"Mr. Monk Takes the Stand" should've been entertaining, it really should've. The actual setup, Monk taking the titular stand, is the sort of thing I'm surprised we haven't seen sooner. Randy having a subplot that doesn't portray him as a total buffoon? What a concept! There's a problem, though. The writers try to stuff too much into this episode. With two murder investigations, plus the aforementioned taking of the stand, there's just too much going on for any one element to be able to percolate for long enough to be genuinely entertaining.
We open, unusually, with the summation - but Monk is quickly interrupted by the arrival of Harrison Powell (Jay Mohr), an infamous high-powered defense attorney who ends up completely ripping apart Monk's case in court. Unfortunately, it's not terribly convincing - this role just does not suit Mohr. He's competent enough, but I'm just unable to buy him as someone so deviously brilliant. As one might expect, the prospect of a murderer getting away with his crimes upsets Monk, leading him to quit - ultimately, an exceedingly short-lived decision (again, this episode's pacing is off), when another case falls into his lap.
In what must be the first fully serious Disher plot in the show's history, Randy stumbles upon his old "Little Brother", Rudy, who appears to have gone from mere troubled youth to full-blown murderer. Randy, however, refuses to believe it and brings in Monk to take a look at the case. And Monk sees his chance at redemption when he discovers that the actual culprit and the killer in the other case, Evan Gildea, are one and the same. While I do appreciate seeing a less moronic side of Disher's character, I'll have to deduct points for the clichéd-ness of the "troubled youth" angle.
Again, they've just tried (and failed) to stuff too much into this episode. There's two separate cases, but neither are particularly interesting - the first being the series' standard "unravel the perfect alibi" fare, except with an honestly fairly weak alibi; and the second being one of the least inspired in the history of the show, being a rather sloppy, staggeringly uncreative murder. Strangely, we're completely denied seeing Monk's moment of redemption, his second bout with Powell. Obviously, there wasn't enough time to shove that in, too, but it does make for a blatantly unsatisfying conclusion, not to mention one that just feels clumsily tacked on so as to not make this a "sad" episode.
That's not to say that this is a terrible episode. It's perfectly watchable. But it should've been so much more. The basis premise had plenty of potential, and with better mysteries, better time management, and a more role-appropriate guest star, it could've been thoroughly solid. As is, it's just disappointingly mediocre.