Mr. Monk is already awake when his alarm goes off in the morning. He examines his police uniform and practices smiling on Natalie's advice. He then goes to the administration building for his 1 p.m. reinstatement hearing… over five hours early. Final the three panel members arrive and two of them are most complimentary toward him. The third member, Captain Willis, doesn't believe he has the temperament and tells him they'll have an answer in a week.
Stottlemeyer calls Monk to a crime scene. Natalie talks to Monk and says he should schmooze, and he has a week to convince Willis to change his opinion. Stottlemeyer explains that two men robbed an armored car, killed the driver and the guard, and escaped with $900,000. Monk is more worried about his reinstatement. However, when he learns the armored car was running late, he suggests that Stottlemeyer examine the coins in the nearby parking meters for fingerprints. Disher arrives late and is wearing camping clothing. He's attending an outreach program that takes urban kids to the countryside to go camping. Monk examines the crime scene and notices peanut shells twisted apart. He isn't interested in Disher's camping plans… until he learns that Willis' son Brian is one of the kids going on the camping trip. He volunteers to accompany Disher so Brian will have lots of stories to tell his father.
Disher picks up the first three kids in a van as Natalie drives Monk there. She makes sure he has all of his wipes and the back-up extra wipes. Willis arrives with his son, who is unhappy that his father isn't accompanying him and has too much to do at work. Monk introduces himself and tries to flatter Willis, and they take off camping.
Stottlemeyer meets with Winona, Luke Johnston's girlfriend. They found Luke's fingerprints near the scene and want to talk to him and his brother Del. He tells her to give them a message that he'll see them soon.
In the woods, Monk sprays for bugs and tries to strike up a conversation and impress Brian. Brian says that he knows all about Monk and he won't be able to make Captain Willis like him. The other kids want lunch and Disher tries to show them how to tell the time from the sun. He suggests that they try the berries, but one kid points out that they're toxic.
Winona calls Luke, who says that they wore gloves. She makes sure that they dumped everything and warns the police will check everywhere. When he realizes the police will check their cabin, he decides to go into the woods at Spider Lake with Del.
Disher gets the group to Spider Lake and the boys find bullet shells on the ground. Meanwhile, Luke and Del drive up to the van and realize someone is there.
Monk is busying making a campfire but would rather make sure it's even. He asks Brian to help and the boy just knocks the wood apart. One of the kids, Nicky, catches a fish and explains he made a pole. He poses with it as Disher takes a photo, and Will grabs Disher's gun. Del and Luke arrive and see it, and realize that Disher is a cop.
That night, Disher tells a scary story around the campfire but Monk can't help fact-checking it to the point of distraction. They pack up their food to avoid attracting bears and the boys get to bed, and Monk apologizes to Disher. He admits it's going terribly and Disher points out that Brian and the others are all good kids. Monk wonders why he never gets mad or upset when people tease him. Disher admits he almost quit until he saw a bumper stick saying "Happiness is a choice." From then on, he chose to be happy. Monk isn't convinced. Disher goes to bed and Monk sleeps standing up, leaning against a tree. Del and Luke sneak into the camp and drop the food on the ground to attract bears.
After the robbers slip away, Monk wakes up to find himself face-to-face with a bear. He screams like a little girl and everyone wakes up and runs in terror. They finally stop the next morning and everyone blames Monk for screaming and startling the bear. Nicky points out you need to speak calmly to bears to soothe them. Everyone realizes that they're lost and they head to the nearby lake. Meanwhile, Luke and Del dig out all the bullets they can find when Disher's cellphone rings. They look at the photo and realize that Nicky made a lead sinker using one of the shell casings.
At the lake, Brian catches a big fish and wants to keep it. Monk supports him but everyone else wants to actually eat the fish. Del and Luke arrive and claim to be hunters, and offer directions to the highway. They compliment Brian on his fish and offer him $50. Brian offers to take $500 and Monk wonders why the brothers would pay any amount. Disher's cellphone goes off and Disher thinks it's his own phone. Luke doesn't answer it so he avoids revealing that he was at the camp and took Disher's phone. After they leave, Monk notices the bullet casing that Nicky used as a sinker and figures it's connected to the armored car robbery, and the brothers are the robbers.
Disher's gun is back at the camp and they realize they have to head to the highway. Monk asks Brian for the fish so they can get the sinker but he refuses to give it up and runs away. As the detective goes after Brian, Disher gets the other three boys to the highway. Monk catches up to Brian and they fight over the fish until the bear shows up. The detective takes the fish and reluctantly digs in to get the shell casing out, and then throws the fish to the bear. The bear throws it back and Monk remembers to talk calmly to the bear. It backs down and Brian suggests Monk tell it a story. Monk tells it what happened: the robbers went after the armored car, the police found the shell casings, and if they can match them to the ones in the clearing, they'll have an airtight case. The brothers were target practicing in the woods and Monk figures a park ranger spotted them. The bear wanders off and Brian congratulates Monk.
Disher has the three boys hide and then gets behind Del and Luke. He ambushes the two men and captures them. Later, Stottlemeyer arrives to take away the crooks and confirms that the shell casing can place Luke and Del at the robbery. Brian indirectly thanks Monk and then shows his father the fish he caught. Monk and Natalie wonder if it will help.
Later, Monk meets for the board hearing and Willis talks about how Monk saved Brian and stood up to him. He admits that he's had a change of heart and approves the recommendation. However, the other two panel members admit they have reservations and refuse to reinstate him. Monk, who doesn't realize what they've said, goes outside in triumphant. As he runs off, Disher points out that happiness is a choice, and Stottlemeyer says they'll tell him later.