When Adrian Monk is at his most vulnerable, he can be pitiful, selfish, heartbreaking, and vicious. He is also the sanest and most human, because his obsessive-compulsive traits are merely a footnote amongst the genuine fear and sorrow.

Take for example last Friday's "Monk" episode "Mr. Monk Gets Lotto Fever" when he is faced with the possible departure of his assistant Natalie. He sits with his new therapist and discusses how she will leave him, how everyone leaves him, reminding the audience of Sharona (a deeply missed presence for early "Monk" fans). Things are never simple for a complicated person like Monk, and he strikes out at Natalie before she can hurt him, which of course leads to the very thing he feared. Monk is more 'normal' than he thinks!

The episode starts with the murder of Marissa Kessler, the Lotto girl who picks the numbers on television. She is chased out of the studio late at night and stabbed before she can escape. At the crime scene, Monk is flattered by a request for an autograph, and Natalie is doubly flattered when the station manager asks her to replace Marissa for one show until they hire someone else. Monk is hesitant to give her permission off work, but Natalie manages to push him into it. Her nervous performance gains the approval of the city, and she gets hired full time, which upsets a jealous and wary Monk, and makes her a celebrity in San Francisco.

This leads Natalie to show diva-like qualities, and she gets a sound technician Billy Logan fired. Monk has the aforementioned conversation with his therapist about Natalie getting famous and his jealousy. He yells at her in front of a great deal of people and demands she choose between him and the lottery. She chooses the lottery, just as he feared. At the same time, it turns out that Billy is the murderer, as he hunts down a crazed lottery fan Malcolm O'Dwyer and kills him too.

Later on, Billy sneaks into Captain Stottelemeyer's locker (a long time lottery player) and place a ticket. Then when the Captain wins, a scandal erupts as it is proven to be fixed! Natalie and Stottlemeyer are accused of cheating so he would win, and the chosen balls are magnetized. It's a good thing they have Adrian Monk on their side, even despite his falling out with Natalie!

With his assistant back, Monk appears to be right with the world again. The truth is that Monk has suffered through a great deal of loss and loneliness over his life, so without the continued presence of Natalie, Stottlemeyer, Disher, and his therapist, he really would be a wreck. This episode echoed somewhat an earlier one when Sharona was still on the show, and she was considering leaving him to fix her marriage (which is eventually what happened). He suffered through jealousy and fear, but it was more openly portrayed than this episode, which seemed to lean more upon the jealous aspect and less on his insecurity. It served the show well to choose subtly this time around and to rely on Tony Shahloub to let Monk's less obvious emotions play under the surface.

Poor Stottlemeyer; he was so close to lottery retirement. As always the supporting cast strongly furthers their own character development. Disher sometimes comes off as too slapstick and silly, but he plays off so nicely from Stottlemeyer's weary wryness. Natalie gets a chance to be in the spotlight, and Traylor Howard plays her excited desperation well, along with how painful Monk's cruelty can be. It isn't easy being the sidekick all the time, or the "Garfunkel." Hector Elizondo's screen time was short this week, but he seems to be integrating well in with the rest of the cast.

Next week join Mr. Monk in the boxing ring! Feeling that he is out of shape and too old now, Monk despairs of ever joining the police force again. Can a case involving a returning boxer turn his spirits around? Find out Friday at 9 PM on USA!

Story by Chelsea 'Dee' Doyle
Starpulse contributing writer