Oh goody, another violent opening slaughter in the beginning. Fun for the entire family *sigh*.
Other then this unfortunate trend, I don't think anyone could really dispute that the series isn't back to "normal" (whatever that is). Monk is more sympathetic then ever since he takes on the case to get his police status back - Stottlemeyer's mixed reaction is interesting.
The mystery wasn't that mysterious, as usual. Again, we need a few more suspects to make these mysteries interesting!
Sharona gets another date, contributing to one of the episodes' running gags with "Fat Tony" (a nod to The Simpsons, perhaps?). Stottlemeyer doesn't have much to do except [Display Loyalty to Monk] but he does it well. Disher is mostly the goof throughout.
But the last scene pretty well redeems/strengthens both of them. Stottlemeyer and Monk share a laugh over the unbalanced vans, and Disher comes through helping out Sharona at the end.
Did Kane Richotte get plastic surgery? My family thought he'd been recast again! Regardless, why did they waste bringing him in for the whole 60 seconds we saw of him? It's not like he contributed to the episode in any meaningful way.
The guest cast was as a whole a bit stronger then in previous episodes this year, mainly because we had a couple of decent characters (and actors) who weren't the killers or the victims, but got some development. Lochlyn Munro and Phillip Baker Hall pretty much play the same characters they always do, but the actor playing Vince had some moments (I liked his "Big Tony" bit with Sharona), and the recently-late Jimmie F. Skaggs gets what is probably his last role playing a "typical" auto mechanic.
Overall, I'd rate this a nice high "average" episode for the series. Lots of little characterization moments (although who serves octopus at a funeral??) by the main and the guest stars combined, and even the killer is a little sympathetic, despite the fact he's pretty much a ruthless murderer.