That's more like it! After a couple of rather weak episodes, we're somewhat back on track. "Mr. Monk and the Voodoo Curse" may not be an absolute classic, but it is pretty good, thanks primarily to the most creative mystery thus far this season (which isn't saying much, but still...). Unfortunately, the one thing keeping this episode from true greatness are its attempts at full-fledged drama. While I normally enjoy this show's more dramatic turns, in this episode they just felt like a curious misfire.
An elderly jogger is struck in the head and killed by an errant baseball. A golfer gets struck by lightning whilst out on the course. And a man drops dead of a heart attack. What do they have in common? All three individuals appear to have received voodoo dolls predicting their respective deaths several days beforehand. It's certainly an intriguing setup, with an adequate creepiness factor, and it's all a terrific excuse to introduce Meat Loaf in an amusing guest turn as occultist Reverend Jorgensen.
When Natalie receives a doll of her own, the misspelling of her name in the address turns out to be an important clue. But didn't we see something terribly similar to that in "Mr. Monk and the Election", where a unique misspelling of Natalie's last name also led us to the killer? Hurrah for recycled material! The truth behind the dolls is clever enough, though. It's all terribly mundane, contrasting the outlandishness of the voodoo angle - there's an initial disappointment in the solution, but the more I think about it, the more fitting it really is.
Natalie-centric episodes are rarely fantastic (despite the best efforts of Traylor Howard), and I can't say that bringing her to the forefront didn't bring this one down, too. It's believable enough that she'd be the illogical one, easily sucked into believing that voodoo really was at work here, but it's considerably harder for me to buy into the Mitch angle. It feels less like an interesting insight into her character, and more like a half-hearted attempt at reminding the audience, hey, she's sympathetic because she has a dead spouse too! I've never been able to find Mitch's death interesting in the same way Trudy's is, and this doesn't help it any.
Still, this episode was enjoyable enough. I appreciate the effort put forth to finally give us an interesting case in what has thus far been a fairly bland season in that department. We're down to a single-digit stockpile of episodes remaining - with just nine to go, I'm left wondering when the major storylines will pick up again. In the meantime, though, "Voodoo Curse" was an amusing enough distraction.