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Mr. Monk and the Astronaut is the fourteenth episode of the fourth season of Monk.

Synopsis[]

Monk tries to prove that an astronaut committed murder despite the suspect's seemingly airtight alibi: he was in space.

Plot[]

Before setting off on his next trip into space, renowned astronaut and civilian test pilot Steve Wagner pays a visit to Joanne Raphelson, his former lover. They are watching a news bulletin about Wagner's upcoming flight, and the newscaster mentions some of Wagner's other heroic deeds, including the time he crash-landed a space shuttle in the Gulf of Mexico. In the present day, Wagner looks at the latest draft of Raphelson's autobiography Between the Sheets: The Joanne Raphelson Story, in which she promises Wagner is the subject of chapter 5. He then pours into two glasses of his own unique cocktail, a "Spacewalk," with a unique combination of an olive, an onion, and a cherry. However, when Wagner pours Joanne's drink, he also slips some barbiturates in. Subsequently, she passes out on the couch just as on the TV, the reporter asks Wagner about rumors that he's running for public office. Wagner assures the media that if he runs, he will commit to it like he does any mission into space. "Failure is not an option".

Some time later, Joanne's housekeeper comes by the house and finds Joanne dead, hanging from a noose. Adrian Monk and Natalie Teeger arrive at the crime scene hours later, talking about career day and Monk's fear of public speaking. They meet Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher inside the house. Disher notes that Joanne was 36 years old and was a former Vegas showgirl, and she had been dead for five days when the body was discovered. Monk observes the cocktail glasses with the remains of Wagner's Spacewalks, while Stottlemeyer explains he's noticed several holes in the apparent suicide theory: for one thing, it seems weird that Joanne hanged herself after she received a $50,000 check that hadn't yet been deposited. Also, someone has taken her computer. Monk also notes that according to Joanne's driver's license, she was 5'5" in height, too short to reach the improvised noose hanging from the ceiling.

Randy goes across the street and talks to Darrell Cain, one of the neighbors. Cain confirms that there were no visitors to Joanne Raphelson's house on either of the two days before she died. He says this while eating tangerines out of a Fruit of the Month box and also berating his son Benny for leaving the garage door open. When Monk arrives, he notes that the tangerine box is from Raphelson's porch. An officer arrives with the victim's phone records, which show that Joanne's last call was at 2:05 AM on the Saturday before her death. The call was made by none other than Steve Wagner.

Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer and Disher go to Wagner's house, where a reception is being held to commemorate Wagner's flight. Natalie tells Wagner that her daughter Julie just wrote a paper on him. They commend him for his successful life. He admits to having dated Raphelson, noting that she suffered from extreme depression, and would frequently call him when she needed to speak to someone. Monk notices that Wagner is drinking the same drink as was found at the scene of the crime, and his wife Nicole identifies it as a "Spacewalk," one of her husband's signature drinks. Monk also is suspicious of the fact that Wagner's flight was almost cancelled because he was running late - to which Wagner claims that he tried to take a shortcut to get to Edwards Air Force Base, but got lost. Monk is convinced that Wagner killed Raphelson, but his alibi appears to be vacuum-sealed: he was in space at the time of the murder.

Stottlemeyer is skeptical, given Wagner's reputation, even when Monk presents evidence of a motive, that Wagner killed Joanne because her tell-all book was likely going to expose him for beating her up so badly she ended up in the hospital, a story that could ruin his plans to run for public office. Stottlemeyer can't get past the fact that the alibi is unbreakable: Wagner launched on Monday at the beginning of the week and landed on Friday, and the coroner is certain that Joanne died on Wednesday, halfway through the mission. Randy briefly theorizes that Wagner smuggled an escape pod onto the ship, but beyond that, no one can explain how Wagner killed Joanne while not even being on the planet.

Meanwhile, Monk and Wagner are both invited to speak at Julie Teeger's school career day. At the end of Wagner's exciting speech about his crash-landing in the ocean, Wagner hands out laser pointers to all the kids, and they use them to harass Monk while he is speaking his far more boring speech about police work. When Wagner confronts Monk outside of the classroom and says he will never solve the case because he is a "flincher" (demonstrated by snapping his fingers in Monk's face), Natalie is now convinced of his guilt as well.

Monk and Natalie return to Joanne's house to look for more clues. Monk notices that a doll appears to be missing from Joanne's extensive collection on the wall, as well as four holes drilled in the wall in the kitchen. Monk realizes that Joanne was killed in the kitchen then moved into the living room, where her body was found. Before he can think about these things very much, they hear the sound of a car parking outside and footsteps. When they go outside, they find Wagner sneaking around outside the house. He claims he has come by to pick flowers, but Monk is sure Wagner has come by to search for something incriminating that he may have overlooked.

Next door, Darrell Cain is yelling at his kids for leaving the garage door open again, with Benny protesting that he did close it. He notices Wagner and runs across the street with his kids to get an autograph. When Wagner notices that Donna is holding a doll, he invites the family to come see the test flight of a new fighter jet at Paxton Air Force Base; Natalie gets Wagner to bring her and Monk along as well. At the base, Wagner leads the two children into the flight simulator. As they are passing one of the garage doors, the door suddenly opens. When one of the employees on base notices this, a colleague says that he believes the opener may not have been built properly. Just then, Benny and Donna come out, Donna crying, and Benny explains that Wagner took her doll. Monk realizes that he's solved the case.

Here's What Happened[]

Monk and Natalie take off, trying to find Wagner's FA-22 Raptor fighter jet before he takes off, and Monk gives the summation:

Wagner spiked Joanne's drink - just enough to knock her out for a few days, but not kill her. He then installed a garage door opener in her kitchen, tied a noose around her neck, and attached the other end to the garage door opener. He then took the remote for the opener away from the house, taped down the button and stuffed it inside a doll he took from her house, and mailed the doll to her on two-day shipping while he took off into space. When the mailman brought the package to the house, it set off the garage door opener, which strangled Joanne on the inside. When Wagner returned from space, he went back to the house to move the body to the other room and dismantle the murder machine, but he panicked when he realized that the doll was missing. He's been hunting for it ever since, since the garage opener's remote control is inside the doll and undoubtedly has his fingerprints on it.

Monk realizes he must act quickly because Wagner will try to eject the doll from his plane during his test flight, and then the evidence will be lost forever. By the time they find Wagner, he is already in his jet and preparing to take off. Monk runs in front of the plane, an F-22 Raptor, putting himself in grave danger to stop Wagner's escape. Several soldiers arrive and train their rifles on Monk, and this time, Monk refuses to flinch even with lasers pointed at his chest. Minutes later, Stottlemeyer and Disher arrive to arrest Wagner, who looks at Monk, impressed by his courage.

At home, Julie tells Monk that she and her friends realized that they had mistaken Wagner for a different kind of person and that what Monk did was really brave. They had made a medal for Monk and Natalie takes a picture of them, with Monk refusing to wear his medal because of the sharpness of the pin that is supposed to hold the medal to his clothes.

Trivia[]

The events of this episode are later used as the basis of the fake/fictional Monk movie in Mr. Monk and the Actor. However, many of the events were changed for Hollywood purposes. Namely, dialogue that is in several different scenes in this episode are condensed to one scene, and Randy is played by a woman.

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