Emmy award-winning actor Tony Shalhoub is back for six new episodes as the title character of "Monk," and it could not come at a better time for viewers starving for entertainment.

Deep in the middle of season six, the new episodes continue the story of Adrian Monk, the obsessive compulsive detective. Howie Mandel ("Deal or No Deal") guest starred in episode 6.13, "Mr. Monk Joins a Cult."

Monk is approached by a family whose daughter was brutally murdered. An eye witness claims he saw the Siblings of the Sun, a local cult, holding down the girl while their leader Father (Howie Mandel) stabbed her to death. She had been a member of their cult once but ran away and was terrified of their vengeance. Natalie agrees to go undercover in the cult, but it is Monk that they want. He is quickly brainwashed by their charismatic leader and the promises of a life without fear. Monk nearly loses his memory of Trudy and his life savings, but he manages to pull it together to save the case.

There is never enough to say about Tony Shaloub's brilliant acting. His multiple nominations and wins cannot do justice to the superb character he has brought to life. Monk is annoying, heart-wrenching, innocent, obsessive, gullible, selfish, and inconsiderate. He's a man lost in pain and fear, but he also holds a certain level of childish egotistical naivete. You want to hug him, laugh at him, and sometimes even hit him. Monk inspires a wide variation of emotions in the viewer, and he is the heart of what makes this show so popular. Fans do not tune in just for the cases, they watch because of him.

The supporting cast remain solid and familiar, with the sympathetic Natalie (Traylor Howard), weary Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) and sweet but stupid Lieutenant Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford). Howie Mandell played the compelling cult leader in this episode, Father, and was very believable in the role as a smooth-talking manipulator. The cult was both terrifying and strangely addictive because it is selling universal desires: peace, love, and belonging. While Monk does reveal this cult -- or the leader -- to be a false, it was painful to see him finally achieve some sense of happiness in life, only to be snapped back into reality.

Some highlights:
-Monk's constant list of fears and his terror-stricken look when Father showed him charcoal.
-Each of the supporting cast trying to wake Monk out of his cult mentality, and especially Disher's.
-Stottlemeyer's proof that Monk was too gullible.
-Ten flower petals on each flower.

An interesting fact is that Howie Mendall is scared of germs in real life, and so the actor did not touch the skin of another during the episode. Is he a real-life Monk? Maybe they should have provided him with wipes during the show!

One criticism that keeps coming up for me is the lack of any closure with Trudy Monk's death. They approach it from time to time, but usually only with Monk's sorrow over her loss. I thought in the earlier seasons they were really going to delve into the case. Considering Monk's obsessive ways, it seems unlikely he'd shrug off the questions still in the air. Why hasn't he been constantly investigating? Last I remember, they implied she died because of something she may have been reporting on, and not because of him as he originally feared. There are some spoilers that promise in the next five episodes the case will be revisited, and I hope so. Monk's devotion to his dead wife can be very endearing, but there are times when it just seems ridiculous that after eight to 10 years he cannot move on.

The sixth season will continue on Friday nights at 9 p.m. on USA.

Recap by Chelsea 'Dee' Doyle
Starpulse contributing writer