|Season 4 (Monk)|
|Season 3||Season 5|
When a detective dies at the police station Christmas party after drinking a poisoned bottle of port intended for Captain Stottlemeyer, can Monk find the killer?
It is Christmas time in San Francisco. In a basement, gloved hands inject a bottle of wine with a syringe of poison to the beat of Brenda Lee's cover of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree". The figure wraps the bottle and types the words "Captain Leland Stottlemeyer, SFPD" with a typewriter. The bottle is delivered to the police station and put on the delivery clerk's cart. It is dropped off at the desk of police corporal Alice Westergren, who offers to take it.
As preparations for the party begin, Stottlemeyer tells a detective, Terry Chasen, to straighten out a banner because Adrian Monk will be attending. He makes some small-talk with Alice, musing about last year's party, at which Terry drunkenly sang "Help me, Rhonda" in Spanish. Stottlemeyer examines the bottle and is intrigued by the fact that it comes from Eastwood Auto Supply, a local body shop that does business with the police department, and deduces that it's a bribe. He takes the bottle into his office, where Lieutenant Disher is tuning up Stottlemeyer's guitar. Stottlemeyer is taken aback when he realizes that the bottle of wine is a Sheridan port, which he hates, and he decides to take it home for his wife.
That night, Monk and Natalie show up for the party, where everyone is full of holiday cheer. When it comes time to exchange Secret Santa presents, Monk gives Stottlemeyer an air purifier, while Alice gives Monk a dustpan and broom. Unfortunately, Stottlemeyer runs into a problem, as he’s unable to find the hair trimmer he bought for Terry. At Alice's suggestion, Stottlemeyer substitutes the bottle, since he doesn't like port wine. A few minutes later, the party is brought to a screeching halt as the poison hits Terry and he collapses. Despite attempts to revive him, he dies before paramedics can be summoned.
The holiday party is now a dismal crime scene. Everyone is in shock, especially Stottlemeyer. As the body is wheeled out, the coroner notes that Terry was poisoned with strychnine, a very simply but deadly poison that could easily be brewed by anyone with knowledge of chemistry. Stottlemeyer wonders if Terry noticed a weird taste before he died but Monk notes that port is a very strong drink, and the killer probably knew as much. Another detective, Robbins, notes that the owner of the body shop that supposedly sent the wine has said that they never sent any gifts or liquor to anyone. Natalie reasons that the sender of the bottle must have known about the police department's business contracts with the body shop, though Robbins points out that that would actually be everyone in the city, for they print the words "Exclusive Parts Supplier for the SFPD" on all of their advertisements in the yellow pages. Randy creates a list of people with grudges against Stottlemeyer. But Stottlemeyer doesn’t need to hear a list; he knows it was Frank Prager. The year before, Stottlemeyer shot and killed his brother, Michael, while arresting him during a bank robbery. Months before the Christmas party, Prager confronted Stottlemeyer outside a bar and shot at him.
Stottlemeyer takes Monk to the scene of the shooting to investigate, while explaining what happened: he left the bar at around 2:30 AM on a Tuesday night and began walking home when Prager stepped out from behind a black van that was parked there all night, a look of hatred on his face. He aimed a Glock 17 at Stottlemeyer and fired five rounds at him (all of which missed and embedded themselves in the wall), and Stottlemeyer immediately took cover behind a car, but by the time he got back up and drew his pistol, Prager had disappeared into the night. Monk has doubts that Prager is the guy: for one thing, Prager was a former Special Ops soldier, so how could he fire five shots at that close range, and miss? And why did he only fire five rounds from his Glock 17 when he could have emptied a whole twenty-round magazine? The bullet holes also seem to form the shape of an M when they are connected.
Monk wants to talk to Prager but he’s been hiding from the police and his wife, Charlotte, has filed a restraining order against Stottlemeyer, saying he had been harassing her (which she probably said because he was harassing her). Monk and Natalie go undercover as Christmas carolers to investigate the Prager home but Charlotte kicks them out after seeing Monk questioning her young daughter, Dori.
Tailing Charlotte and Dori to a shopping mall, Natalie remembers that she used to work there in high school and her boss, who "liked her a little too much," still owes her a big favor. This favor is a way of getting them closer to Dori. Specifically, it involves Monk posing as a store Santa with Natalie wearing a wig to pose as his elf. While maintaining cover and listening to the kids before Dori comes up, Monk has some difficulties, such as some of the kids being sick and also breaking down in tears when one of the children reveals that her name is "Trudy". When Dori says that all she wants for Christmas is for her daddy to come home, Monk asks where he is, and she identifies a nearby church.
Stottlemeyer leads a SWAT team to the church but is stopped at the front door by a nun, Sister Heather. She tells him that Frank has been doing charity work (under a phony name) and that he will go quietly if Stottlemeyer promises that he will not be mistreated.
Under interrogation, Frank admits that there was a lab near the church, from which he could have stolen the poison, but swears that he didn’t. Stottlemeyer reminds him of his failed murder attempt months earlier. Frank says that he wasn’t trying to kill Stottlemeyer, he missed on purpose; his shots sketched an “M,” for “Michael” into the wall. He just wanted to remind Stottlemeyer of what he did. Hurt and angry, Stottlemeyer says that he doesn’t need to be reminded: he thinks about, and regrets, having to kill Michael every day of his life. Satisfied that Frank is not their man, Stottlemeyer orders him taken back to his cell. Randy informs him that the other names on the list have come up negative, meaning they are back to square one.
But on Christmas Day, Monk is opening presents and as he looks again at the card he got at the party from his Secret Santa, solves the case.
Here’s What Happened
Monk, Natalie, Stottlemeyer, and Disher, confront Alice at her house. Monk has figured out that there was no attempt on Stottlemeyer's life ever: Terry was the intended victim all along. Randy notes that they did a little checking, and it turns out, Terry had been having an affair with her for several months, which ended when he decided to reconcile with his wife. Alice felt spurned and chose to kill him instead.
Alice intended to divert attention by making everyone look the wrong way. To do so, she brought the bottle of poisoned port to the station addressed to Stottlemeyer (knowing that Prager had a grudge against him and Stottlemeyer didn't drink port). She also had created the Secret Santa exchange and, when giving everyone names to draw out of a hat, she made sure Stottlemeyer picked Terry's name out, specifically by making him the last person to draw a name, of which Terry's was the only one not yet picked. During the party, when no one was looking, Alice snuck into Stottlemeyer's office and pocketed the hair trimmer he had bought for Terry. When he couldn't find it, she suggested that he substitute for it with the bottle of port, ensuring that the bottle ended up in the hands of its intended victim.
Alice confesses that she was unable to face life alone. With only mild curiosity, she asks how they found her out. Monk shows her the card that came with her Christmas present to him – it is the wrong size for its envelope, but matches the envelope that came with the bottle, and vice-versa.
Stottlemeyer offers Frank Prager a plea bargain and a reduced jail sentence for his assault with the gun but, in the meantime, has him released for two days so he can spend the holiday with his wife and daughter.
Monk spends Christmas with Natalie and Julie. That night, Julie runs in ecstatically, because it’s snowing in San Francisco for the first time since she was born. Even Monk is drawn outside, remembering his years with Trudy.
Background Information and Notes
- First of four Christmas specials of the series.
- While playing Santa, Monk is pleased by the boy who asks for a rock-polishing kit, recalling his own gaffe in giving Benjy Fleming one as a birthday present in "Mr. Monk and the Sleeping Suspect."
- The song played during the tag is "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee.
- The unopened present that Trudy gave Adrian reappears in two of the three subsequent Christmas specials, "Mr. Monk and the Man Who Shot Santa Claus" and "Mr. Monk and the Miracle," and plays a crucial part in the series finale, "Mr. Monk and the End."
- Alice's rank is inaccurate; in reality, the SFPD does not have Corporals.
- Supposedly, Monk recalls that the last time it snowed in San Francisco was the day Trudy died. Trudy was killed on December 14, 1997, but according to weather charts, the last time San Francisco had measurable snowfall was February 1976.
[On a stakeout.]
Adrian Monk: What’s your name?
Monk: Trudy? That... was my wife's name. She was murdered six years ago. It was a car bomb... under the driver's seat... everything just exploded, and...
(He breaks down crying, and young Trudy hugs him)
Monk: Okay, you’re done. Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas.
Monk: And what’s your name?
Dori Prager: Dori.
Monk: Dori? That’s a pretty name. I bet I know what you want for Christmas. You want your daddy to come home. (she nods) And I want to help you, but I just can’t find him. Do you know where he is?
Frank Prager: I just wanted you to think about what you did! Michael was a good kid, who got screwed up!
Leland Stottlemeyer: Wait... you think that I don't think about your brother? I think about your brother every damn day. It was him or me, and it still eats me up inside. I don't need an "M" on the wall to remind me of something like that. No cop does.
[Monk looks at Trudy's unopened present.]
Natalie: Aren't you curious?
Monk: No... I like not knowing.