For the first time in a while, we get an episode that pays some more attention to Natalie while also focusing on Monk.
Someone has just killed a TV lottery hostess. It seems like a mugging gone wrong, but Monk quickly figures that there is something more to the case. Meanwhile, the station's manager approaches Natalie and asks her to perform the next lottery drawing to fill a gap as they try to find a replacement. After Natalie performs successfully, the station manager offers her the job full time, and Natalie accepts.
Soon, Monk finds himself short an assistant - Natalie isn't able to focus on the case any more, and she's signing autographs from her fans rather than investigating dead bodies. While some fans note that season 7 dives into the "Monk being unnessecarily rude" area, here it seems perfect: Monk hates having to keep Natalie from slipping into lottery mode and hates the fact that she is getting more attention than him. When he humiliates her in front of her fans, she finally quits working for him.
Then Natalie and Captain Stottlemeyer are accused of rigging the lottery. Monk has to come to their rescue, and he quickly nails the real culprit.
The episode was written with brilliant acting, brilliant humor, and a mystery where you actually did have to do some thinking.
I always do a "the moments I thought were funniest" in my reviews of 'Monk' episodes, so here it is:
1. Irony: The dead lottery hostess wishes her fans a lucky lotto day before signing off, and it cuts to her being chased out of the studio. She is killed near an advertisement depicting her.
2. Randy's zinger on the murder: "It looks like her number came up." When a patrol cop says the exact same thing, Randy (of course) throws his notebook at him and confronts him. Throughout the rest of the episode, Randy keeps trying to come up with one-line zingers.
3. Natalie's ad-libbing while drawing the numbers on her first show, and her flattering of Monk by using "You'll thank me later!" as a sign-off line.
4. Natalie tries to clean a smudge off an image of herself on a bus advertising wrap.
5. Monk signs an autograph on Natalie's back. Later, this happens again only with them in the opposite parts.
6. The entire scene in the apartment of lottery fanatic Malcolm O'Dwyer was pretty good. I never knew that someone would be that worked up about the lottery. I was especially humored by Malcolm's unusual algorithm to drawing numbers (based on number patterns and the theories of Sir Issac Newton). Stottlemeyer blindly admitting that he buys 20 tickets a week is perfect.
7. Monk imitating Natalie at Dr. Bell's office and also arguing about whether a number is a 9 or a 6 is just fantastic.
8. Monk mocks Natalie in front of her fans by reading the number of an evidence bag like it's a lottery number. When she confronts him, he starts to call her a bimbo, but cuts himself off halfway through saying the word, saying "bimportant person" instead.
9. Stottlemeyer says he can buy 20 good accountants when he realizes he's hit the jackpot, and even kisses the office photo he has of a boat in his office.
10. Monk is compared to Art Garfunkel, but he can't identify the singer correctly, instead (in this order) thinking that he's Garfield, Alvin and the Chipmunks, a carbuncle, and even cartoon hippies.
After Monk proves that the lottery fanatic was murdered and Natalie takes off, I would have shown Monk and Stottlemeyer getting back to work and continuing their investigation. And at the police station, when they are watcing Natalie do the drawing of Stottlemeyer's numbers, I would have had Monk and Disher looking over the case files and trying to find out who may have wanted to kill the lottery fanatic, with Monk mentioning that he thinks the two murders are connected somehow.