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Season 1 Episode 12

Mr. Monk and the Red-Headed Stranger

Aired Friday 9:00 PM Oct 11, 2002 on USA
out of 10
User Rating
245 votes

By TV.com Users

Episode Summary

When his manager is murdered, Willie Nelson himself is the prime suspect. Monk, a fan of the country-western singer, is skeptical of the evidence and seeks out to prove Nelson innocent.

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  • Monk takes on his first personal case! Terrific storywriting!

    In "Mr. Monk and the Red-Headed Stranger", Monk must clear an innocent man's name. The suspect happens to be country singer Willie Nelson, for whom Monk holds a personal admiration because he was Trudy's favorite music artist. Helping to clear Willie Nelson turns out to be a much needed comfort and pleasure for Monk, as the detective and the singer forge a sweet, touching fan/celebrity bond. The true killer turns out to be a blind woman seeking revenge, and if anyone thinks streakers aren't worth anything to society, check out how Adrian personally hires one to unmask the blind woman's lie!

    Willie Nelson also repays Adrian for helping him by joining him at Trudy's gravesite, where the two perform together in her honor, as friends. A touching story.moreless
  • Guilty parties...

    The first thing that should be noted about this episode is that it's one of the relatively few (so far through season 3 midway) where Monk not only has to solve a murder, but has to clear an innocent man. That right there gives the story some added impetus - usually Monk is just trying to find a killer. Here he's not just avenging the dead but actively protecting the innocent. He doesn't have to be heroic about it (when he does, it seems a bit unusual - see "...Sleeping Suspect"), and here it works better when he doesn't have to dramatically save the person he's trying to protect.

    The identity of the actual killer is also a nice touch - it's about as sympathetic a murderer as we get in the series. The mystery itself plays pretty fair - you can indeed pick up the clue to who the killer is if you watch carefully. Sometimes the writers toss the audience a bone, sometimes they don't, sometimes they toss us a really obvious one (...Meets the Playboy comes to mind).

    Tony Shalhoub takes and keeps center stage in this episode - Sharona, Stottlemeyer, and Disher have their moments (particularly the streaker subplot, and the police reactions - although this seemed kind of similar to the "fraidy cop" bit from Millionnaire Mugger). Arguable this is Shalhoub's best performance of the first season - you can't help but sympathize when Monk can't fulfill his lifelong dream of playing with Willie Nelson because of the vagaries of fate. The OCD moments aren't overdone and while the "Georgia..." studio scene goes on too long, it serves a purpose - it isn't painful for the audience, but rather we see how painful it is for _Monk_. Some writers tend to forget that Monk's OCD is a curse to himself (or just have him say it but not show it). Otherwise they play up the OCD in short funny bits - disrupting the poker game (although it's a surprise he doesn't get punched out), the record store scene with his soulmate, the constant clarinet finger-practicing, etc. We also get more insight into his marriage and his deceased wife.

    Overall I'd consider "...Red-Headed Stranger" one fo the best episodes of the series to date.moreless
  • Not very good

    This episode wasn't very good and i know that i say that in all my reviews but it just seemed kind of obvious. Wow the woman wasn't really blind! that seemed so unlikely, even though she acted like she knew where everything in the supermarket was. The clues were right there in front of the auidence the whole time and that ruined it. (For me, maybe because i watch a lot of colmbo or something) still this episode is the f*cking godfather compared to crap like Mr. Monk and the Lepord and Mr. Monk can't see a thing, among other things. Bottom of the barrel sums it all upmoreless
  • this was a great ep

    i think this was a great ep in this one willy nelson is the prime suspect. becasue he was seen aruging with the man during a practice about money. and this is monks favorite singers. and what happens the door says go this way and the man goes and gets shot twice willy runs over there but a blind lady startes yelling a man was shot and blames it on willy. thing is monk does not belive his fav could do that and he tries to figure it out because the captain thinks he has a cloesd case i think this was a good ep.moreless
  • Lots of wonderful scenes in this show! This show keeps getting better & better!

    Spoilers ahead!

    Okay, we know that Willie Nelson is innocent, because he is playing himself. So, we are right there with Monk as he is trying to prove that Willie is innocent while finding the real murderer.

    Besides Willie's wonderful performance, there are such great scenes. The "Do you smell that?" exchange, the studio clarinet fiasco, the poker scene, the identity of the streaker (which, for once, I did not see coming and made me laugh out loud! The expressions of Monk and the cops as they looked at Sharona was priceless.)

    But, what could compare in this episode or others or, for that matter, in most shows than the ending scene with Willie & Monk at Monk's wife's grave. How very sweet and touching. A beautiful ending to a terrific episode.

    Makes me so glad someone recommended this show to me, as I am working through the DVD's of Season 1. Can't wait to see what else this show has to offer!moreless
Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson


Guest Star

David Anderson

David Anderson

Sonny Cross

Guest Star

Neil Crone

Neil Crone

Terry T

Guest Star

Max Morrow

Max Morrow

Benjy Fleming

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (6)

    • When Captain Stottlemeyer invites Monk to watch the video footage of the alley, he says, "What you are about to see must not leave this room." However, the blinds on the window are open, and people are standing outside where they could easily watch the footage through the window.

    • The camera pan of the tombstones in the cemetery Trudy is buried in shows the place of death for one person as being Toronto, Canada. It's unusual for a body to be transported such a long distance--all the way to San Francisco--for burial.

    • Although Disher describes the streaker's sneakers as "gray," they're a nice clean white in all the shots we see.

    • Clarinet mouthpieces are not packaged with reeds, and if they were, they'd be all dry and unplayable without soaking. It's possible Monk had his own reed with him, but it sure doesn't look like he or Sharona attaches it.

    • Jackie Richardson does an excellent job of being "blind," but once Monk reveals that Ms. Maas can see with her left eye (and thus is still blind in her right eye), the actress looks at people and both her eyes track and coordinate in synch.

    • It's standard police procedure to run a simple paraffin test that determines whether someone recently fired a gun--the blowback leave tiny gunpowder particles imbedded in the skin. As in most TV and movie mysteries, the police never do this, although if done here it would have cast doubt on Willie's guilt.

  • QUOTES (18)

  • NOTES (4)

    • Music: "Sharpening Pencils" by Jeff Beal, "Georgia On My Mind" by Willie Nelson & band

    • Wendy Maas is named after Wendy Mass, who co-wrote the episode "Mr. Monk Goes to the Theater."

    • Coincidentally or otherwise, there are allusions to and borrowed plot elements from several Columbo episodes in "Red-Headed Stranger." "Fade in to Murder" used the clue about the bullet hole in the jacket not matching the hole in the body to determine whether the victim was on good terms with the killer. Johnny Cash played a sympathetic country singer accused of murder in "Swan Song." And the idea of a blind witness with a twist is used in "State of Mind." For more information, go to the TV.com Columbo pages.

    • "Red-Headed Stranger" was the name of a 1975 Willie concept album about a jilted lover. . . a complex, not unsympathetic man, who goes on a killing spree. The famous song, "Blue Eyes Cryin' In the Rain" (which was not written by Willie Nelson, but by a man named Fred Rose in the 1940's) was on that album. When it was remastered and re-released in 2000, it was hailed universally by critics as his most compelling work.


    • Stottlemeyer: Well he may be live from Folsom Prison.

      This is a reference to another country-western artist, Johnny Cash, who really did play a concert at Folsom Prison in 1969. The idea for the concert came when Cash received letters from inmates, writing about how his music had been influences to the prisoners.

    • Adrian Monk: Oh, yeah, the Ramones. . . . I love that song they do about loving that woman all night long.
      The Ramones, although quite prolific, don't have any songs or covers that feature this subject or these lyrics. It's possible that Monk was jokingly referring to the AC/DC song "All Night Long," instead.

    • Willie Nelson: No I don't, and you don't either.
      Willie's response to Monk's question, "Do you smell that?" alludes to Willie's well-known marijuana use.

    • Band members: I'm Willie Nelson. I'm Willie Nelson. I'm Willie Nelson.
      This line echoes the famous scene in Spartacus (1960) where the other slaves step forward and say, "I'm Spartacus!"
      It also can allude to the old game show, To Tell the Truth, in which contestants had to guess which of three people was not an imposter.