After a so-so couple of episodes, "...and the Blackout" is back on track with an episode that is a bit more subtle in a number of places. The main characters aren't quite so over the top, and there's some nice bits of characterization.
We start with another Game Night At The Flemings, which harkens back to Clue. Although you wonder why Sharona still tries - it must be the whole family thing. And we have quite the malfunctional family here.
Then there's a traditional "Monk gets called in on a case" with a little bit of romance tossed in as the hook for this week's plot. Michelle Rivas is interesting enough that her feelings for Adrian seem reasonable. And she doesn't give up on Adrian until a fairly reasonable period of time after exposure to his quirks. Kudos to any woman who'd put up with a 52-story climb for Monk!
We then move onto a relatively wasted guest/cameo appearance by Judge Reinhold, barely recognizable in a cap, mustache, and beard. And then he gets killed in a fairly chilling murder scene reminscient of the movie "Killdozer." (And may be indicative of a more violent trend to the show - in the next episode we someone get chopped up with a chainsaw as blood flies.)
Monk eventually figures out the mystery, which admittedly isn't much of one. Again, there's really only one suspect, and the motive seems a bit...vague. Particularly since Monk could just go to the video tape to figure things out, which would imply the "secret" wasn't going to remain very "secret" for long, since the motive for the killing was common knowledge.
As is often the case, it's not the mystery but the Monk backstory and characterization that makes the episode. Tony Shalhoub reins it in until later in the episode for once, rather then overacting. By the time he does go into full-blown panic mode (on the elevator during the second blackout), we've seen how much stress he's under, both from the first blackout and his disastrous date. Even if the idea of an elevator serving a 52-story building with a 800 lb. weight capacity seems a bit silly...
Meanwhile Adrian's plight is touching - the bit with the cards is a nice touch. Note again the subtle touch - the pile of "Trudy cards" is much higher then the others. And again, Adrian's ruse doesn't fall apart for the sake of "comedy" but rather ends with another indicator of how much Adrian cared for Trudy.
Stottlemeyer has a relatively small part, and seems actually happy that Adrian's starting to move on. Disher isn't quite as much a buffoon - although you almost think he is going to follow Monk's orders at the end. Although it's more of a measure of his faith in Adrian then general stupidity, which is sometimes how he's written.
Sharona doesn't have a whole lot to do but she's generally supportive of Monk, and despite the fact she gets to play damsel-in-distress, it at least gives Adrian a chance to play the appropriately-goofy hero in a scene that seems to be parodying the end of "Silence of the Lambs."
Also, thankfully, the episode ends with Adrian redeeming himself a bit in the eyes of his lady, rather then go the route of having her totally repelled and never wanting to see him again.
Overall, "...and the Blackout" managed to keep things a lot more balanced and seems to be back on track after a few minor episodes that strayed a bit.