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Mr. Monk and the Blackout is the third episode of the third season of Monk.


Michelle Rivas

Late at night, a man sneaks into a San Francisco power plant and plants a bomb.

Elsewhere, Monk is spending the evening at Sharona’s house. The three of them sit down to watch a concert celebrating San Francisco’s bicentennial, starring Willie Nelson. But only a few seconds into the broadcast, the bomb detonates, and the entire city blacks out. Monk has a panic attack until the power is restored a few minutes later.

The next morning, Monk, Sharona, Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher investigate the crime scene at the power plant. The electric company’s public relations representative, an attractive young woman named Michelle Rivas, recognizes Monk from newspaper articles and says she’s a big fan of his work. While she's talking to Monk, she also has to tell one of their technicians, Gene Edelson, that a reporter wants to talk to him. The exasperated Edelson tells her that it's not his problem, and walks off.

Michelle explains to Stottlemeyer that the bombing looks like an inside job, since the intruder knew how to break in, and how to get around the security cameras. Another interesting detail is the timing: had the bomb gone off 30 minutes earlier, it would only have blacked out a portion of the city; but had it gone off 30 minutes later, half of the state would have lost all power. Monk takes this as an indication that either the bomber was sloppy, or he was very selective with his timing. Stottlemeyer notes that the bomb was comprised of about 4.5 pounds of plastique with a magnesium charge and was detonated with an egg timer. The police have also found a letter with a list of environmental demands that the bomber apparently left on a door.

Monk reads the letter, and upon noticing some of the phrases the bomber used ("We are free men unshackled by your barbarous laws"), deduces that this attack is the work of a man named Winston Brenner. Monk knows the name because Trudy wrote an article about him. He was a notorious anti-military radicalist responsible for the bombing of a recruiting station in Boston in which several soldiers were killed. Michelle is dazzled, and gives her phone number to Sharona. When Sharona hesitates, Michelle asks if there’s something wrong with Monk. Sharona struggles for a moment and then says, “no.”

Stottlemeyer and Disher take copies of the note to the police station for analysis. Comparing the new note to a note made by Brenner 11 years ago, Disher confirms the match: he uses many of the same phrases, and the handwriting is a perfect match. They even have some blurry but usable surveillance photos. Although the handwriting is a perfect match for Brenner, there's one problem with the theory of Brenner being the bomber: the file says he killed himself in a suicide bombing in 1995 before he could be tried.

The obvious conclusion is that Brenner faked his death and is hiding out somewhere in the Bay Area under an assumed name. In hopes of tracking him down, Monk, Sharona, Stottlemeyer and Disher go to see Alby Drake, Brenner’s former best friend and college roommate, believing Brenner is still in touch with him. Drake is currently staging a protest at a condominium construction site, where he has chained himself to the top of a tree. The foreman says that Drake will be down from the tree soon, as a judge will be issuing an eviction notice in a few days. Stottlemeyer sends up a copy of Brenner’s letter. At first, Drake refuses to confirm or deny whether Brenner might still be alive, but is taken aback when Stottlemeyer tells him that three people died during the blackout (two fatal heart attacks, and a young woman hooked up to a hospital dialysis machine). Drake says he needs some time to think.

Both Sharona and Dr. Kroger encourage Monk to call Michelle. Eventually, he does so, though he needs to prepare all his conversational avenues in advance on a set of index cards. But during the phone call, he talks about Trudy, and enough of his genuine personality comes through to make Michelle ask him if he wants to meet for dinner. To his own astonishment, he says yes.

That same night, Drake receives a call on his cell phone from Brenner. He assures Brenner that he didn’t say anything when the police talked to him, but threatens that he’s about to, because innocent people weren’t supposed to get hurt. A few hours later, Brenner breaks into the construction site, climbs into a bulldozer, and plows it into Drake’s tree. After several pushes, the tree is uprooted and crashes down on top of an electrical shed, causing the shed to explode. Drake is killed instantly.

The next morning, Monk and Sharona are called to the crime scene. They learn that the time of death was at 4:35 AM, when a security guard heard the bulldozer being started up. Randy notes that Drake had made a phone call at around midnight to a payphone in Palo Alto. Monk is quick to come to two conclusions: that 1) Brenner knows the police know he is alive, and 2) because of that, he is now going out killing anyone who could snitch on him. The FBI and the SFPD are having a powwow conference that night as they prepare to make their next move, but Monk says he has other plans. Everyone is amazed and delighted when he admits that he has a date with Michelle.

However, things do not go well: Michelle has made them reservations at a rooftop restaurant, but Monk refuses to take the elevator, instead insisting that they take the stairs - all 52 flights of them! By the time they reach the rooftop, Monk has exhausted all topics of conversation, and their reservation has been given away. When they are told it will be three hours before another table is available, Monk appears perfectly content to wait, but a furious and exhausted Michelle says she is going home – and they are taking the elevator. While they are riding down, Brenner sets off another bomb at the power plant, and the city blacks out again.

Monk quickly goes to pieces inside the stuck elevator, and Michelle ruefully confides to their fellow passenger (a pregnant woman) that, sadly, this isn’t even the worst date she’s had all year: she went on a pity date with Gene Edelson, the chief engineer at the power station, who took her country line dancing, but he ended up getting drunk and threw up on her.

When the power is restored, Monk stumbles out of the elevator into Sharona’s waiting arms. She has come to collect Monk because of the blackout, and to her, Michelle says acidly, “nothing wrong with him, huh?”

But one thing saves the evening from being a total disaster for Monk: Sharona mentions that this blackout has interrupted her second attempt to watch the bicentennial concert on television, and Monk has his epiphany: the blackouts happened days apart, at different times of the night, yet why did Brenner time them so that they interrupted the same TV special? He realizes that there must be some reason why Brenner doesn't want anyone seeing the special. As he eagerly picks up a TV guide to confirm his theory, Michelle, who is in the middle of calling a taxi, is treated to another intriguing glimpse of the master detective at work.

A few hours later, Michelle issues a statement to the press that the bombings appear to be the work of the same person. After the press conference, Gene Edelson comes over and needles her about her date with the “crazy” man. She retorts that Monk may be crazy, but he’s close to cracking the case.

Still later that night, Monk and Sharona are at his apartment, and a police officer drops a copy of the concert. They watch the first few minutes, and then Monk finds his clue: early in the show, there is a close up of Stacy Michelle crooning directly to a man in the audience, on whom the camera zooms: Gene Edelson. Monk remembers meeting him at the power plant after the first bombing. He immediately realizes that "Edelson" is actually Brenner. He remembers Michelle mentioning that Edelson/Brenner liked country music. Brenner clearly appears agitated at being caught on camera, and Monk realizes that he blacked out the whole city just to keep people from seeing the concert, because he was afraid someone was going to recognize him and it would be confirmed that he was still alive after all these years.

Just then, the lights go out. Sharona sees that only Monk’s block has gone out, meaning Brenner has come looking for the tape. She calls Stottlemeyer, but the phone lines are cut midway through her call. Monk stumbles around the apartment, trying to locate a pair of night vision goggles he bought after the last blackout. While he is doing that, Brenner breaks into the dark apartment and knocks Sharona unconscious. He confronts Monk, preparing to kill him, but then he trips and falls over a chair, breaking his flashlight. Monk manages to find his night vision goggles. Since Brenner is now unable to see, Monk toys with him, “stalking” him through the rooms of his apartment.

Outside, Stottlemeyer and Disher arrive, telling utility workers to get the power back immediately. Inside, Monk is standing right in front of Brenner when the lights come back on. Unaware that Brenner can now see him, Monk continues to gloat, and Brenner advances with a knife, until Stottlemeyer and Disher burst in and arrest him.

Michelle holds a press conference, stating that Brenner has been indicted, and giving the power company’s grateful thanks to the SFPD and to Monk. Afterwards, Monk gives her a bouquet of flowers, and the two say an affectionate goodbye.


  • There is no flashback summation.
  • The final scene is an obvious homage to the climactic scene from The Silence of the Lambs, when serial killer "Buffalo Bill" stalks FBI Agent Clarice Starling through the dark basement of his house with night vision goggles. Ted Levine (Stottlemeyer) played Buffalo Bill in the film.
  • Several viewers have opined that the last scene is impossible: since night vision goggles amplify ambient light, Monk would know immediately when the lights come back on.
  • The piles Monk uses while talking to Michelle on the phone read (within others): 2004 Compact Sedans, 2004 Film Festivals, Reality Television, Thinking about you, History, Trudy, Where from?, Organic Produce, Belizean Cuisine, French Cuisine, Pop Music, Travel Europe and Investigation.
  • If Winston Brenner was so afraid that people would find out that he was still alive, why didn't he at least use a typewriter or computer to write his letter? This way the police wouldn't have been able to match his handwriting. (Even then, they still could have matched it to him, as Monk notes that Brenner used a lot of the same phrases in his current note that he did in his Boston notes)
  • The sign slapped on the front of the building says, "SAN FRANCISCO POWER COMPANY 1947 A.D." It should read, "SAN FRANCISCO POWER COMPANY A.D. 1947." "A.D.," which stands for the Latin phrase "Anno Domini" ("in the year of our Lord"), precedes rather than follows the numeric year.
  • When Monk is using the bullhorn to talk up to Alby Drake, he takes it from Stottlemeyer and shortly afterward loses it to Stottlemeyer once again but doesn't ask Sharona for a wipe as he usually would. Yet when he bumps into the wheelbarrel and gets cement on his hands, he asks for a wipe.
  • The show that was blacked out was celebrating San Francisco's bicentennial. However, the village that was to become San Francisco was founded in 1835. San Francisco will not celebrate its bicentennial until 31 years after this episode's events happen.
  • Sharona says "Did you know that nine months after every blackout, the birthrate goes up?" and Benjy replies "Nine months? Oh! I get it." This is a likely reference to the falsely reported Baby Boom that happened following the Blackout of 1965 that affected the Northeastern United States.