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Mr. Monk and the Actor is the first episode of the fifth season of Monk.


A famous actor preparing to play Monk gets a little too close to one of Monk's real-life murder investigations.


Late one night, a young woman, Michelle Cullman, invites her lover Jack Leverett (Greg Gruenberg) to her apartment. They start to make out, and during a small pillow fight, Jack accidentally knocks over a teddy bear to reveal a hidden camera. Suspecting blackmail, he struggles with her and eventually shoves her into her staircase, which she strikes her head into, killing her. He grabs the camera and flees.

Adrian Monk meets with Dr. Kroger and reveals he’ll be alone for two nights at a hotel. Dr. Kroger is happy that Monk is making progress and then suggests they cut down on his visits.

Later, Monk is boasting to Natalie Teeger about his progress as they arrive at the crime scene, and they notice Stottlemeyer talking with some TV executives. Randy Disher excitedly reveals they’re making a movie called The Killer Astronaut, based on the Steve Wagner murder case ("Mr. Monk and the Astronaut") and they promise to act surprised when Stottlemeyer tells them. Monk does (badly), but is genuinely excited by the extra bombshell Stottlemeyer drops: renowned stage actor David Ruskin is going to play Monk in the movie and he wants to shadow Monk for a few days. Monk couldn't be happier, remembering how Trudy fawned over Ruskin when they saw him in a stage play many years ago.

Monk examines the crime scene and notices some interesting details, such as a lack of stuffing and a piece of shirt fabric. He concludes that there was a hidden camera in the teddy bear that they discovered, and Ruskin comes in to observe. Monk, impressed by the actor, shows off with several deductions and repeating his stuffing deduction. Monk even goes so far as to shake hands with Ruskin without using a wipe. Monk soon starts to flag in his efforts to appear "normal" but manages to find a shard of watch crystal. Ruskin asks Stottlemeyer what the odds are of the killer hitting again, and Stottlemeyer says those odds are low.

Later that night, Leverett breaks into a pawnshop through a hole that he punches into the wall from the neighboring establishment. As he begins to rob the store, the manager, Lexus Orlov, happens to come up and confront him with a revolver. In the resulting struggle, the manager is accidentally shot dead with his own weapon.

The next day Monk goes to the restaurant that Leverett broke through to get to the pawnshop—the walls are covered with sketches of the guests. Ruskin is already there, "getting" into Monk by duplicating his gestures. Monk provides guidance, but wonders why the killer went after a very cheap watch and also wonders why he felt he had to break in through the wall of the neighboring establishment.

Dismayed, Natalie stalks off over Monk's efforts to coach Ruskin. Monk finds her out in an alleyway behind the shop when he notices her gone. This allows Natalie to privately warn Monk to watch his back around Ruskin, as he's a method actor who generally gets too involved in the roles he plays. Case in point: a few years ago, Ruskin played an alcoholic in a TV movie, and got so invested in the role he ended up having to go to rehab...and he didn't drink a drop on set. Monk is skeptical, not wanting this to rain on the parade of having Ruskin portray him in a movie... and notices evidence that the killer went out the back. They also find part of the pearl handle from the manager's gun nearby, with glitter on it, proving a connection to the Michelle Cullman homicide.

Stottlemeyer orders a complete investigation into the two homicides, while Natalie notices that Ruskin is starting to uncontrollably obsess over things the same way Monk does, like evening out the liquid in a row of beakers.

A few days later, when they get some spare time, Stottlemeyer and Disher visit the studio where production of The Killer Astronaut is underway. Right off the bat as the actors who are to play Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher start acting out what is supposed to be the scene at Joanne Raphelson's house, the real Stottlemeyer and Disher are dismayed to find that the studio has taken a lot of liberties with the actual events of the episode. The most glaring inaccuracy is that Randy is portrayed as a woman, "she" and "Stottlemeyer" have a romantic relationship (which makes the real Stottlemeyer and Disher very uncomfortable when their fictional counterparts flirt and kiss), and we can also observe a lot of the dialogue scattered throughout the original episode has now been condensed to one scene. Ruskin has not yet donned a wig to emulate Monk, but he has the mannerisms down to a capital T. But while he's claiming "he's" pretty sure Steve Wagner is the guy, Ruskin suddenly breaks character, and frustrated with the way some of the stagehands have their hats on forwards and some have them on backwards, he storms off the set.

That night, Ruskin goes to Monk's apartment and insists on knowing the "why" of how Monk acts the way he does. Ruskin wants to know about Trudy and insists he needs to feel what Monk feels. He finds Monk's collection of evidence about Trudy's death and figures out that’s the key—Monk tracks down other killers because he can’t catch his wife's killer.

Even later that night, Natalie is awoken by an incessant knocking on the door. It's Monk, who confesses that her warnings about Ruskin came true, as Ruskin essentially dredged up feelings Monk has not felt in years, to the point that Monk admits he was chased out of his own apartment. Monk prepares to sleep over but notices a note from some boy to Julie that she ripped up so Natalie couldn’t see it, which is what Monk uses to solve the case.

Here's What Happened[]

The next day they go back to the sketch restaurant and recreate the debris to recover a sketch destroyed when the killer broke through the wall. Monk has figured out that the killer and Michelle were there the previous week and the sketch artist drew them together on the wall, and was wearing the shirt that matches the fabric they found at the crime scene. The killer faked the robbery to have a reason to destroy the wall.

At the garage where Trudy was killed, Ruskin is there, even more "into" Monk and looking for clues for the murder.

The police identify Leverett as the killer when they find that he paid at the restaurant with a credit card and track him down to his auto dealership. They get word that Monk is at the garage, and send a message telling him where Leverett is, not realizing that this "Monk" is actually Ruskin. 

At Leverett's dealership, Stottlemeyer and Disher arrive and are confused to find the SWAT team has been summoned and the officers are taking up positions, training their guns on the showroom. The sergeant in charge informs them that instead of an arrest, they've got a hostage situation. Stottlemeyer grabs a set of binoculars and gets a look for himself, and what he sees shocks him: Ruskin is holding Leverett hostage with a revolver. Ruskin's wearing a wig that emulates Monk's hair, so Stottlemeyer naturally thinks that it is Monk who is inside the showroom and orders the cops to stand down. However, as he's giving the order, Natalie arrives with the real Monk, much to Stottlemeyer and Disher's confusion.

As it turns out, Ruskin misunderstood the message passed to him by the parking garage attendant, leading him to think that Leverett is Trudy's killer. He's got Leverett handcuffed by one wrist to a car, and demands answers at gunpoint, when the real Monk enters. Monk is alarmed to realize that Ruskin has stolen his service revolver and managed to guess his combination (Trudy's birthday). Ruskin aims the revolver at Leverett and prepares to shoot him, but after some time, Monk distracts him with a peeling sticker and the two of them end up working on the sticker together using the gun to push it down. They finally realize what they’re doing and fight over the gun. Ruskin gets the gun but Monk points out who Leverett actually killed and Leverett confesses. Monk convinces Ruskin that Trudy wouldn't want him to kill Leverett, and Ruskin gives up the gun. But Ruskin admits that "he" didn't go with Trudy the day of her murder because he was tired, acknowledging his responsibility in her death. Horrified by this statement, Monk suffers an emotional breakdown, and they both burst into tears.

Later Monk is visiting with Dr. Kroger and admits that the movie was canceled, because Ruskin thought that Monk was a too dark and depressive character to play, though considering he's apparently gone to England to star in a production of Hamlet, he may have also been trying to save face due to the embarrassment of almost killing Leverett. Deeply shocked by the experience, Monk cancels his weekend and sadly notes that he has returned to his starting point. Monk insists on upping his treatment to five days a week and they end up doing seven days a week.

Background Information and Notes[]

  • The second time Randy gets to give a summation, after "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever."
  • Stanley Tucci was one of the three final choices to play Adrian Monk, along with Tony Shalhoub and Alfred Molina. Molina later appeared in the Season Six episode "Mr. Monk and the Naked Man."
  • Tucci and Shalhoub also played brothers in the film Big Night.
  • Peter Weller, who appears briefly as the actor playing Stottlemeyer, directed the later episode "Mr. Monk, Private Eye."
  • The original script for this episode called for a kid dressed in a cowboy suit to find the murder weapon. The "little cowboy" was to be played by Nicholas Stargel. This was his first booking at the age of 5. The "little cowboy" uses the gun to play the Cisco Kid, and picks it up, mistaking it for a toy. Natalie begins playing "shootout" with the young cowboy, until Monk deduces that this is the murder weapon and that it has one bullet left in the chamber. A suspenseful hide-and-seek game results, and ends with Monk and Natalie narrowly escaping getting hit when the kid fires. Due to time, the scene was cut, so instead, Monk and Natalie find the murder weapon in the downspout.
  • Monk prevents Ruskin from shooting Leverett (whom he believed to be Trudy's killer). In the series finale, Stottlemeyer and Disher prevent Monk from shooting Trudy's actual killer.
  • Jack appears to have far more empathy than most killers on the show. He is visibly concerned when Michelle strikes her head on her stairs and looked outright horrified that he accidentally shot Orlov.