Monk - “Mr. Monk Joins a Cult”
Creator: Andy Breckman
Starring: Tony Shalhoub, Traylor Howard, Ted Levine and Jason Gray-Stanford
Premieres: Friday, January 11, 2007 at 9:00 p.m. on USA

Spoiler Alert - This review contains some spoilers for Monk: “Mr. Monk Joins a Cult”

With the exception of the special holiday episode of Monk, which aired early in December, the series has been on hiatus since mid-September. This week, the sixth season of Monk will resume with a hilarious episode, titled “Mr. Monk Joins A Cult.” As you might be able guess from the title, in this episode Mr. Monk goes undercover by joining a cult to investigate the murder of one of the group’s ex-members.

In the episode, Howie Mandel guest stars, playing the leader of the cult and the chief suspect in the murder Monk has agreed to solve. As any Howie Mandel fan already knows, the comedian who reclaimed fame with his hosting gig on the NBC game show, Deal or No Deal suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder. For obvious reasons, this makes him a perfect fit for a guest role on Monk.

Mandel is a likable guy, which makes him a pretty good fit for the role of the friendly but possibly murderous cult leader. While his guest appearance definitely adds to the appeal of this episode, it’s the whole concept of Monk joining a cult that really won me over. The series has been airing for six seasons and the writers are still able to put the title character in unique situations that manage to keep the series fresh and so much fun to watch.

Those of us who have watched enough Monk know that in addition to being plagued with OCD, Monk fears almost everything and is extremely gullible. His gullibility is one of his charms and it also makes him an ideal candidate for cult membership. While it is Monk’s intention to go undercover to investigate the group, their leader and their compound, being the emotionally vulnerable guy that he is, he ends up getting sucked into their lifestyle and it takes Natalie, Leland and Dr. Kroger to snap him back to reality. I don’t want to spoil the whole episode for you but I will throw this last little tidbit in: For those of you who love the Trudy storyline, you’ll get a tiny bit of that during the episode.

Some might watch this episode when it premieres on Friday night and think it's just another great episode in the series. I definitely wouldn’t disagree with them there but whether it was Mandel’s appearance or the whole concept of Mr. Monk puttering around a cult compound, it really felt like there was something more to this episode than the usual cute but humorous antics of the sweet, emotionally dysfunctional private detective. Even for the most casual fan of the series, this episode is definitely worth a watch.

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