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Mr. Monk and the Red Herring is the tenth episode of the third season of Monk.


Why would someone want to steal an ordinary pet fish? Monk finds out, and meets a new assistant (Traylor Howard) in the process.


Late at night, an intruder breaks into a suburban house by climbing through side window. He looks around the living room, obviously searching for something in particular. It seems to be going well until he makes a noise that wakes up the homeowner, Natalie Teeger, who is sleeping upstairs. Natalie comes downstairs to investigate, and is grabbed from behind by the intruder. As they struggle, she grabs a pair of scissors and fatally stabs him.

In his latest session with Dr. Kroger , Monk admits that although it's been three months, he’s having a hard time adjusting since Sharona left him unexpectedly. He interviews a series of candidates for her replacement, none of which meet his exacting standards.

Meanwhile, Captain Stottlemeyer and Lieutenant Disher are interviewing a shaken Natalie in her house. She is not being charged with any crime, since she acted in self-defense, but she is at a loss to explain why the man broke into the house, there is nothing valuable in it besides her daughter Julie. But Stottlemeyer and Disher become suspicious when Natalie mentions that she had another intruder earlier in the week, a man pretending to be a water meter inspector whom she caught snooping in the living room (Randy notes that a check with the water company turned up nothing). Randy suggests to Stottlemeyer that it cannot be a coincidence for two guys, neither of whom Natalie recognizes, to target the same house a few days apart. Both agree that this is the kind of case that Monk could use. But given Monk's personal turmoil, Stottlemeyer tells Natalie to go locate Monk herself and tell him her story, to convince him to investigate.

Natalie arrives at Monk’s apartment just as he is seeing out his latest candidate for smoking. She is taken aback by his personality, but Monk becomes interested on hearing her story. Upon arriving at Natalie's house, Monk makes a couple of deductions that impress both her and Julie, who likens him to Velma Dinkley from Scooby-Doo. Looking around the living room, Monk finds a brand new fish net lodged in the couch cushions, and notices that the aquarium light is turned on, when both Natalie and Julie are sure it was off before they went to bed. The inescapable conclusion is that both the intruders were interested in Julie's fish, Mr. Henry.

Monk and Natalie go to the pet store where Natalie purchased the fish to inquire about Mr. Henry, who is a common crimson marble fish, available in the thousands for less than a dollar each. Mr. Henry has no value except sentimental (it was a gift to Julie from her late father, Natalie’s deceased husband, Mitch).

They take the fish back to the police station to look at it. Apart from Randy's theory that it may have swallowed a diamond, none of them can guess out what the intruders' interest was. A break comes when they identify the dead intruder as Brian Lemmon, a petty crook with several previous arrests and convictions for burglary and receiving stolen property. Though he wasn't carrying any cash on him or his wallet at the time, they find a note in one of his pants pockets reading "2:30 Sea of Tranquility." Monk, Stottlemeyer and Disher try to take several bizarre guesses as to what this could mean, but Natalie recognizes it as an exhibit on the moon landing at the science museum.

Monk and Natalie visit the museum, where Natalie recognizes one of the tour guides, Lyle Peck, as her phony water meter reader, despite the fact that he was wearing a wig. They start to follow him through the museum, but Monk panics when he leads them into an exhibit, "The Miracle of Birth," and deciding that he "prefers to be a C-section baby", goes through the emergency exit, setting off the alarm, much to Natalie's exasperation. As they leave, Monk looks into the gift shop and notice a rack of aquarium kits on sale, identical to the kind Julie has.

Back at Natalie's house, Monk speculates that Peck put something into the kit Julie bought that he wants back, but they look through the tank and can see nothing obvious. Monk wants to take the tank to the lab so that the police can do a forensic analysis of everything, but Natalie objects as the fish is going to be Julie's project for the school science fair. Julie interrupts, saying her teacher has disqualified her project.

Natalie angrily confronts Julie’s teacher, who says that Julie’s project must be a fake: she claims Mr. Henry has lived for six years on a special diet, but crimson marble fish only live for a year. After an attempt to have Monk masquerade as an ichthyologist who backs up her theory (Monk is a hopelessly bad liar), Natalie admits that she has replaced "Mr. Henry" every year with a new fish, rather than tell Julie that the fish her father gave her died long ago. The teacher apologizes and agrees to accept Julie’s project, although he makes it clear that, if Julie wins, he won't give her a prize, to which Natalie mentions the prize won't matter, just having her go through middle school is good enough for her.

Natalie brings Monk to the bar where she works to pick up her paycheck. Her boss berates her for being absent on the day she stabbed the intruder, and insists that she miss Julie’s science fair that evening in order to cover for someone else. Natalie confides to Monk that she hates her job, and Monk offers her Sharona's position. She declines, saying she doesn’t think she's cut out to be a detective's assistant. But as he is reading the newspaper while he waits for her, he solves the case.

Here's What Happened[]

Monk and Natalie meet Stottlemeyer at the school science fair. Monk reveals a newspaper article about an auction in Tokyo where a moon rock was recently sold at auction for over $2.4 million (23 million Yen) and is rarer than diamonds. Monk explains that Lyle Peck has stolen a priceless moon rock from the museum, but the museum is unaware of it. Monk explains what happened.

A week ago, after the museum closed, Peck waited until the guards were changing shifts, and then he switched the moon rock for a duplicate rock he'd stolen from another exhibit. But he ran into a problem trying to leave: he couldn’t get the moon rock out of the museum because the guards were searching everyone, and he could not risk it being found. He made a small diversion and placed it in one of the aquarium kits in the gift shop, putting an X on the box to mark it off. To get the rock out of the museum, he intended to have Brian Lemmon buy the marked box, but Julie innocently bought it first. Subsequently, Peck tried to break into Natalie's house to steal the rock by posing as a meter reader, and when that failed, Brian Lemmon tried instead, also failing, this time fatally.

Natalie insists they wait for Julie to make her presentation before they search the tank. Just then, Peck arrives and starts a fire to distract the crowd. Stottlemeyer attempts to put out the fire with one of the school projects: a home-made fire extinguisher, however, it turns out to have turpentine, an accelerant that increases the fire's size, forcing Stottlemeyer to put it out with his coat. As people flee, Peck runs to the tank and scoops up the moon rock in a net, inadvertently scooping up Mr. Henry along with it. As Stottlemeyer deals with the fire, Monk runs after Peck. As the chase takes them through the halls, Peck trips and falls down a flight of stairs. Both the rock and Mr. Henry go flying. While Peck lies momentarily stunned, Monk must choose: grab the rock, or save the dying Mr. Henry and let Peck get away with the rock. Natalie arrives in the hallway in time to see him choose the latter: as he scoops up the fish and they run back to the science fair, Peck reaches for the rock, but Stottlemeyer arrives in time to capture him.

Monk runs back in and dumps Mr. Henry in the first fish tank he sees. This tank turns out to contain a pet piranha, so he hurriedly scoops Mr. Henry out again and runs to his home tank, dropping him in just in time to save him. Julie hugs Monk gratefully, while Natalie grabs a towel to wipe tank water off Monk's hand.

That night, Natalie, impressed that Monk valued her daughter's feelings over a million-dollar moonrock, calls Monk and accepts the job as his new assistant. He immediately asks for her help to deal with a spider.

Background Information and Notes[]

  • The reason why Sharona Fleming was written out of the show was because Bitty Schram unexpectedly left the show midway through the third season, possibly over a contract dispute. Her absence is explained as her remarrying her ex-husband, Trevor, and moving with her son Benjy to New Jersey, which had almost happened in "Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect."
  • In the pet store while they are asking about the fish, Monk notices a parrot named Sgt. Pepper who is simply eating out of two bowls but keeping everything even. When the clerk mentions that is all he does as well as clean and straighten his cage, Natalie inquires why. Monk answers that his wife died and that he could never be truly reconciled over her loss which is confirmed by the clerk. Natalie realizes through Monk's empathy with the parrot that he was referring to himself.
  • First appearance of Natalie Teeger (Traylor Howard) and her daughter, Julie (Emmy Clarke).
  • The way in which Natalie stabs Brian Lemmon is meant to be a parody of a scene in the Alfred Hitchcock film Dial M for Murder.
  • The newspaper article that Monk reads about the public moon rock auction is true in the rarity and costliness of the item but in real life it would also be illegal. According to US and international law no private individual can own a moon rock because they are considered public property. Not to mention they are constantly studied by NASA and other government scientists for properties and possible pathogens. They are kept in heavy vaults at the space centers.
  • This is the only episode in which the murder is committed in self-defense.


Stottlemeyer: Is there anything of value in the house?
Natalie: Yeah, my daughter.

Housekeeper: What would my hours be?

Adrian Monk: Nine A.M.
Housekeeper: Until when?
Adrian Monk: One.
Housekeeper: One P.M.?
Adrian Monk: Until one of us dies.

Stottlemeyer: Does anybody have any ideas?

Disher: Maybe it swallowed something. Like a diamond.
Stottlemeyer: Does anybody besides Randy have any ideas?


(after summarizing the bird's actions)

Natalie: What was her name?

Monk: Trudy.

[looking at a preserved archaic human]

Adrian Monk: This man didn't freeze to death.
Natalie Teeger: What?
Adrian Monk: Look, there's a puncture mark on the side of his head.
Natalie Teeger: It was over thirty thousand years ago!
Adrian Monk: Well, there's no statute of limitations on murder.
(He tilts his head, doing his Zen thing.)
Adrian Monk: I think I know what happened...
Natalie Teeger: Detective Monk, why don't we solve my case first, okay? Then we can come back here and figure out who killed Og, all right?

Natalie: Pretend you're in a funhouse!

Adrian Monk: Funhouse?! What's fun about Fallopian tubes?!

Natalie: Okay, fetus ahead!

Adrian Monk: Look out, I've got a fish here! He's coming through! He's flopping around, I've got a flopping fish here!

Julie: How's Mr. Henry?

Natalie: Oh, he's fine. He's a very brave fish.
Julie: Mr. Monk saved his life.
Natalie: Yeah. You know that moonrock is worth over two million bucks? But when Mr. Henry was in trouble, Mr. Monk forgot all about the rock. All he cared about was saving Mr. Henry. I can only think of one other man in the whole world who would have done something like that.
Julie: Daddy?
Natalie: Daddy.