"Mr. Monk Meets Dale The Whale" is the third episode of the first season of Monk.
The opening scene shows a large silhouette against a window with a baseball bat held over his head. A 911 dispatcher picks up a call from the house, where a judge named Catherine Lavinio screams that a man named Dale Biederbeck is in her house and trying to kill her. The dispatcher hears the sounds of utter bedlam: furniture being smashed, animal-like growls ... and finally the judge's scream of terror as the attacker breaks into her room....and then dead silence.
Monk is called in. At first, he can't understand why, since the case seems straightforward: a intruder broke into the house at 10:37 p.m. while the judge was in her kitchen, chased her upstairs and beat her to death in her bedroom with a baseball bat, then came downstairs to disconnect the smoke alarm when whatever she was cooking started to burn. The baseball bat was left behind, and bears the initials "D.B."; a passing neighborhood girl saw the intruder through the window when he disconnected the alarm; and the judge even identified her attacker by name: Dale J. Biederbeck III, a very rich and very vengeful financier...
...who is also the one person who couldn't have done it. Biederbeck, also known as "Dale the Whale," weighs upwards of 800 pounds, and is so monstrously obese that he cannot rise from his bed, or even fit through the doorway of his bedroom, which he has not left in 11 years. This is confirmed when the police and Monk go to interview Biederbeck and his personal physician, Dr. Christiaan Vezza. Dr. Vezza explains that when Biederbeck first bought the apartment he lives in, he weighed 400 pounds and could still see his toes on a good day. When his mother died, Dale began binge-eating, topping out at 920 pounds 11 years ago.
Biederbeck cheerfully admits to hating Judge Lavinio, who issued an antitrust ruling against him that cost hundreds of millions of dollars. He also taunts Monk, whom he has met before, over Trudy's cryptic last words. Monk is convinced that Biederbeck is the killer, despite all the evidence. Dr. Vezza also takes an interest in Sharona.
Monk suspects that Biederbeck may be faking his immobility. Since a criminal judge — a friend of the victim —-refuses to issue a search warrant (he notes he had dinner with her that night and even swears he would deliver it personally once proof were found), Stottlemeyer has the idea of sending Sharona undercover as Biederbeck's nurse, although Monk strictly forbids her to do so. However, Biederbeck sees through her and delights in goading her with some details from her life in Miami, and also the full details of his feud with Monk: a few years ago, Trudy wrote an unflattering article about him, so he sued her and Adrian in a costly libel suit. Ultimately he lost, but succeeded in bankrupting the Monks with legal costs, forcing them to sell their first home. For his finale, Dale gleefully lifts the front of his pajamas, showing Sharona that his obesity is not faked (and sending her hurtling from the room in paroxyms of nausea). The next day, while hurling, she angrily states that she quit her job, and Monk, deducing the reason why she was hurling most of the morning, reminds her that he told her not to go to Biederbeck's apartment. She then explains that yes, he is indeed as obese as he appears. However, she recovers enough to remember one thing she saw in Biederbeck's apartment: videotapes of the judge, mostly news footage.
Over an emergency session with Dr. Kroger, Monk confides that he hates Biederbeck, who tormented Trudy over a whole year, what would turn out to be one of the last years of her life. He is worried that it is corrupting his judgment.
But then, noticing Dr. Kroger eating leftovers from a doggy bag, Monk realizes that several aspects of the crime scene were staged: the judge ate out on the night she was killed, and brought her leftovers home, so she wouldn't have been cooking, which meant that the killer must have cooked the meal with the intention of setting off the smoke alarm. Monk and Sharona then ask the only witness to the crime, a neighborhood girl named Sue Ellen. Sue Ellen eventually explains that she saw a "very, VERY fat man" standing on a chair to disconnect the smoke alarm while walking her dog (although not before getting Monk to drink three glasses of lemonade just to get her to answer each question). When Monk and Sharona visit Dr. Vezza's clinic, and he mentions that he's just celebrated his 37th birthday, Monk solves the case.
Monk, Stottlemeyer, Sharona, and Disher confront Biederbeck and Vezza in the penthouse, presenting the arrest warrant and noting that a demolition crane is on its way to break a hole in the wall to carry Dale out.
The reality is, while Dale couldn't commit the murder himself, he did order someone else to do it: Vezza. Vezza broke into the house, using a hide-a-key he learned about from the housekeeper. He murdered the judge first, and then he staged the scene. First, he ransacked the house. Then, he put on one of his fat suits from his clinic and set off the smoke alarm, waiting until he was seen by a witness in the window disabling it. And lastly, he faked the 911 call, using the video footage of the judge to perfectly imitate her voice. The idea was to leave behind clues pointing to Biederbeck, the one person who couldn't possibly have done it.
Vezza made two mistakes: first, the chair he stood on to disconnect the alarm would have broken under the weight of a man as heavy as he appeared; second, he claims to have been named after Christiaan Barnard, a famous heart surgeon, who wasn't famous until 1967, two years after Vezza was born.
As it turns out, Monk and co. have done a little digging. "Vezza" is in fact a defrocked surgeon named Glenn Q. Sindell, who was facing 15 years in prison for manslaughter and reckless endangerment, after he killed a child by operating on her while intoxicated. He jumped bail and eventually came to work for Biederbeck, who knew his secret and blackmailed him into doing his dirty work with the threat of exposing his secret if he ever tried to turn on him.
Biederbeck laughs off the idea that he can be connected to the crime, but Vezza/Sindell gladly agrees to testify against his former boss. In rage, Biederbeck tries to sit up and strangle Monk, but can't lift himself high enough, with Monk inching closer and closer, as if to add insult to injury.
During a walk, Monk confides to Sharona the meaning of Trudy's last words to him.
This episode includes examples of the following tropes:
- Batter Up!: Judge Lavinio is murdered with a baseball bat.
- Chekhov's Gun: The leftovers briefly seen in the fridge, the intact chair in Justice Lavinio's living room (which Monk tries to put back into place), Sharona bragging about Christiaan Vezza being named for Christiaan Barnard (the surgeon who performed the first human heart transplant), and the tapes of the judge Biederbeck keeps in his luxury suite all prove to be important clues to explaining the murder.
- Chekhov's Skill: Dr. Vezza shows off his mimicry skills for Sharona during the investigation, including his ability to do a falsetto "feminine" voice, which eventually leads Monk to the solution.
- Crazy-Prepared: Stottlemeyer warns everyone that Dale is the (very large) embodiment of this trope: he videotapes everything in his apartment, has a platoon of lawyers on speed dial ready to sue the city at a moment's notice, and can find or buy information on anyone at a terrifying speed.
- Dating Catwoman: This episode is one of the first of many examples of this for Sharona (it eventually becomes a Running Gag)—she's interested in Dr. Vezza, who turns out to be the murderer in the crime (though as the trope name suggests, Vezza is something of a tragic villain, as his murder of Judge Lavinio was done at Dale's command, and he agrees to turn states' evidence to try to atone for his crimes).
- Foreshadowing: When Stottlemeyer and Disher are theorizing different solutions to the crime, the latter suggests that Dale actually murdered Lavinio at his apartment, then moved the body. Stottlemeyer points out that this isn't possible, as the 911 call came from the judge's house. Disher then discards the idea, but he turns out to be somewhat correct—Justice Lavinio didn't make the call (rather, the murderer impersonated her voice after killing her), and deducing when 911 was dialed is a key to the case.
- Framing the Guilty Party: A "framing yourself" variant is key to the plot; the titular Dale 'the Whale' Biederback arranges for his physician Dr. Christiaan Vezza to murder a judge named Catherine Lavinio who issued a costly antitrust ruling against Dale, then stage the scene to make it look like Dale did it, even faking a 911 call fingering him as the attacker and making sure a witness sees a morbidly obese man (actually Vezza wearing a fat suit) disconnecting a smoke alarm in the house. This is completely impossible, because not only is Dale too fat to move, he couldn't even fit through the victim's door (or his own) if he could; he's basically like a ship in a bottle.
- HeelFace Turn: "Dr. Vezza" turns out to be a disgraced former surgeon named Glenn Q. Sindell, who jumped bail after killing a child while operating under the influence of drugs. Dale learned Sindell's secret and used it to enslave him, eventually forcing him to kill Judge Lavino. At the end of the episode, Stottlemeyer reveals that the FBI told the cops all about it, and offers Sindell the chance at a reduced sentence in exchange for his testimony against Dale; Sindell wholeheartedly agrees, remarking that he hopes he can undo some of the damage he's done by helping put Biederbeck in prison.
- Insult Backfire: Dale is a master of this trope. When Monk tells him to "go to Hell," he cheerfully replies "No doubt I will. I just hope it's handicap accessible!" Later, Dr. Vezza/Glenn Sindell delivers a speech about just how much he despises Dale, capping his rant by calling him a "putrid freak of nature." Dale's response? "Wow, it's been a long time since anyone called me that."
- In-Universe Nickname: "The Whale" is a nickname Dale has in the show itself. His housekeeper—and later Monk himself—call Dale "the fat man."
- It's Personal:
- Monk loathes Dale and even admits that his hatred is clouding his judgment. Dale himself later tells Sharona why: Trudy, who worked as a newspaper reporter, once wrote a piece criticizing Biederbeck and dubbing him "the Genghis Khan of world finance." The villain decided to take out a libel suit against both her and the paper, even though he knew he couldn't possibly win—he just wanted to see Adrian and Trudy squirm. The Monks were forced to sell everything they owned to pay for the court costs, and Monk admits that during the whole incident, he would see Trudy outside sobbing with grief.
- The judge who initially refuses to let Stottlemeyer arrest Dale mentions that he and Justice Lavinio were close friends, and offers to personally serve the warrant if they can provide conclusive proof.
- It's also implied that this is why Dale killed Justice Lavinio in the first place: she ruled against him in an antitrust lawsuit to the tune of $210 million, something even the super-wealthy Biederbeck admits is a big loss. He also likely didn't enjoy the idea of someone actually beating him at something, especially legally (Dale loves to brag about just how many lawyers he has waiting to sue anyone who crosses his path).
- I Was Young and Needed the Money: One of the first episodes to imply this about Sharona: Dale comments that he knows "how she paid for nursing school" in Florida. He doesn't specify exactly what she did, but considering that he was previously talking about his extensive pornography collection, it's easy to connect the dots.
- Just One Little Mistake: Two of them actually; first is that the judge's leftovers. Monk notes that someone with fresh leftovers wouldn't be cooking dinner. The second is that Dale supposedly stood on a chair. As the cops demonstrate, a two-hundred-pound man would have broken the chair if he had stood on it. They get a warrant on Vezza, who is revealed to be a disgraced surgeon that ran after being investigated for killing a child. Vezza agrees to testify against Dale.
- Locked Room Mystery: An inversion: the question isn't "how did the murderer get into the room," it's "how did the murderer get out of his own room?" Every single clue points toward Dale the Whale as the guilty party, but he is completely immobile and unable to leave his bedroom (the door alone is too small for him).
- OOC Is Serious Business: Monk normally comes off as socially awkward, anxious and timid, but in the presence of Dale Beiderbeck, he's strangely calm, collected, and stoic.
- Orgy of Evidence: Invoked; Dale "the Whale" Biederbeck has his physician Dr. Christiaan Vezza kill judge Catherine Lavinio and stage the scene to make it look like Dale himself did it...because bedridden Dale is the only suspect who could not have possibly done it. To do this, Dr. Vezza wears oversized boots to leave big footprints behind. He kills the judge with a baseball bat with the engraved initials "DB". He also deliberately sets off a smoke alarm and dons his own empathy suit (a giant fat suit) so that a passing neighborhood girl sees a "very, VERY fat man" disabling the alarm. Lastly, he fakes a 911 call, using his skills of mimicry to imitate the judge's voice and deliver the ace in the hole.
- Rewatch Bonus: At the beginning of the episode, Dr. Vezza tries to take a plate of corn dogs away from Dale, saying "This stuff will kill you." Dale's response: "I'm not gonna die. You won't let me, will you...doctor?" At first it just seems like a taunt—but the denouement of the case reveals that "Vezza" is a disgraced former surgeon who jumped bail. He thus isn't a doctor any longer, and Dale knows it, so the line comes across as the villain deliberately reminding Vezza that he's being blackmailed.
- Sherlock Scan: In addition to Monk's usual performance of this at the crime scene, it's also Played for Laughs when Sharona tries to set up a game of Clue for her, Monk, and Benji—he's able to figure out the correct combination of cards before the game starts by looking at them, noticing which ones are bent, and perfectly recalling how they were put away the last time Sharona and Benji played.
- Shout-Out: Arthur fans might get a few snickers at the fact that the lemonade girl who witnessed the judge's murder in "Mr. Monk Meets Dale the Whale" is named Sue Ellen.
- Significant Background Event: When Monk is initially investigating Justice Lavinio's kitchen, he briefly opens the fridge, revealing a bag of leftovers from an Italian restaurant. Furthermore, the front of the fridge has a picture of Lavinio smiling with a middle-aged woman. Both prove to be important clues: the doggie bag helps Monk realize that the "cooking" which set off the smoke alarm must have been staged (Lavinio wouldn't have been preparing a meal if she couldn't finish her original dinner), while Sharona recognizes the woman in the photo as Dale the Whale's housekeeper, who turns out to have originally worked for the judge.
- Spanner in the Works: Dale planned for every eventuality to create the perfect murder...except for the fact that Justice Lavinio went out to dinner on the night he chose to have Vezza kill her. As noted below, the presence of leftovers in her fridge turn out to be the key to cracking the whole case.
- Spotting the Thread: Invoked by Dale in setting up the murder. He instructs Vezza/Sindell to leave various clues to implicate Dale himself, the one person who couldn't have killed Justice Lavinio. For instance, Dale supposedly attacked Lavinio in her kitchen—so why didn't she grab a knife to defend herself? The 911 call was made from an upstairs phone, which requires the antenna to be up to get a signal—but the antenna was pushed down when the cops arrived, so why would Dale take the time to fix it after the murder? It's all deliberately designed to taunt the cops about their inability to arrest Dale.
- It's played straight when Monk notices a genuine thread—the leftovers in Judge Lavinio's fridge. They prove that the entire scenario was staged, as the judge wouldn't have been cooking dinner for herself if she had both already eaten and couldn't finish her meal in the first place. This clue allows Monk to construct the actual timeline of the murder and solve the case.
- Too Clever by Half: With all the effort Dale puts into framing himself, he could have easily made the judge's murder look like a burglary or an accident. By taunting Monk, always a bad idea, he gets caught.
- Tranquil Fury: Monk has this whilst he responds to one of Dale's personal insults with a calm yet seething "Go to hell."
- Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Dale the Whale's housekeeper worked for Judge Catherine Lavinio before Biederbeck hired her for a much higher salary. He then repeatedly pressed her for information about Lavinio, including the location of a spare key the judge kept hidden in the garden, which was crucial to pulling off the murder. Unlike most instances of this trope, the housekeeper is devastated to discover her role in the crime and begs forgiveness.
- Vomit Discretion Shot: After Dale shows Sharona what he looks like under his coverings, the next scene has Monk and Benjy waiting outside the bathroom, where she's been throwing up.
- Wham Shot: The cops come to Dale to arrest them. They bring in a chair, and have one of the men, who is about 250 pounds, stand on it. The chair breaks the minute he puts his weight on it. Monk uses this to prove that Dale coerced his surgeon to commit the murder.