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Mr. Monk and the Garbage Strike is the second episode of the fifth season of Monk.


When a union boss' death threatens to prolong a city wide garbage strike in San Francisco, it's up to Monk to help end the strike by determining whether the boss' death was suicide or murder.


The largest garbage strike in San Francisco history has just begun. Trash is piling up everywhere, and the sanitation union's boss, Jimmy Cusack, is promising a prolonged work stoppage. It's a nightmare scenario for Adrian Monk, and it's only made worse when Cusack is found dead in his office of an apparent suicide. Suspecting foul play, the sanitation union suspends all negotiations with the city, and hires Monk to look into Cusack's death. If Monk agrees with the police that Cusack's death was a suicide, the union promises to return to the bargaining table.

Monk and Natalie head to Cusack's office to inspect the crime scene. Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher explain that what is known is that Cusack was last seen alive in his office around 9:30 PM. A cleaning crew found his body that morning around 7:00 AM, dead of what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right side of his head. The medical examiner has determined that Cusack died around midnight. The union's accountant, Ron Neely, tells Monk he talked to Cusack around midnight as he was going over the books for another round of negotiations and found some financial irregularities: apparently $304,200 had vanished from the pension fund. Cusack's only statement, "What took you so long?" and the tone in his voice suggests he was suicidal.

After Stottlemeyer, Disher, Neely and the other union reps leave, Monk and Natalie look around the scene. Monk quickly notices some clues that seem to suggest Cusack didn't shoot himself: The first is several scuff marks on the desk where someone propped his shoes up, and the fact that all of the cashews missing from a bowl of mixed nuts, meaning someone else visited Cusack and talked to him. The second is when Monk finds a picture of Cusack playing tennis and realizes that Cusack was left-handed, but the revolver was in his right hand when he died, though this appears to be explained away by the fact that his left hand is bandaged, like he'd sprained his wrist. It is when Monk analyzes the wingback chair where Cusack died that he finds more evidence contrary to the suicide theory: the position of the bullet hole and blood spatter shows that Cusack was leaning all the way back in his chair when he was shot, a position where he'd have no room to hold the revolver to his head. Lastly, why would a suicidal man also take the time to wipe the rest of the bullets in the chamber clean of fingerprints?

Nevertheless, Monk, eager to end the garbage strike, lies and tells reporters that Jimmy Cusack died by his own hand.

The next day, Natalie confronts her boss. She knows him too well by now to miss the signs that he's noticed foul play, and gives him an ultimatum: either he comes clean, or she quits. Monk does so, and tells Captain Stottlemeyer that Jimmy Cusack was probably murdered. The Captain begins a full-on murder investigation, and the garbage strike continues.

Monk is called in for an interview with Mayor Ray Nicholson, and freezes when he sees that the Mayor's shoes are scuffed, and that Nicholson has a compulsive yen for cashews. Not only that, but the Mayor complains about having lost his umbrella, when an unidentified umbrella was found in a drugstore close to Cusack's office.

In the rotunda of City Hall, Monk confers with Stottlemeyer in an excited whisper: he's not sure Mayor Nicholson is "the guy," but he was definitely in Cusack's office the night he died. Unfortunately, they happen to be standing in the famous "Whispering Spot" which transmits their voices directly across the rotunda to a group of reporters.

The strike worsens as the Mayor is now labeled the primary suspect in Cusack's death. Monk examines the crime scene again, and realizes what happened:

Here's What Happened[]

In an attempt to end the strike, Mayor Nicholson entered Cusack's office and shot him in the head, then placed the gun in his right hand. But seeing photos of Cusack on the wall, he realized that Cusack was left-handed, so he had to improvise. He ran to a local drugstore and brought a wrist bandage, then returned to the office and wrapped Cusack's left hand, making it seem like Cusack was forced to use his right hand to shoot himself. When he left the office for the second time, he left his umbrella behind.

But when Monk follows the trail to the drugstore, the clerk who was on duty shows them the receipt, which the customer left behind, and is 100% sure that, whoever the man was who bought the wrist bandage, he was not the Mayor of San Francisco. The mayor is innocent, and, for the first time, Monk is wrong.

The disorder and smell from the mounting piles of garbage are having an increasingly bad effect on Monk's rationality, not to mention his crime-solving abilities. In fact, Dr. Kroger has discovered that Monk is disposing of his garbage by mailing large boxes of it to him. The next morning, Natalie calls Stottlemeyer and Disher in a panic, to show them Monk, who has commandeered a garbage truck and is attempting to clean up San Francisco single-handedly. When Natalie reminds him that he has a case to solve, Monk gives a maniacal laugh and says he already has. It all came together, he explains, after he saw a flyer for an upcoming Alice Cooper concert, showing Alice sitting in a wing chair similar to the one Cusack was found in.

Here's What Happened[]

Alice Cooper, like all rock stars, is an avid collector of antique wing chairs, so after reading about Cusack's, he was consumed with jealous rage. So he broke into Cusack's office, beat him up, and shot him to death. Unfortunately, he put a bullet hole through the chair, which is why he didn't take it. Everyone present knows the theory is completely ridiculous; a sign of Monk's further mental deterioration.

As Monk throws the switch on the truck's compactor, the compartment overflows and buries Monk in bags of garbage, sending him completely around the bend. Exasperated, Stottlemeyer gets an idea, and has everyone pick up Monk so he can take him elsewhere.

He takes Monk to a "clean room" in a computer factory, which they got access to because the owner owed the Captain a favor. It's hermetically sealed, soundproofed, and 100% dust and germ free, and they have to wear white bodysuits there to keep it that way. It's "the cleanest room in the world"; the perfect place for Adrian to think. Monk's head clears, and within a few seconds, he solves the case.

Here's What Really Happened[]

Now with his head clear, Monk suddenly remembers a clue he missed: according to the receipt from the drugstore, the man who purchased the wrist bandage to put on Cusack's arm also bought a few other purchases, including some bottled water and a pack of Belgian Gold cigarettes. Monk then remembers that Ron Neely, the union's accountant, was smoking a pack of cigarettes with the label "Belgian Gold" while they were at the crime scene. Neely makes more sense as a suspect than either the Mayor or Alice Cooper. Remembering the things Neely said in his statement, they realize that Neely, not Cusack, was the one skimming money from the union's pension fund, and had likely been doing so for years. When the union went on strike, he knew his embezzlement was going to be discovered because the books were going to be audited as part of the negotiations. To avoid being caught, Neely had to kill Cusack and blame him for the missing money.

Borrowing from Monk's earlier theory, Neely shot Cusack dead and made it look like a suicide. Midway through staging the scene, he noticed pictures of Jimmy being left-handed and realized that he had put the revolver in the wrong hand, forcing him to make an emergency trip to the drugstore to buy a wrist bandage. But Stottlemeyer points out that this doesn't explain why he grabbed the mayor's umbrella. Monk hence borrows from his original theory once more to explain: Mayor Nicholson had indeed visited Cusack's office a few hours before the shooting (that being confirmed by the matching scuff marks and the cashews). They were in a secret meeting, trying to find a way to settle the strike, and Nicholson forgot his umbrella when he left. This was an unofficial communication, since officially, as far as the public was to know, the city and the sanitation union were not talking. Nicholson could never admit that he had been in Cusack's office at any point before the murder because it would have been political suicide and ruined his career. Stottlemeyer, impressed, asks Monk if he's absolutely sure that this is what happened. Monk's sly smile in reply is all Stottlemeyer needs.

Neely is arrested, the strike ends, and Monk is the union's new hero, having solved Jimmy Cusack's murder, ended the strike, and saved their pension fund from Neely's skimming. They return to work, ending one of the worst crises Monk has ever had to endure. He throws confetti over the street to celebrate, which he promptly insists they clean up.

Major Events[]

  • San Francisco has a huge garbage strike which slowly drives Monk a little crazy.
  • The mayor of San Francisco becomes a suspect in the murder of the sanitation department's union leader.
  • Monk manages to solve the murder, becoming the union's hero.

Background Information and Notes[]