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Adrian Monk is still "the man" as this brilliant fourth season demonstrates. Not that his confidence in his crime-solving abilities isn't tested from time to time. In the fun season-opener, Monk finds himself upstaged by low-rent private eye Marty Eels (guest star Jason Alexander in a spinoff-worthy role). The very flappable Monk is further undone by Eels' seemingly uncanny ability to find clues in the baffling case of a jewelry store robbery ("He's cheating," Monk protests in vain). This is something of a "threshold" season for Monk, to quote his psychiatrist, who is moved to openly weep when Monk uncharacteristically allows a glass to go uncoastered at one point. But his obsessive-compulsive disorders still get the best of him, as in one of the season's more clever episodes, "Mr. Monk Goes to the Office," in which Monk, going undercover, is blissfully in his element as an "office drone," doing the same tasks day in and day out. Just as he is accepted as one of the office gang, he alienates them by not participating in a bowling tournament (it must be the shoes). Tony Shalhoub, a two-time Emmy-winner for his nuanced performances as Monk, was nominated for his third Emmy for this season. One of his finest hours is "Mr. Monk and Mrs. Monk," in which it appears that his beloved late wife, Trudy, is not only still alive, but a suspect in a murder. This season also develops Monk's relationship with his new personal assistant, Natalie (Trayler Howard). In "Mr. Monk Gets Drunk," it's all about trust when Natalie initially doesn't believe Monk's implausible tale of a disappeared wine-country-inn guest Monk claims to have met the night before. Genius is pain, John Lennon once said, and this applies to Monk. His neurotic tendencies alienate him from the mainstream. In "Office," he so wants to be accepted that he writes conversational cue cards, and the solving of the crime doesn't compensate for him being a cubicle laughingstock. But as the series progresses, Monk is getting better, so much so, that Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) informs him that he is being put under contract retainer for "16 homicides a year." With a sly nod to the series' renewal, Stottlemeyer tells him they best take things "one year at a time." --Donald Liebenson