A bomb is detonated at a San Francisco power plant resulting in three deaths. Monk, Sharona, Capt. Stottlemeyer, and Lt. Disher are called in to investigate. They meet with the plant's attractive spokesperson, Michele Rivas, and the nerdy site engineer, Gene Edelson. It looks like an inside job until a note left behind at the crime scene leads the gang to 90s anti-military radical Winston Brenner. As they delve into Brenner's file, the investigation comes to a literal dead end: Brenner died in 1995.
The police believe there is a chance that Brenner might have faked his own death, so Monk and the gang track down his old college roommate, a former radical named Alby Drake. But at Drake is busy staging a protest of one against condominium developers by staying up in a tree. Drake refuses to cooperate with the investigation, then mysteriously turns up dead the next day.
Monk reviews the evidence at the crime scene and deduces that Winston Brenner is responsible for the death of Alby Drake. Winston Brenner is indeed alive and well and back to his old tricks.
Later that night, Monk goes to Sharona's to watch a taped version of a Willie Nelson special she had missed each time it aired because of the blackouts. As Monk and Sharona watch, they spot the familiar face of Gene Edelson, from the power plant, sitting in the audience. Monk has solved the case!
Monk concludes that "Gene Edelson" was the alias Winston Brenner had been using to avoid capture by the authorities. When Brenner was singled out by the cameras at the performance, he knew home viewers could recognize him and call the feds. So he blacked out the city to prevent the show from ever airing. He just couldn't prevent Adrian Monk from discovering the truth.