Tonight, I'm watching Monk, and the episode I was dreading came on -- Sharona's return. I knew she would be back for one last episode before the series ended for good (I had read about that), and knew it was #9. It just kind of drove home the point that the show is going to come to an end. I mean, the episodes so far have had this undercurrent of finality to them so far, with more references to Monk's situation (when he's trapped with another patient, who is telling him, "You're out there! You're doing things while we're hiding away!") and Trudy (Monk visits her grave in tonight's episode). But Sharona's return is the PNR -- the point of no return. There's a couple more episodes, and then, the last ones where Monk learns the identity of the Judge and solves Trudy's murder.
It makes me a little apprehensive because I'm worried about what will happen to Monk. I love Monk. Sure, I laugh at some of his excesses, but it's with sympathy. Whenever he gets hung up on his phobias, I react with "Poor Monk" instead of "What a loser". Monk has stated explicitly that he never expects to be truly happy ever again, and that the possibility of finding Trudy's murder is the one thing that gives him strength to carry on. Will solving Trudy's murder mean the end of his life? Just like how the Fool in King Lear vanishes in the second half of the play because he isn't needed anymore, just like how Rorscharch dies at the end of Watchmen because he doesn't belong in this new world that has materialized around him, I wonder if Monk, with Trudy's murder solved, will simply have no reason to continue, and he will join Trudy in whatever is on the other side of life. The other Monk fanatics I work with think I'm reading too much into it, Monk will be fine, and solving Trudy's murder will actually help him find some peace, get his OCD back under control, and start a new phase of his life. I really hope I'm wrong.
(I would also like to point out the remarkable job the writers, actors, and crew for the show do. Everyone reacts to Monk, hopes and fears for him, as a friend and a person, not simply a fictional character. Jim Rockford was the detective as Everyman. Columbo was the detective as Anyman. Monk is the detective as the audience. If conscience makes cowards of us all, our fears make prisoners to ourselves, and Monk drives that home better than anyone.)
On the bright side, however, tonight's episode reaffirmed a fundamental truth about the series for me. I HATE Sharona. I didn't like her in the beginning, I loved Natalie far more than her, and thankfully, despite some strange balancing of her motivations, she is still the annoying, superficial pain-in-the-ass that I was glad to see gone. Her anxiousness for the money may have been about sending Benji to college, but that's a strange thing at this point. Sharona was always shrewish and bitchy, even when Monk was looking out for her. Constantly after a husband to take care of her (that was the explanation for her character getting written out, she went back with him to New Jersey) and frequently contemptuous of Monk despite his track record (which was reaffirmed a couple of times tonight, once in her uncle's apartment, where you wonder what other conclusion to the arrangement of the pillows could have been made, and one from Randy talking with her), I never understood why she took the job in the first place or why she put up with Monk. When Monk first notices things in the picture that don't seem right, kicking off the episode's mystery, she is more interested in the cash (she doesn't mention Benji, just wanting the money). Although I thought Natalie was mishandled as well. When Sharona took a cheap shot at her family background, I was a little dismayed the usually strong Natalie starting sinking to her level. Then they talk and make up and it's like a Kodak commercial. Whatever.
So, it's back to just Monk and Natalie, and the end of the line is coming up. But thankfully, Sharona isn't there at the end. The episode reminded me of just why that's a good thing.