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The Monk Fun Page Episode Review

Foreign Man 8

As always this review contains spoilers. If you live in a foreign country or if you don't get cable or you've been on a long vacation or whatever the deal is and you haven't seen the episode yet, proceed at your own risk.

After last week’s mostly comedic episode, Monk had a more dramatic offering in its second week with “Mr. Monk and the Foreign Man”. Yes, there are some laugh-out-loud moments as Monk helps his new friend to adapt to “American” culture (which is actually Monk culture), but primarily the story serves to reawaken Monk’s hope that he can still solve Trudy’s murder and also to reconnect him with memories of Trudy that he fears, after 12 years, have begun to fade.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje
The role of the foreign man is played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, best known as Mr. Eko on Lost. He is not well known for comedic parts, but for a more serious episode like this he brings just the right amount of gravity. He also turns out to be quite a good straight man. Adewale was born in London, but both of his parents were Nigerian. He speaks several languages fluently including English, Italian, Swahili and Yoruba, which is the Nigerian language used for this episode of Monk.
The writer for this episode is David Breckman. David's done so many Monk scripts that it takes too long to list them. I'll just pick a few of my favorites like "Other Brother" and "Up All Night" and "Astronaut" and "Dentist" and "Secret Santa": all of them top notch. They all feature some memorable dramatic moments, a little sentiment and strong character development. That's sort of his hallmark. David also directs now and I believe his upcoming directorial effort for this season will be "Mr. Monk and the Dog", which airs in October... probably.
David Breckman
David Breckman

"Mr. Monk and the Foreign Man marks the first co-credited (or any other credited) Monk story for Justin Brenneman. Up till now Justin has been the writers office coordinator in Summit NJ. He'll also be writing for the new Little Monk web series.

David Grossman directed this one. He is an executive producer as well as a director for Desperate Housewives. Either the man is a workaholic or he really likes Monk, because he sure doesn't seem to need the work. He was a frequent director for Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, including the excellent two part episode "Bargaining" which makes him okay in my book. More than okay. He also directed one other Monk episode, "Mr. Monk and the Class Reunion" in season five.

I wasn't familiar with most of the other actors in this episode, except for Erich Anderson who played John Buxton the homeowner whose unfortunate housekeeper is bludgeoned to death by his drunk friend. He's another Quantum Leap alumni: he played a slimey lawyer in the episode "The Great Spontini". He was also Commander MacDuff in the "Conundrum" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and he played Don Kirkendall, Jill's slimey ex-husband on NYPD Blue. He's done a lot of other stuff of course, but those are the projects from which I remember him best.
Erich Anderson
Erich Anderson
Grogory Sporleder
Gregory Sporleder
Gregory Sporleder, who plays The Guy, was pretty good but he had the thankless task of playing one of the stupidest criminals ever on Monk. He runs over a woman with a van that has the name of his business on it in great big letters at 8:15pm after speeding down a busy street and he thinks nobody is going to notice? He thinks the broken headlight is going to be the dead giveaway. Really? Not La Poisson Bleu written in big ass letters so conspicuous that even a stoned slacker can't help but notice.

Of course, he's only the second biggest moron in the episode. Let's not forget the unseen Sergeant Kramer who was in charge of the hit and run case and didn't notice the tire tracks were made by a van or that there was headlight glass left in the street or that there were potential witnesses at the gas station a block away. Did this bozo even look at the security camera footage?

Kimo Wills, who played the more talkative slacker, did a great job: very memorable and good comic timing. Even the not so talkative slacker (Chris Coy) was quite convincing, but I'm pretty sure beer wasn't the only intoxicant in which they'd been indulging. There's also a return guest actor, Burl Moseley, who plays the grocery store clerk in this episode, played a cop in last season's "Mr. Monk Buys a House".

Promo ads for the episode announce that he’ll get “one step closer” to solving Trudy’s murder. Like most promos that’s an exaggeration (to put it kindly), but at least this episode does bring the series’ main mystery back in the theater if not all the way to center stage and they will have built a little bit towards the conclusion when they actually get around to solving the murder in the final episodes of the season.

"I'm the lucky one."
(Saying stuff like that in a teaser is sure to get you killed.)

The episode opens at the Pine Street Corner Store where a beautiful young woman from Nigeria (Constance Ejuma) shops and the clerk flirts with her. He learns she’s a married woman visiting San Francisco for one week. As they talk a speeding van careens down a busy street and a vodka bottle rolls around on the dash board. We don’t see the driver.

The woman leaves the store and after making a call to her husband in Nigeria she waits for the light to change. She steps into the street and is run down by the vodka drinking driver of the speeding van. He keeps on driving, leaving her to die.

There are some really nice touches in this scene, including the interspersing of the speeding van and the charming Ansara that give the hit-and-run scene more of an emotional charge. The hearfelt one-way conversation in Yoruba quickly gives us a reason to care about a character we've just met.

It's also nice that they remembered Monk does live on Pine Street and Coit Tower in the background is very San Francisco-ish. Although I'm pretty sure you can't really see Coit Tower from anywhere on Pine Street. I also don't think there's a working pay phone anywhere on Pine Street these days.

Store Clerk
The store clerk with the
Venticello in the background

The Venticello Ristorante which you can see next door to the Pine Street Corner Store in the exterior scenes is actually on Washington Street, literally two blocks away from where I live. That is the actual exterior of the restaurant, but since I know they haven't been here filming lately and there is no corner store or anything that can be made to look like that corner store beside it, they must have CGI-ed it in somehow. It looks terrific.
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Venticello 2
Venticello 1
Venticello 3

"Are you cooking bacon?"

Two weeks later Monk and Natalie are at his apartment when he smells a strange odor. He sniffs Natalie. (Just a personal note here: if there were an incense that smelled liked bacon cooking I’d be all over that. Mmmmm, bacon.) Monk realizes the smell is coming from outside. He sees an African man sitting in front of the Pine Street Corner Store across the street, lighting candles and incense. Monk mistakes him for a hippie and from his window angrily advises him to move along. He thinks about calling the cops, but Natalie tells him there’s no need. The cops just called they have a case. Monk’s glad to get away from the smell. That is until they arrive at the 12 day old crime scene.

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Maria Fuentes, John and Carolyn Buxton’s housekeeper, was killed the day after they left for a Barbados vacation two weeks earlier. Upon their return they discovered her corpse. By the time Monk and Natalie get there it's pretty ripe. Disher pretends to be impervious to the smell for the benefit of a pretty CSI tech.

Natalie can’t imagine why. Well, actually she can: “Do you think she’s saying, why can’t I meet an attractive thirty-something non-smoker who’s oblivious to the stench of rotting flesh?” Strangely enough, although the CSI tech does seem bemused, she also seems solicitous and interested.

Stottlemeyer, who seems genuinely impervious to the stench, goes over the crime scene with them. Besides the earring which Monk finds in the victims pocket, there is a cell phone and a first aid handbook on the kitchen counter. Natalie suggests the killer felt guilty and was trying to help the victim, but the blood on the book indicates that it was opened to the chapter on head wounds before the victim was struck on the head. There's no big revelation for Monk yet. He seems stumped.

“Oh, for the love of crackers.”

That night as Monk tries to sleep at 7:45pm, a haunting flute plays across the street. In his bathrobe and slippers Monk goes to confront the flute player. He offers the man five dollars to move along. This is unusually generous, unusually assertive and unusually condescending of Monk. “I can not leave,” the man tells him. "My wife was killed here. This is sacred ground.”
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Monk is immediately empathetic. No doubt because that’s exactly how he felt about the garage where Trudy was killed. Monk takes the man to his apartment and tells him to make himself comfortable. He offers him juice. I believe the last time he offered anyone juice it was Dr. Kroger in "Mr. Monk and the Panic Room" and there was a chimp in the kitchen. Monk introduces himself.

“Adrian. What does it mean?” the man wants to know.

“It means nobody picks you for their softball team in seventh grade.”

(I'm pretty sure that's a tease for the “Little Monk” webisodes. The first one opens with young Monk not being chosen for a team, granted it's not softball they were playing.)

The man’s name is Samuel Waingaya and he’s in San Francisco because his wife, Ansara, was the one killed by the hit and run driver. He has some evidence, a van's tire tracks and headlight glass, but the police have told him they’re already doing all they can. He tells Monk that Ansara was in San Francisco for two weeks to attend a teaching conference. This seemed a little strange since Ansara told the flirty clerk in the teaser that she was in the city for only one week. I thought that discrepancy might turn out to be important, but as it turns out, not so much. In fact, not at all.

Monk remembers reading about the hit and run but at the time “I was out of town,” he tells Samuel. Well, that explains why he didn’t solve a mystery so close to home almost two weeks before. But where did he go? We know Monk hates to leave town. On the show he’s only done it a few times. To Mexico, to Manhattan, to L.A. in Gameshow, to Las Vegas, to Napa in Get's Drunk, to wherever Julie’s soccer game was in Traffic, to Wyoming with a Bump on his Head, to Uncle Disher’s farm…. Come to think of it, I guess he does do it quite a bit and in the books he’s been to Hawaii, Germany and Paris. Perhaps the events of next week's episode, "Mr. Monk and the UFO", in which he travels to Nevada and gets stuck for a few days, actually take place before this story.

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So back to the van tire tracks on a busy San Francisco Street. If he could spot them days later after traveling from Africa how come the police couldn’t? Why didn't the police find the headlight glass and gather it as evidence before Samuel got there? What this reminded me of was the poor police work done in the notorious case of a French citizen found dead in his apartment here in San Francisco in 2007.

He was stabbed three times and no weapon was found in the apartment and yet the SF Coroner (and SFPD) thought he might have committed suicide. The French, not surprisingly, weren’t satisfied and sent their own detectives who ruled it a homicide. It’s still not solved, but that’s because we don’t have a real life Monk.

“I’m a police detective. I’m very good at it.”

When Samuel takes Monk at his word and lights up a cigarette, Monk provides him with a smoking bag (a green garbage bag) that he advises him to breathe into. The smoking bag is the first of many “American” innovations to which Monk will introduce Samuel. The joke didn't really fly for me. This is California, man, where we take that stuff ultra seriously and we make sure everyone knows that smoking is so not cool by passing lots of legislation. At least that's how we do it here in San Francisco. Monk shouldn’t have misled Samuel with the smoking bag. He’ll be SOL when he tries to light up at SFO with his smoking bag in hand. The smoking bag doesn’t seem too effective either there was already a significant amount of smoke in the air.

Samuel starts to leave and Monk offers to help him track down Ansara’s killer. Samuel wants to know why and Monk shows him the scrapbook filled with articles and evidence on Trudy’s killing. That looks like Trudy number one (Stellina Rusich) pictured in the article and they appear to be the original articles. Although I don't remember seeing pictures of the car ablaze before.

Samuel understands and he reaches out to comfort Monk, placing a hand on his shoulder. Knowing he has found someone who understands his pain Monk does the same. The look that Samuel gives him when he realizes Monk’s wife was murdered is just heart rending.
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"He’s down to two bags a day."

The next day in Stottlemeyer’s office, the Captain shows Monk and Samuel the security footage from a gas station near the corner where Ansara was killed. They spot the van with the broken headlight and then they see the same van again going the opposite direction. After Samuel is gone the captain warns Monk that the hit-and-run case is cold and he shouldn’t be getting Samuel’s hopes up. The case of Maria the dead maid, on the other hand, is fresh, he tells him.

Now, you wouldn't think "fresh" would be the first adjective that springs to mind when he's talking about two week dead Maria Fuentes, would you? And her murder happened mere moments after the hit and run, so it's no more recent. I think Stottlemeyer's true concern isn't so much which case is more solvable, but that Monk has lost objectivity. Which Monk proves definitively when he says, “He lost his wife, Leland. They ran Trudy over and then just kept on driving.” Stottlemeyer realizes Monk is identifying the case with Trudy’s murder. Monk doesn’t even correct himself, before he goes on to “Picture go regular.” (I know that teminolgy bugs some people who rightly insist that Monk’s not an idiot, but he is supposed to be completely incompetent with new technology and pop culture. Plus, it's really funny and you never cut funny.)

So, how do you know this is a Monk episode and not Law & Order or some other network crime show? If it were one of those fancy shows they'd have a nameless tech guy zoom in on the security footage to a crystal clear image of the van's license plate (or maybe those big letters on the side) and they'd know exactly who were they were looking for. But this is Monk so they just have to make do with the grainy video.

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A little subplot emerges in this sequence between Samuel and Natalie. "Do you drink coffee," Natalie asks handing him a cup as he arrives in the squad room.

"I love coffee."

"Then you're gonna hate this."

Samuel laughs. He think she's a riot. In the previous episode, "Mr. Monk's Favorite Show", Monk told Natalie she wasn't funny. Samuel couldn't agree less. (Me, too. I think she's hilarious.) When she makes another small joke in the Captain's office. Samuel laughs infectiously and gives her a big hug. I think she needs more big hugs like that. In fact, I think she needs a man in her life who thinks she's funny and gives her big hugs like that. It sure won’t be Monk.

"Are you guys here a lot? Drinking beer, hanging out, slacking, you know, off?"

Monk, Natalie and Samuel move on to the gas station to find witnesses. Trying to explain why the driver turned around, Natalie mentions again and in almost exactly the same context, that the killer might have felt guilty. Luckily for them the gas station comes equipped with a couple of slackers, one of whom saw the hit and run driver go towards the tunnel and turn around. He also saw the word “poison” on the side of the van and noticed the driver was hunched over.

Monk figures that the killer was on a cell and didn’t want to lose the signal by going into a tunnel.

It's interesting that Monk is willing to explain to two perfect strangers about his psychotic break. There was a similar scene way back in season one when he told the little girl selling lemonade in "Dale the Whale" that he had been in a semi catatonic state.

Foreign Man

“I don’t like to judge people, but that’s wrong.”

In an almost purely comic scene, Monk shows Samuel the “American” way to do laundry which involves using all the washers, washing right and left socks separately, $200 and a pre-wash cleansing cycling. I have to assume it’s Samuel’s laundry because Monk has a washer and dryer in his building if I remember correctly. Samuel points out that they do their laundy differently on Friends. “We don’t get the African TV here,” Monk tells him. At the laundromat Samuel discovers a vital clue. A picture of a fisherman on the wall makes Samuel think that “poison” could be poisson, the French word for fish. (Not surprisingly, the slacker can’t spell.) Monk is still having some trouble distancing himself from Samuel's case. “He is going to pay for what he did to us.”

They follow the clue to Kenneth Nichols’ restaurant, Le Poisson Blue. Where they quickly determine, after finding a grain of rice stuck in the the car’s grill and watching him fire a dishwasher (not a machine, but a guy who does dishes), that Nichols is the guy.

"There's rice all over this town. It's the San Francisco treat."

Later, back in front of the Pine Street Corner Store Monk is placing flowers in honor of Ansara, when Stottlemeyer shows up. "I spoke to Natalie. She’s worried about you,” he tells him. Monk's missed two appointments with Dr. Bell and he hasn’t been eating. Stottlemeyer mentions that it’s been 12 years since Trudy death and concludes that Monk is fixating on this case because he’s frustrated over not being able to solve Trudy’s murder. Monk denies it and tells him that Nichols is a good suspect in Ansara’s death. Stottlemeyer wants more evidence than rice, but he says he’ll look into it and makes Monk promise to think before he does anything stupid like going undercover in Nichols’ restaurant.

This is the scene in which you can tell that San Francisco is only making a virtual appearance in this epsiode. As Stottlemeyer arrives they have one of their fake red motorized cable cars pass behind him. As he starts to leave you can see a real cable car coming up the street, but it never passes him. It just disappears as he gets into his car. Also Washington Street, where Venticello Ristorante is, is one way and that's the way the real cable car was heading.

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"How is that Tiramisu?"

Despite Stottlemeyer's advice he and Samuel go undercover as dishwashers at La Possion Blue, but Monk’s so persnickety that they only manage to clean one knife and one fork, American style. The French chef doesn’t understand that or why the potatoes have been peeled down to dice size. They discover that Nichol’s buys fish from a market on Vinton Street near the wharf every Tuesday, which would put him only a few blocks from the hit and run site on that day. (There is, in fact, a Vinton Street in San Francisco that I only recently discovered. It's in Chinatown off of Grant Street. It's no where near the wharf and it doesn't have a fish market, but it's not too far from Pine Street, which is also no where near the wharf.)

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When Monk sees the Buxton’s, whose maid was brutally murdered the same day, in the dining room of La Poisson Bleu, he thinks there’s a connection. He poses as a waiter (and looks quite fetching in the outfit) to interview them in the dining room and finds out Nichols is a close friend of theirs. He returns to the kitchen and tells Samuel that he’s figured it out, but unfortunately Nichols has figured out what they’re up to and pulls a gun on them.

"I can't get a break. First the incense and then the dead housekeeper and now this."

Nichols throws them in the back of the van with all the fish and drives over the Golden Gate bridge, presumably to dispose of them in a more secluded place. Monk is handling all the stress and the smell unwell. “Sometimes you are like a big crying infant,” Samuel observes. He tries to calm Monk down by asking him to recount the “here’s-what-happened.”

Nichols had been drinking and driving when he decided to drunk-dial his friend Buxton who had already left for Barbados. The houskeepeer, Maria, answered the cell phone her employer had left behind. Nichols was talking to her when he ran down Ansara. Since Maria now knew too much, he kept her on the line, pretending to help the accident victim, when in fact he was driving to the Buxton’s to kill her.

Monk and Samuel feel the van turn off. Monk is convinced they will soon be killed. Samuel tries to give him courage, reminding him that their wives would want them to go on. "Trudy, Ansara, they are here with us now. Do you not feel it?

Monk makes a heartbreaking admission. "Not anymore."

Samuel says he's not giving up. “This is your final lesson. This is how we do things in America," Monk says with a look of determination on his face which implies he’s about to man up when in fact he’s going to do no such thing. "We cry a lot. We confuse our dead wife and other people’s dead wives and then we give up.”

"Can you reach into my pants?"

Well, that’s not the way Samuel rolls and he has an idea. He has Monk take the lighter from his pocket and burn the rope from his hands. The van stops and Nichols takes a moment to imbibe a little liquid courage. When he opens the van doors Monk and Samuel push a wall of fish onto him.

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Samuel subdues the killer and pulls out a picture of Ansara, demanding that Nichols say her name, in effect admitting that this is the woman he killed. Monk then gets a picture of Trudy from his wallet and makes Nichols say her name, which he does even though he’s very confused. Monk is desperate to have someone take responsibility for Trudy’s death.
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In the final good bye scene (which also looks to be part Paramount back lot and part CGI or backdrop with the SF corner of Broadway & Taylor) Natalie gives Samuel a gift of comedy CDs (Monty Python, Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby: Natalie has eclectic taste in comedy, doesn't she?) He thanks her, but assures her she's funnier than all those guys.

As Samuel prepares to get in a cab and leave, Monk wants to know, “What’s it like?”

“What is what like?”


“Knowing is everything, but your turn will come Adrian Monk. You are next. Do not give up.”


Samuel gives him the flute."No man is a greater friend than Adrian Monk."

"No man has a greater friend than Samuel Waingaya."

That's David Breckman's exquisite dialog for you.

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So while he may be no closer to evidence or witnesses or forensics that can help him solve Trudy’s murderer, Monk's determination to find her killer has been renewed which you could say is “a step closer.”

Special Guest Stars
•Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje played Samuel Waingaya
Guest Stars
•Gregory Sporleder played Kenneth Nichols
•Erich Anderson (1) played John Buxton
•Henri Lubatti played French Chef
•Constance Ejuma played Ansara Waingaya
•James Kimo Wills played Gas Station Slacker (as Kimo Wills)
•Laura Johnson (1) played Carolyn Buxton
Co-Guest Stars
•Burl Moseley played Grocery Store Clerk Recurring (second appearance)
•Chris Coy played Second Slacker
•Eloy Mendez played Dishwasher
•Lisa Jay (1) played Gail
•Lydia Blanco played Maria Fuentes
•Mary Garripoli played Laundry Customer
•Suziey Block played Waitress


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