This show has a hard time dealing with multi-episode story arcs. Even back in the glory days of seasons two and three, the "Mr. Monk Goes to Jail"/"...Takes Manhattan" duo was awkwardly paced and had a really hard time focusing on their main purpose. This season has been particularly awkward and disconnected: we've seen Monk's passion for finding Trudy's killer get rekindled (in "...the Foreign Man") only for that to be completely thrown out the window until the finale, Captain Stottlemeyer find a new love interest we barely get to see that he'll be suddenly marrying next week (i.e. ridiculously soon), and now, Monk's potential reinstatement is reintroduced out of nowhere with no real foreshadowing to be awkwardly resolved within the next couple episodes. I get the idea that the writers would much rather remain focused squarely on the silly sitcom-esque antics that have dominated the last several seasons, and are only introducing these storylines out of a sense of obligation, giving them the bare minimum of attention.
Monk thinks his dream has finally come true. He's getting a reinstatement hearing! However, it looks like one of the members of the committee has some very justifiable reservations about giving Monk his badge back. Meanwhile, he's called in to investigate an armoured car robbery, but this is quickly pushed to the side when Monk sees his golden opportunity - accompany Disher on a scouting trip that conveniently happens to include said committee member's son. From here, the two plotlines dovetail when the troop comes across crucial evidence in the woods, quite obviously putting them all in grave danger. Monk's deft handling of the situation (as well as a bear encounter) earns him a "yes" vote from the kid's father...but it seems the other two committee members weren't such a sure thing after all. Thus making this episode more or less pointless, I guess.
For the second week in a row, we get a shameless retread of a season three episode: we've already seen the "Monk vs. Nature" theme in "Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever". (Granted, it's not as explicit a rehash as we got last week, but still...there's no excuse for this.) And while that episode wasn't the best, it did have its entertaining qualities, none of which are present here. Because, for the second week in a row, we get an episode that relies very heavily on clichés. Last week, we had the "perfect" Hollywood dog and associated cliché dog humour. This week, we got the kid who has a strained relationship with his father because he's focused on his career (which Hollywood tells us is evil), this followed by the allegedly sweet reconciliation between the two that actually has no emotional weight because it's coming completely out of nowhere. Nothing changed!
And for the second week in a row, we get an absurdly weak mystery. Was there really any detecting to do here at all? Maybe the writers were trying to have a bit of a puzzle with the killer's unnatural interest in the fish the kid caught, but it's so explicitly called out that the lure was a bullet he found that there's no mysteriousness whatsoever. And if that was the mystery hook (no pun intended) they were going for, it's worth pointing out that "Mr. Monk and the Red Herring" already featured a much better mystery revolving around unusual interest in a fish. The pairing of Tom Gammill and Max Pross, who wrote this episode, don't appear to have a single ounce of originality between them. It comes as no surprise to me to see that this dynamic duo was also responsible for "...Gets Hypnotized" and "...the Naked Man", which rank among my least favourite episodes of the series.
I suppose the main purpose of this episode was to introduce the story thread that will be resolved in "Mr. Monk and the Badge", but you really get the feeling that the series as a whole would've been better off without this episode. The best thing I can say about it is that it's not the most unwatchable thing this show was produced. Make of that what you will. I'm just hoping that the eventful final quartet of episodes will live up to the hype and redeem this increasingly lackluster final season somewhat.