Mr. Monk tries to find a greater calling and ends up nearly letting a murderer go free. In last week's episode of "Monk," "Mr. Monk Paints His Masterpiece," Monk is starting to go through a crisis of sorts. He feels empty and unfulfilled.

Dr. Kroger suggests that he take up a hobby, and while he considers the options he is called onto a crime scene. It seems an unknown man was killed by a booby trap on the grounds of a junk yard due to the extreme paranoia of the war vet owner. At the junk yard, Monk is offered an easel and a set of canvases to try and make painting his new hobby.

When Monk is clearly a terrible artist, and a strange Russian keeps banging down the door begging to buy all of his 'masterpieces,' the audience knows right away that something strange is going on. Monk, however, is blinded by ego and a deep-seated hope that he can be something more than a police detective and does not see what is right in front of him. Then Natalie becomes a target, and he has to figure out the case before any harm befalls her!

"Monk" continues its streak of excellent episodes and adds a little something to this one that was sincerely interesting. Sometimes Monk can appear to be a two-dimensional character when the show is focusing just on his habits and problems, but when the show looks deeply into his heart, not just involving Trudy, it can be very telling. The episodes are strongest when they question Monk's calling, and his desire to be more than just a detecting machine. Stopping crime is as much an obsession for him as any compulsions, yet there is always a glimmer of hope in him that he could have something else. Trudy for a long time fulfilled that role, and now he has to find a purpose within himself.

It was fascinating to watch him latch so quickly onto the idea of becoming a genius artist, and while used as a visual gag (the beret, the artist garb), it spoke of a much greater longing under the surface - to be normal, to have a hobby, to be talented at it, and to be respected for it. Detecting is his art, as Captain Stottlemeyer pointed out, but is that fair to Monk? Is crime and murder all he will really be good at?

This episode had several amusing moments, such as the painting of Natalie that we will never see but she loathes and Lieutenant Disher attempting to translate Spanish. I detected a little bit of flirtation going on between Disher and Natalie these last few episodes, but perhaps that is just the inner shipper. While the villain of the episode was clear from early on, it did not take away from the mystery of the motive, nor the general enjoyment of simply watching Monk piece together the case. An excellent performance on the part of the guest stars: Peter Stormare as the art fanatic Petya Lovak and Victoria Tennant as an arrogant art teacher.

"Monk" does not return until February 15t at 9 p.m. EST on USA. When it does, get ready for the exciting two-part season finale! Monk is arrested for murder and goes on the run. If you would like to see a little sneak peak, there is one on the official USA Network.

Story by Chelsea 'Dee' Doyle
Starpulse contributing writer