nobody else in the house apart from the housekeeper and the cook, and there was no sign of trauma or suffocation. Monk decides that Patrick somehow administered a poison that replicates the symptoms of a heart attack. However, Randy tells Monk that Linda hasn't eaten anything all day and he can't account for her death.
Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher travel to the airport shortly after Patrick's arrival back from Vancouver. They quickly pull him aside as he's being interviewed by reporters and ask if he has enough time to provide a statement. He apologizes for being too busy, but says he anticipated their request and has reserved a room at the airport security office, and even knew how many people would be there. In questioning, he admits that he was upset when he got word of Linda's death, which to him meant it simply took him more moves to beat his opponent in the match he was playing.
Monk explains that Linda hired him to investigate her upcoming death and they mention their suspicion that poison was used. Patrick admits that his wife was a heavy smoker and an alcoholic, and was also depressed. But both Monk and Natalie remember that Linda didn't exactly look sick or unstable at all, contradicting the heart attack autopsy. When asked what he knows about poison, Patrick admits that he doesn't know much, although he's sure he knows more than the police know about poisons, but he is an expert on a chess move called the "Poison Pawn".
A few days later, Monk, Natalie, and Julie are in the park and have tracked down teenager Eric Tavala, one of the few people to come close to defeating Patrick in a chess tournament. As Tavela charges $20 a game and Monk doesn't have enough money, Julie offers to play for the discount rate. Eric easily defeats her but is impressed, and explains that a "poison pawn" is the irresistible offering of a piece (specifically, a pawn), and designed to lure an opponent into a trap, from which the only way out is checkmate.
Here's What Happened
Monk realizes how Linda was murdered and goes to the funeral home. He and Natalie find Patrick standing over a coffin and explains that Patrick used a literal poison pawn to kill his wife. Monk explains that he saw a few clues in Linda's bedroom that suggested she had regressed to drinking again - a recently washed glass, breath mints, and eyedrops on her nightstand. Apparently, she'd tried to keep this a secret, but Patrick somehow found out.
Before he left town, Patrick poisoned the hidden stash of alcohol. Later that day, Linda effectively poisoned herself when she took a drink. It was brilliantly simple - Patrick didn't have to go to the trouble of hiding the poison at all. She'd hide the bottle herself.
Monk plans to have the body thoroughly run through every single toxicology test there is, but Patrick trumps him, revealing that the coffin isn't Linda's, and shows them the urn in which he had her cremated several hours ago. Monk only finds out this when two elderly mourners come in and mention that the coffin is that of their niece, who died in a cable car accident.
An increasingly obsessed Monk parks outside of Patrick's house with Natalie to watch the genius' every move. They read his chess books, noting an inscription to "My Queen, Tatiana" in Patrick's book Chess Domination. Natalie realizes that Monk hasn't cashed Linda's check and he insists that he has failed and refuses to endorse the check. She reminds him that if he deposits the check, he can pay her. Patrick comes out with drinks and plays the gracious host. Natalie takes a sip from the lemonade Patrick gives her, but she finally loses her cool the moment Monk dares to suggest that the lemonade is poisoned, and decides to drive away. Just then, as they start to drive away, Monk spots something in Patrick's garden and gets out to pick up a branch.
Monk and Natalie go back to Stottlemeyer's office, dropping a branch from an oleander bush. It turns out that oleander can be used to make a poison that induces heart attack-like symptoms. When Monk suggests that all it would take to incriminate Patrick would be a bottle of poison, Stottlemeyer gets him alone and confronts him about his proposal to plant evidence. Monk initially denies it, but when Stottlemeyer pursues the issue and tells him to let it go, Monk explains that Linda took his hand the same way that Trudy did when she was dying. Monk refuses to lose someone else and refuses to move on.
Back in his apartment, Monk grinds up his oleander stalks and puts the powder into a bottle, then breaks into Patrick's home. He considers putting the bottle in Patrick's book shelf, changes his mind, and turns to go… only for the lights to immediately click on, to show Patrick has been waiting for him. He noticed the missing plants and knew Monk would try to break in but says he won't bother to press charges. Monk notices a tray with a silverware set: a wedding gift. Remembering the book inscription, Monk realizes that Patrick was married before… and she died too from a heart attack. Monk and Stottlemeyer are later seen getting a warrant from a judge to exhume the body of Tatiana Kloster, Patrick's first wife. The parallels between her death and Linda Kloster's death are large: both were quite healthy, heavily insured, and had fatal heart attacks, plus Patrick grew oleander plants at the time of his first wife's death.
The judge approves an exhumation order for the next day, and they then go to the cemetery and dig up Tatiana's body to check for poison. As they wait for the analysis, a confident Patrick tells them they're making a mistake. The examiner comes out and informs them that there is no trace of poison in Tatiana's body. Patrick, smug, thanks Monk for the little game that they've been playing, and leaves.
Monk, still obsessed, takes Natalie and Julie to a chess exhibition where Patrick is playing four opponents simultaneously. Patrick refuses to take Monk's calls but Monk wants to confront the genius by playing him. One of Patrick's opponents is Eric Tavela, and Julie convinces him to let Monk stand in as his proxy. Patrick makes the first move… and Monk obsesses over the pieces and whether they're centered. Patrick continues to play his other three opponents but is driven to distraction by Monk's obsession. Monk tries to bargain with him, suggesting Patrick turn himself in if Monk wins. Patrick refuses and castles his pieces in one of his other games. Monk notices and Patrick explains that he uses castling as the best way to get out of trouble.
Realizing what happened, Monk goes back to the cemetery and finds signs that a nearby headstone was dug up. He calls in Stottlemeyer and they exhume that coffin. It's Tatiana's: Patrick somehow switched the headstones the night before the exhumation, having no time to cremate the body. Monk confronts Patrick, who concedes defeat and congratulates Monk on his "endgame." Monk angrily informs Patrick that he's sick of the genius' chess analogies, pointing out that at the end of the day he killed two women, and it is human beings who lost their lives, not chess pieces - "but, if you insist… checkmate."
Later, Monk is reading at his apartment, when Natalie expresses her admiration for Monk and declares him her hero. She asks for his autograph and he obliges, but then Natalie reveals that she just tricked him into endorsing Linda Kloster's check. They fight over the check until she points out his books are out of order, then slips out to the bank.
- Paulina, the housekeeper, is portrayed by Susan Shalhoub Larkin, Tony Shalhoub's sister.
- Judge Barr previously appeared in the season 5 episode "Mr. Monk and the Leper."
- This story bears similarity to "Mr. Monk vs. the Cobra", since both deal with Monk having to solve a murder and pay Natalie's salary, and his refusal to reimburse her. They also both involve exhuming a body from a cemetery.