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Garbage, Pies, And Murder: 5 Of The Best 'Monk' Episodes Of All Time

It's hard to determine the "best" episodes of a show, but "Monk" fans pretty much agree on these five being some top-quality stories.

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Shortly after its premiere in 2002, it became clear that the USA Network series “Monk” was going to be an instant classic. Eight seasons later, fans said goodbye to Adrian Monk and his intrepid band of crime-fighting friends, but that doesn’t mean they are done reliving his adventures. 

Throughout the show’s eight-season run, countless episodes spoke to loyalists of the show's grand mystery and remain memorable to this day. As a result, it’s hard to pick a standout, let alone a top five. However, since the show ended in 2009, there are a handful of episodes that continue to be labeled as seminal among “Monk” fans. 

"Mr. Monk And The Garbage Strike"

In Season 5, Episode 2 of the series, Adrian Monk faces his worst nightmare: a city that’s absolutely piling up with trash. The infamous germaphobe, (it's a symptom of his obsessive-compulsive disorder), is forced to endure a sanitation strike in San Francisco. As negotiations start to reach a fever pitch, union boss Jimmy Cusack dies of an apparent suicide. 

The union suspends negotiations with the city and hires Monk to confirm whether it was truly a suicide. Upon investigating the crime scene, Monk sees a few irregularities. However, despite his better judgment, he declares the death to be suicide so that the city can go back to having its trash picked up. 

Fortunately, Natalie Teeger realizes he is lying and forces him to come clean and investigate the case properly. Unfortunately, that’s difficult to do with the scent of trash permeating the city and clouding Monk’s judgment. He pitches bogus theories about the mayor and rockstar Alice Cooper being responsible for Cusack’s death before Captain Leland Stottlemeyer takes him to a hermetically sealed, soundproofed, dust and germ-free room in a computer factory to clear his head. 

It works. He solves the case and exposes further corruption within the negotiation process. 

"Mr. Monk Is Up All Night"

In addition to being averse to germs, Monk also obsesses over the death of his wife, Trudy. In Season 6, Episode 9, this obsession and a bout of insomnia lead him into an all-night murder investigation. 

When Monk sees a woman on the street who has something familiar about her, he can’t sleep until he figures out what it is. So, he takes a walk to clear his head only to spot the woman again. While chasing her, he witnesses what he thinks to be a drug deal gone bad resulting in the death of an undercover cop. However, when he calls Stottlemeyer to investigate, the crime scene is completely clean. Thinking he must be hallucinating, Monk continues his sleepless night and starts seeing the people involved in the murder — including the victim, alive and well… for awhile anyway. Monk eventually finds the man dead for real.

Luckily, Monk trusts his instincts and is determined to put the entire mystery together and prove he's not losing it. 

He wasn’t hallucinating: He was merely duped by an elaborate con designed to make someone think they witnessed a cop’s death. When the mark finds out, he goes on an actual murder spree that Monk and the cops are able to stop. 

His sleepless night ends with him finally tracking down the mysterious woman. It turns out she had a cornea transplant the night Trudy died. The reason he was transfixed by her was that she literally had Trudy’s eyes, allowing him to look into them once more. 

"Mr. Monk And The Kid"

The Season 3 finale sees Monk volunteer to take in a child he becomes fond of after the kid discovers a severed finger at a playground. 

A social worker takes a group of foster kids to a playground when a boy named Tommy goes missing only to be found later holding someone’s pinkie. When Stottlemeyer fails to uncover a body, he calls Monk to figure the odd case out. During his investigation, Monk becomes quite taken with little Tommy and agrees to take temporary custody of him. 

In doing so, he uncovers a kidnapping plot. Monk helps the family of the kidnapped victim, but the newfound responsibility of having a toddler at home takes its toll on him and he ends up giving ransom money to the wrong person. He confides in his psychiatrist, Dr. Charles Kroger, that he’s toying with the idea of adopting Tommy full-time, but Kroger convinces him that’s not a good idea given all of Monk’s various ailments. 

Eventually, spending time with Tommy helps him figure out where the severed finger came from. It turns out the kids weren’t at the playground that day by accident. It was part of a carefully constructed plot by the social worker, who kidnapped a violinist to make some extra money. What she didn’t count on was little Tommy’s curiosity in uncovering the pinkie. 

With that, Monk solves the case and also realizes that he can’t become a full-time dad right now. The episode ends with him saying farewell to Tommy and seeing him ride off with his new foster parents. 

"Mr. Monk And The Three Pies"

In Season 2, Episode 11, audiences are introduced to Monk’s agoraphobic brother, Ambrose (played by John Turturro). 

The episode opens with a grisly murder at a local fair over a pie that acts as the prize in a raffle contest. While Monk is on the case, he gets a call from Ambrose who claims their neighbor, who baked the pie, was murdered by her husband. He says he heard the neighbors arguing and then gunshots. The husband then drive off in a truck only to return hours later.

Monk thinks his brother is delusional and is still upset at him for never reaching out after Trudy’s death. Still, he investigates anyway and quickly finds that the husband is lying about a lot of things. 

They tail the husband to the fair and see him throw a potato sack race to win a second prize: another one of his wife’s pies. It turns out she baked three before her murder (or her trip to Argentina, depending on whose story you believe). The husband goes out of his way to win the third pie the next day, but now Monk and his crew are onto him. 

Monk concludes that the husband shot his wife but didn’t realize a shell casing landed in one of the pies. Police search the third pie but find nothing. Monk sets his mind to the task and deduces that everyone was mistaken and the shell casing landed in a bag of flour that he borrowed and subsequently returned to Ambrose. 

When Monk arrives to rescue his brother, he finds the murderer lit the house on fire and was waiting for him to run out so he could kill him and destroy the evidence. Fortunately, Monk saves his brother and the police catch the killer. 

The episode ends with Ambrose admitting that the night Trudy died, she was running an errand for him. He never contacted Monk out of sheer guilt, but they make things right. 

"Mr. Monk and the End (Parts 1 and 2)"

In the two-part series finale, Monk faces more mortal peril than ever before as well as the answer to the question he’s been seeking for twelve years — Who killed Trudy?

The episode opens with a bit more insight into the day Trudy died, revealing that she was involved in something bigger than Monk was aware of.

In the present day, he and Stottlemeyer investigate a murder that has direct ties to the one they were investigating the day Trudy died. 

Monk deduces that they’re looking for a professional contract killer. That deduction puts him in the killer’s crosshairs and he winds up poisoned. While the people around him frantically search for clues as to how to develop an antidote, Monk puts his affairs in order. This includes finally opening a Christmas gift that Trudy left him before her death. Inside is a videotape laying out exactly how she died. 

In the second part of the finale, Monk finally knows who murdered his wife and he sets out to find justice, even going a bit mad in his search for revenge. In the end, things work out for Monk and the people around him, but he’s still having trouble coping with his wife’s death even after bringing her killer to justice. Fortunately, a surprise discovery gives him something else in his life to live for and the series ends with Monk doing what he does best: solving crimes. Only this time, he’s motivated by something more than vengeance. 

This time, Monk endeavors to help the families of other Trudys out there. 

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