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Season 2

Mr. Monk and the Red-Headed Stranger is the eleventh episode of the first season of Monk (TV series).


Is country superstar Willie Nelson a cold-blooded murderer? The police think so–but Monk has other ideas.


At a rehearsal for his latest concert in San Francisco, Willie Nelson performs "On the Road Again" for technical testing and fine tuning. Afterwards, Nelson is approached by one of his managers, who informs him that both of his shows are sold out, and his driver has been given directions to the radio station where Nelson is to give an interview tomorrow morning. Nelson leaves, and confronts Sonny Cross, his road manager, accusing him of embezzling $400,000 worth of money. He warns Cross that if he doesn't pay it back, he may not be returning to Austin with them.

The next morning, a chauffeured car drops Sonny off outside the radio station. He climbs out, still talking on his cell phone as he approaches the door. He sees a note instructing "J. Cross" to use the side entrance. As he enters the alleyway, a jockey is seen inside sleeping on the couch. A pair of gunshots suddenly ring out from the alley, startling the jockey awake. He races outside, and finds a woman, Wendy Mass, screaming for someone to call for help, and Willie Nelson is standing over Sonny's dead body. Willie informs the jockey that Sonny has been shot, and the jockey asks him about what has happened.

Adrian Monk and Sharona Fleming show up at the crime scene. Lieutenant Disher is in command of the scene, as Captain Stottlemeyer has broken his right arm in a motorcycle accident and is hospitalized. It appears that Sonny Cross was shot twice with a Webley revolver: once in the collarbone at point-blank range, and then in the back from a distance of 20 feet as he was running away.

Monk is surprised to find that Willie Nelson is a suspect, since he and Trudy were big fans of him. The witness, Ms. Mass, is blind, but she claims she heard Willie and Sonny arguing just before the shots. Monk, however, quickly notices a clue: the entry wound for the first bullet matches up with the bullet hole in the jacket, which shows that Sonny had his arms by his sides when he was shot. This isn't consistent with the story of him being shot in an argument, since if he were arguing and he was gesturing, the bullet holes wouldn't match up.

The police talk to Willie in the presence of his lawyer. His statement is that he heard the shots as he was getting out of his chauffeured car, he rushed into the alley, and found Sonny's dead body. The only other person in the alley was Ms. Mass, the blind woman. Monk learns another clue during the questioning: the note used to lure Sonny into the alleyway was signed "J. Cross," as his legal name was Jason Cross, meaning that the shooter knows Sonny by his legal name, whereas Willie did not. Monk wonders if Ms. Mass was involved, but Randy points out that that is impossible, since she's blind, and the second shot was made from 20 feet away, an impossible shot for a blind person.

Ms. Mass is brought to the police station to deliver her statement. She claims she was riding the bus to visit a friend of hers, but she missed her stop. She walked into the alley figuring she could take a shortcut, but found that the route was blocked off by construction. Ms. Mass claims she then turned around and heard two angry men arguing. Then she heard two loud gunshots, and the first man approached her and said, "Tell anybody about this, and I'll kill you."

Stottlemeyer arrives with his right arm in a sling in the middle of Ms. Mass's questioning to assume command. He claims that he broke his arm when he fell off his motorcycle while on a dirt trail after he slipped on some wet leaves. Monk privately takes Stottlemeyer aside to inform him that he shouldn't tell that story to too many people because the area he claims to have had his accident in has been closed for several weeks for brush fires. Stottlemeyer reluctantly admits he fell off a ladder while cleaning his gutters.

Randy fills Stottlemeyer in. They proceed to carry out a lineup, with Willie and four other volunteers filing in. Each individual is instructed to step forward and read the line, "Tell anybody about this and I'll kill you" off a card. Ms. Mass identifies Willie's voice as the voice that said the line to her.

During a press conference later that day, Stottlemeyer and Disher are momentarily interrupted by a streaker running through the area.

While Monk grows closer to Willie, he reveals that he plays the clarinet, and Willie invites the detective to play with his band during a live radio broadcast. Monk is ecstatic, even as the evidence against Willie mounts.

Monk even wonders whether Ms. Mass, the blind woman, could be involved, but this seems impossible due to the range. Further incriminating against Willie is when Stottlemeyer shows Monk footage from a surveillance camera in the alleyway. In the tape, Ms. Mass enters the alleyway, followed by the soon-to-be-late Sonny Cross, and then by Willie Nelson. It's clear that they were the only three people there.

Wondering if Ms. Mass was involved, Monk and Sharona tail her as she goes grocery shopping at the supermarket, and ask questions. She mentions that she learned of the alley's existence from friends, and also states that Sonny and Willie were the only other two people she sensed in that alleyway. While she's paying, the cashier describes Ms. Mass as a wonderful woman to Monk and Sharona, in part because she didn't sue them a year ago, when she slipped in a puddle of water and suffered a concussion.

They then return to the alleyway to reenact the murder. Monk comes to the conclusion that even Ms. Mass would be capable of making the first shot, the distance the second shot was taken at is an impossible aim for a blind woman.

Monk and Sharona next visit a record store to learn more about Sonny Cross's background. They discover from the owner that Sonny was fired multiple times by previous bands for embezzling money, sleeping around with the lead singer's wife in one case, and drinking. He also did two years in a Florida state penitentiary for driving under the influence, and apparently killing an individual.

At the radio station, Monk briefly does a guest appearance with Willie as a clarinet player, but he ends up not playing at all after, in an attempt to demonstrate how to play the instrument to Monk, one of the band players places the mouthpiece in his mouth. At the end of the piece, the police come in to arrest Willie.

A press conference is held the next day to announce Willie's arrest. While Stottlemeyer is thanking his detectives for their hard work, the streaker from before suddenly shows up. The irritated Stottlemeyer quietly orders Randy to chase him. The streaker takes off, with Randy in pursuit, but is captured after a short foot chase.

Benjy, after hearing about their meeting with Ms. Mass, asks to interview her for a school report on disabled persons (He originally is going to interview Monk, but as he says, “It only has to be two pages. Mr. Monk is a whole book.”) Monk and Sharona tag along as Benjy asks her some basic questions about her past life, and how she gets by nowadays. She explains that she lost her sight in a car accident that also killed her parents. Monk notices a picture of Ms. Mass with her parents on a wall, standing next to their car, and sees that the car has a Florida license plate. As he goes to shake hands with Ms. Mass, he suddenly solves the case.

The arrested streaker is subsequently released from jail as someone has paid his bail. The next day, Monk, Sharona, Stottlemeyer and Disher are sitting behind some bushes in a park, watching Ms. Mass sitting down to rest. Seconds later, the streaker runs by. Stottlemeyer is tempted to report him, but Monk convinces him not to. As they watch, Ms. Mass suddenly turns her head as if to watch the streaker, meaning she can see. To Sharona’s shock and embarrassment, she recognizes the streaker as her promising new boyfriend Justin, who apparently has not told her everything about himself.

Here's What HappenedEdit

The police take Ms. Mass to the station and Monk gives the summation: Sonny Cross was the driver who killed Ms. Mass's parents and blinded her. A year before the murder, she slipped and fell in the supermarket. The blow to her head, quite miraculously, reattached the optic nerves in her left eye, allowing her to see through that eye again. Ms. Mass kept it a secret, because that would allow her to shoot Sonny out of revenge (or as she puts it, true justice) without being suspected.

Ms. Mass knew Sonny was a road manager and toured a lot and eventually he'd come through San Francisco. It was announced on the radio that Willie Nelson and Sonny would be stopping by the radio station for an interview. She got there early, and taped up a note to the front door to lure Sonny into the alleyway.

Indeed, Sonny followed the note, and just as he reached the side entrance, Ms. Mass stepped out with a revolver in hand, said something like, "You killed my parents; this one is for them," and shot him first in the shoulder. Sonny immediately tried to run, but she shot him again, this time in the back. She made sure to take the second shot from about 20 feet away because it was a shot no truly blind person would be capable of making, but then Willie Nelson came running into the alley after hearing the shots. Ms. Mass was now unable to flee the scene so she had to start yelling for help like she had witnessed the whole thing and pin the whole thing on Nelson.

Monk explains that the first clue that led him to connect the two was when she was undergoing questioning: when Ms. Mass was being questioned as a witness, Stottlemeyer arrived with his right arm in a sling, and she shook his hand in the way she should with someone with an arm injury, before Stottlemeyer mentioned the arm injury.

Ms. Mass is grateful to Monk; she doesn’t regret killing Sonny – who served only 18 months in prison for killing her parents and blinding her, which she viewed as not being true justice – but was torn up about Willie having to take the blame. She accepts the fact that she’ll have to go to prison, and asks only one thing: that her cell has a window. Stottlemeyer promises to talk to the D.A. about extenuating circumstances.

Exonerated, Willie performs a special favor for Monk: they go to Trudy’s grave and perform Willie’s breakthrough song "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" to her.


  • When Monk visits Willie Nelson's trailer, Monk asks Nelson if he smells something in the trailer, to which Nelson responds with "No, and neither do you." This is a reference to Nelson having a well known affinity for marijuana.
  • When Monk's clarinet is touched by someone else where he is doing the recording with Willie, Monk tries to whistle in an attempt to pass it off as him playing.
  • The fingerprints, which Ms. Mass left on the note which she posted to drag the victim into the alley, along with the ones of the duct tape used to tape the note should be enough to convict her for murder. It is shown clearly in a flashback that she did not wear gloves while posting it and did not wipe away any fingerprints. (She clearly wiped away her prints during the flashback with a napkin.)
  • Much the same way, police procedure also calls for a suspect to be tested for gunpowder residue to see if they recently fired a gun. A lack of gunpowder on Willie Nelson's hands would cast doubt on his guilt.
  • When pursuing the streaker, Disher, when questioned about the streaker's religion on the police dispatch channel, states that "he's not Jewish!", referring to the practice of circumcision in Judaism.
  • Monk doesn't seem to have a problem with the streaker in this episode. However, in later episodes he is really uncomfortable with nudity. It's possible he did have a problem with the streaker but did his best not to show it in order to solve the murder.
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