It's pretty obvious by this point that the writers conceive the plot for a new episode by asking, "In what situation would Monk be incredibly uncomfortable?" And it's pretty obvious by this point that they've run out of "normal" situations that fit that criteria. While its setup is pretty implausible, "Mr. Monk Is Someone Else" mixes good humor with some nice character moments for another solid, if not classic, episode. Looks like the final season is back on track, however temporarily.
In what must be the shortest cold open on this show ever, "Someone Else" appears to open with Monk getting hit by a bus, but of course it's not what it seems. (Hooray for recycling ideas from "Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico"!) Turns out, it was notorious hitman Frank DePalma, whom Monk looks almost identical to - and the FBI wants Monk to take his place to foil an assassination plot. It's a farfetched concept, and Monk arguably slips into the role a bit too easily, but the episode does a fantastic job of helping one buy into it.
Part of the fun is watching how Monk's uniquely Monkish character traits shine through in his the DePalma persona. Straightening someone's tie is suddenly a big intimidating tough guy gesture. And it's hard not to laugh at his usage of the phrase "going steady". Naive as ever, I see. The power ends up going to Monk's head, and the episode risks going into "Monk is unnecessarily mean" territory like so many episodes during the seventh season - but here, we're actually given legitimate reasons for his actions. And it's admittedly really quite nice to see the ever-annoying Harold Krenshaw get pushed around a bit.
If there's one major complaint I have, it's the mystery. Now, the concept itself is interesting. Why would the mob want to kill a total nobody? The problem is that we're just not given much to work with. The basic premise is presented, and that's all we've got until Monk actually solves the case. It's surprisingly uninteresting for a setup with such potential. The solution is sort of clever, but still, the mystery could've been handled so much better. (And we're cheated out of a "here's what happened" summation scene, too!)
Still, it's not enough to destroy this episode, as the non-mystery plot is pretty darn good. I'm really liking what appears to be the underlying theme of the season thus far, with Monk finally managing to make personal improvements that actually aren't reverted by the end of the episode. This week, he finally learns how to stand up for himself. How will he improve next week? While we're waiting for the Trudy subplot to kick back in, I suppose that's a good enough incentive to tune in.