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Recap / Monk S 4 E 9 Mr Monk And The Secret Santa

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The season to be jolly becomes a lot less so when the department's Christmas party is interrupted by the death of Detective Terry Chasen, who drank a bottle of poisoned port. Stottlemeyer, thinking the poison was meant for him, begins fixating on a suspect named Frank Prager, who has reason to hate Stottlemeyer for shooting his brother after a bank robbery. Can Monk get past the difficulties of the investigation to discover the real culprit?

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This episode includes examples of the following tropes:

  • Artistic License – History: San Franciscans older than 40 might get a chuckle because according to Monk, the last time it snowed in San Francisco was the same day that Trudy died. Continuity states that Trudy was killed on December 14, 1997. As of 2014, the last time the city of San Francisco ever received measurable snowfall was February 5th, 1976.
  • Batman Gambit: Alice Westergren starts a Secret Santa exchange and arranges for Captain Stottlemeyer to get the victim's name. Then she delivers a bottle of port (which she knows Stottlemeyer hates) anonymously to the captain making it look like a local body shop sent it. Then Alice steals Stottlemeyer's intended gift to the victim and recommends re-gifting the port to him in a pinch, which the captain does. The victim drinks it and is poisoned, making it look like a failed attempt on Stottlemeyer's life and sending the department after the completely wrong set of suspects. Only Monk realizes that the suspect isn't the killer because he passed up a much better opportunity to kill the captain months ago.
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  • Blood from the Mouth: A trickle of blood runs from Terry's mouth after he drinks the poisoned port.
  • Bullet Hole Spelling: The characters investigate a threat on Stottlemeyer's life. The main suspect is a man whose brother was killed by Stottlemeyer and later shot at him as well. It later turns out that he wasn't intending to kill him, just remind him of his late brother by spelling out his brother's first initial with bullet holes. However, he does such a poor job of that, even the highly deductive Monk can't figure out he was doing that until it's pointed out to him.
  • Cringe Comedy: Monk posing as Santa Claus to get near Prager's daughter is a long string of awkward moments.
  • Foreshadowing: Monk notes that Frank Prager used to be in special ops and therefore shouldn't have missed five shots at Stottlemeyer, which is an early hint that he wasn't shooting at him.
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  • Forgiveness: Sister Heather comes out to talk to Stottlemeyer to convince him not to rough Frank Prager up when arresting him and tells him she learned from her father (it's implied she meant God) that forgiveness is the most total revenge. Stottlemeyer appears to have taken some of this to heart because while he still has to deal with Frank because of other crimes, he lets him go on his own recognizance for a couple of days so he can spend Christmas with his family.
  • Graceful Loser: When Stottlemeyer, Monk, and a few others confront Corporal Westergren about killing Terry Chasen, she doesn't attempt to run or put up a fight and calmly confesses.
  • Hidden Depths: It turns out Stottlemeyer plays the guitar.
  • "I Know What We Can Do" Cut: Natalie is going stir-crazy on a stake-out and suggests the go knock on the door. Monk asks what they're going to say, and the scene cuts to Natalie and Monk posing as carolers.
  • Innocuously Important Episode: While the main story is a standard case of the week, the episode also introduces the last gift Trudy left for Adrian, which after a few more mentions in later episodes ends up playing a major role come the series finale.
  • Ironic Nursery Rhyme: Terry Chasen dies from the strychnine to the soundtrack "Silent Night", right at the lyric "Sleep in Heavenly Peace".
  • Killer Cop: Cpl. Alice Westergren was an honest cop, until her lover, Det. Terry Chasen, decides to break off their affair and return to his wife. She gets furious and kills him with a poisoned bottle of wine, and manipulates things to make it seem like the bottle was meant for Stottlemeyer and Terry drank it by mistake: first, she invents a Secret Santa gift exchange at the department's Christmas party, then rigs the draw so that Stottlemeyer is the last one to choose a name and gets Terry's name. She brings a bottle of poisoned port into the station addressed to Stottlemeyer, knowing he doesn't drink port. Then, at some point during the party, Alice breaks into Stottlemeyer's office and steals the hair trimmer he purchased for Terry. When Stottlemeyer can't find his gift, Alice suggests he hand Terry the poisoned bottle of port, and the stage is set.
  • Mall Santa: Monk and Natalie go undercover at a shopping mall trying to locate the person Stottlemeyer suspects tried to kill him. To do so, this involves Monk being disguised as a Mall Santa, with Natalie wearing a wig to pose as his elf. Although the humor revolved around Monk's obsessive compulsive disorder and having to be up close to children.
  • Secret Santa: Stottlemeyer can't find the gift he bought for Det. Terry Chasen, whose name he drew, so he regifts a bottle of port someone had sent him. Then the bottle turns out to be poisoned...
  • Shown Their Work: One reviewer observed that the episode accurately portrayed the effects of strychnine poisoning.
  • Survivor Guilt: Stottlemeyer is naturally devastated that the poisoned bottle of port that he lent to Terry Chasen was meant for himself. Stottlemeyer is nothing short of bitter when Randy remarks "Thank God it wasn't you".
  • Tragic Villain: Westergren may have killed a good cop and a father of two. But when it comes down to why she did it, she soberly admits that more than anything, she was unhappy that she would be celebrating Christmas alone...
  • Villainous Breakdown: When she's found out over a simple mistake (mixing up the Christmas cards) Westergren maintains composure at first, calmly removing cookies from the oven. But gradually she spirals into a fit of disbelief and frustration at her mistake.
  • You Killed My Father: Stottlemeyer thinks that the bottle was sent by Frank Prager. He shot Frank's brother, Michael, while on the job and thinks Frank wants revenge.
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