We gave it a C-
It’s been three weeks since the last episode of Saturday Night Live aired… or about 15 seasons of material provided by Donald Trump and his administration. Yet, the show turned in maybe its worst episode of the year, considering that the best part was not a sketch, short, or monologue, but Kate McKinnon mocking Kellyanne Conway and Couchgate throughout the night.
This is the problem when you rely on non-cast members for crucial roles such as Trump and Press Secretary Sean Spicer. After what has transpired over the last few weeks, it just can’t happen where Trump doesn’t appear, no matter how funny McKinnon is as Jeff Sessions or Mikey Day and Alex Moffat are as the Trump brothers. Alec Baldwin has been perfect as the president, but if like we expect, he can’t be available whenever needed, then it’s time for Lorne Michaels to look in-house or bring in someone new on a permanent basis.
Now, in more upbeat news, Oscar winner and downright loveable human being Octavia Spencer hosted for her first time, debuting with a delightful monologue. The actress scored with jokes about her long career of playing nurses and the inevitable Hidden Fences reference. “I get it, there were three black movies at the Oscars this year,” she said. “And that’s a lot for America.”
Best Sketch: “Jeff Sessions Gump Cold Open”
Am I allowed to pick the random shots of McKinnon kneeling? Because that was gold and so much better than a full sketch on the infamous photo would have been. Unfortunately, that says a lot about the strength of the episode’s sketches. By default, I think it’s the cold open, almost solely on the pure greatness of McKinnon.
Not sure anybody would have bet that SNL would return from a two-week hiatus with a Forrest Gump parody featuring McKinnon as Jeff Sessions, yet here we are. The range that McKinnon continues to show, going from Hillary Clinton to Conway to Sessions, is astounding. This time around, she plays the scrutinized Attorney General by adding a dash of Tom Hanks’ iconic character. “Life is like a box of chocolates: Sure are a whole lot of brown ones in there,” she said, referencing both the legendary Gump line and Sessions’ questionable history with civil rights.
While Baldwin and Melissa McCarthy weren’t on hand, the biggest non-McKinnon laugh in the opening sketch went to Beck Bennett for bringing back his shirtless Vladimir Putin for a quick gag.
Weakest Sketch: “The Chocolate Man”
Picking the weakest sketch for this episode is like asking me to pick my favorite Fast & Furious movie — there’s just so many to choose from. Every time I thought I had finally settled on one, they’d play “Mambo No. 5,” and I’d realize that any sketch featuring Lou Bega can’t be all bad. So instead, let’s go with whatever was happening with Bennett here. The other actors might have broke, but the audience was dead straight.
Best Political Moment: “Republican Movie Trailer”
While the cold open served as a rundown of the political moments from the week, this post-monologue short is what delivered the funniest and most important political message of the night. Basically daring someone in the Republican party to speak out against the president, “Republican Movie Trailer” forecasted what a hero that politician would become. As we wait for that person to emerge, the best and truest part was something we all already know: “It’s definitely not about Paul Ryan.”
Best Short: “Girl at a Bar”
Yikes, that somehow found a way to sadly ring true and be hilarious. As a man, I can’t imagine what an attractive woman sitting alone at a bar has to endure and if this is any indication, ugh. And don’t worry, I will not proceed to ask you on a date or any of the much more aggressive requests that occur here. In this strong short, Melissa (Cecily Strong) is waiting for a friend, only to be approached by a never-ending line of self-proclaimed male feminists who assume attending the Women’s March or supporting Hillary Clinton means that women owe them something. “Can I ask you a question since we both love Hillary?” asks Mikey Day’s character. “Would you want to look at my balls?” All that leads to the great kicker of her friend (Aidy Bryant) finally showing up and behaving the same way.
Weekend Update Highlights
Well, to no surprise, Michael Che and Colin Jost had much to say about the president’s busy week, whether it was about his congressional address or Twitter outbursts. “This guy’s train of thought is just baffling,” Che said of Trump’s recent tweets about Barack Obama and Arnold Schwarzenegger. “He’s like that crazy dude on the subway, yelling, ‘They’re tapping my phone. Schwarzenegger sucks. I can lick my own elbow.'” Despite taking plenty of shots at Trump, the duo saved their best one-liner for the vice president, tying Mike Pence’s recent email scandal with his troubling stance on LGBT rights. “Pence said he originally chose AOL because Hotmail was forbidden by his church,” cracked Jost, with the crowd needing a few seconds to realize the flawless punchline.
No Baldwin meant that we got more of Day and Moffat as Donald Jr. and Eric, which wasn’t as scary as it sounds. Day did most of the talking, while Moffat stole the show as Eric, occasionally jumping in with nonsensical comments or flat-out splendid physical comedy, notably with his determination to drink a Capri Sun. When he wasn’t talking about funny face pancakes or sunburns, he made perfect sense in his casual reveal about some illegal news regarding his father’s continued involvement in their company.
Best Musical Moment: “Pure Comedy”
Who is Father John Misty? That was the question I asked myself before this episode. Having literally never seen or heard the man, I can now definitively say that he sings about having virtual reality sex with Taylor Swift and that he’s my kind of dancer. I mean, look at the moves he makes in this performance. Move over, Elaine Benes!
Cast MVP: Kate McKinnon
Kind of a slow night for her and still, McKinnon takes home the honors. I almost gave MVP to Melissa Villaseñor just for her amazing McKinnon and Kristen Wiig impressions, but that just demonstrates the power of the show’s biggest star. McKinnon doesn’t need to be in every sketch, she only needs to play a 70-year-old white man and casually sit on her knees for a few seconds at a time.