The funniest part of the episode is Monk up against his rival and "nemesis," Harold Krenshaw. It's a battle of doughnuts and mirror smudges and we get an idea of how much worse Monk could be. Fortunately, Stottlemeyer is there to give Monk some support as well as know when it's best to step out.
As to the episode itself, there's certainly a mystery, but not much of one. There is really only one suspect, and they openly telegraph what the motive is even before the opening credits. We don't really find out anything baout the murderer or see much personality from him, either.
That really leaves us with the regulars. Natalie gets a bit of backstory with her deceased husband and has a part to play. The election angle seems a bit abrupt - we haven't heard about it before and bet we don't hear about it again. And there seems a little too much effort to make her better then Sharona, rather then different.
Disher isn't the total idiot of recent episodes although obviously he's getting into his bodyguard/secret service role a bit too much.
Ted Levine as Stottlemeyer is nice and solid, although he doesn't have a lot to do.
This is pretty much a Monk-heavy episode, and it's an episode where they stick with a lot of little moments rather then big drawnout scenes. Only the voting scene really goes on a bit too long, and there are some long moments (like his remembering back to his competitive-keepaway days) that give us some insight into the character. As always, the longer stuff works better when it either tells us something about Monk or shows us how he's suffering from OCD.
Monk also gets a lot of "noticing the little things" moments and putting together everything at the end. This is more like a Columbo episode when we know who the killer is and roughly why he or she is doing the killing, but we get to watch how Monk puts it all together.
One advantage of having Harold on the show is that it brings out a different side of Monk - he actually gets aggressive. There's not many people he'll scream "Liar! Liar!" at.
And finally, Monk gets to save the day thanks to his years of experience (on the receiving end) in keepaway. And we get another "change of pace" "here's how he did it" reveal at the end. Note to writers: if it's change-of-pace every episode, then it isn't change-of-pace.
The guest cast is pretty much forgettable except for Harold - it's hard to imagine him running for anything, but it's amusing nonetheless. His little running battles with Monk don't really tell us much about him - they're more about giving us insights into Monk.
Overall, this is a good "above-average" episode. There's nothing that really makes it a standout, and other then the revelation about Natalie's husband there isn't really any big plot moments. It's just a good, solid entertaining episode.
Found the episode to be enjoyable, especially the use of the \\\"keep-away\\\" sequences and the \\\"mommy loves me best\\\" angle involving Monk and the other patient/candidate.
I am a little confused, I thought I remembered that they resolved the situation with Natalie and her possible coward husband. On the rerun which I recently Tivoed, nothing was resolved. Either my memory is faulty or there was some after-air editing.