It's going to be hard to get through the recap of last week's episode of "Monk," because there is exciting news at the end. Hint: a beloved character's return! One I've been praying for about five years now. Focus, focus. It is Mr. Monk's birthday and he is turning 50, which doesn't make him very happy nor does he wish for a party. As expected, Monk has a tragic story about being a child and how his birthday was ruined by the mean people around him. His mother got a beloved TV personality to come to his party, and once the guy left, all the kids did too. They came for the celebrity, not for Monk, and he hasn't had a party since. Little Monk had such an awful life.

The episode starts with the death of a maintenance guy who sees the compactor get jammed and goes to fix it. An unknown person turns it on and it squishes him into a human box. Gross. Natalie is trying to plan a surprise party for Monk but he won't fall for it since he's the greatest detective ever. They investigate the murder of the maintenance guy, named Bradley. Monk points out that his administrator had to turn the lights on to see him, which means someone turned the lights off and someone was probably there. The only other person in the building that night was a patent attorney named Meckler.

Meckler is selling a product called the self-cleaning vacuum cleaner, which of course Monk falls in love with at first sight. It was invented by a man named Kurt Pressman. Stottlemeyer has a little time for love with a reporter named T.K, and she lets Monk borrow her review copy of the vacuum cleaner. He's in heaven. While questioning Meckler, he falls over dead of an apparent heart attack. Of course it's not a heart attack, it was actually poison, but no one can figure out how he was fed the poison. The only thing he drank was a diet soda, but both Pressman and Meckler's girlfriend drank the soda too!

They investigate Bradley's house and find tools and information about his life as an engineer. Monk is paranoid about Natalie throwing him a party now, and keeps being afraid they'll pop out of every corner. Meckler liked to chew on pens and they find a chewed up pen at Bradley's place, leading Monk to suspect he was there at some point. The vacuum cleaner gets broken because Monk didn't follow the instructions correctly, and he brings it to Pressman to fix. We all know at that point he's totally the villain, since he can't remember all of his tools or even how to fix the cleaner right then. Duh!

On their way home, Natalie and Monk are trailed by a black car and attacked! Stottlemeyer warns them that a hit was taken in their name, and they run away from bullets and the baddies. They jump into a dumpster, although Monk does hesitate about getting in there. Dumpster or death? It turns out this was all a prank to take Monk by surprise when the dumpster lifts and it's a surprise party! Aw! Everyone loves him so, but did Natalie really have to make him go into a dumpster? That's kind of mean!

Pictured: (l-r) Tony Shalhoub as Adrian Monk, John Carroll Lynch as Kurt Pressman © USA Network

For some reason she invited Pressman, I guess because Monk loved his invention so much, but it's really a plot device since he tries to put poison ice cubes in Monk's drink. It almost works but he breaks down the case right in time, and then enjoys the rest of his birthday. Stottlemeyer's new girlfriend has the name Trudy. Weird! He asks to call her T.K only. And none of this really matters because next week is like ten times more exciting. SHARONA IS BACK!

Sharona was Monk's assistant for the first two and a half seasons, until she was abruptly replaced by Natalie. Personally she was my favorite of the two assistants, because she was a registered nurse for one, and because she was tougher on Monk. She didn't let him get away with his little eccentric natures and tried to help him get better. Natalie was always more passive and enabling to Monk. It will be great to have Sharona back, if only for one episode.

"Monk" is on USA Friday nights at 9 PM EST.

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Story by Chelsea Doyle
Starpulse contributing writer

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