This week, it’s a big Irish party with U2 as musical guest, but most importantly we’re getting Saoirse Ronan as a host, and guys … she’s having a YEAR. A critical darling for movies like Brooklyn and Atonement, Ronan is finally picking up serious steam for the widespread hit Lady Bird. And while doing all that, she’s teaching us how to pronounce words when they have three vowels in a row. A true saint among the Hollywood elite.
The monologue can be super rough in the hands of the wrong person. But falling back on what might be her only pitfall en route to award season, Saoirse tackles just how you say her name. She sings a song that helps sort out all those vowels, but Kate McKinnon shows up to say, “Honey, the song is not as helpful as you think it is.” It’s perfectly charming.
It’s a Christmas miracle! The cold open is a perfectly painful summation of what’s been going on this week in the news. The tax bill passed. Trump is retweeting anti-Muslim videos. Kellyanne Conway got so drunk at the Christmas party that she’s telling the truth! And while it’s always great to have Alec Baldwin around as Trump, the Christmas gift that keeps on giving is the rotating list of characters. He’s visited by ghosts of his past, as his past is catching up with him real hard: Beck Bennett as Putin, Mikey Day as Michael Flynn, Alex Moffat as Billy Bush, and the return of Kate McKinnon as Hillary Clinton. Also, big shoutout to the consistently underrated Cecily Strong as Melania Trump, who shined with quick jabs about Mother Pence not letting Mike play with dolls because “she’s afraid they will give him urges” and the FLOTUS decorating “with dead brown trees.”
Colin Jost hops right in by addressing the passing of that early Saturday morning tax plan and quipping that Trump may not be around long enough to sign it because this Michael Flynn situation is super bad. And naturally, the news pieces driving all this information forward are the Twitter accounts of Donald Trump, Fox News, and James Comey (shoutout to the Book of Amos, which never gets quoted). But in a quick explanation of the tax code, it’s Michael Che who steals the show with the line, “Of course, that money will eventually trickle down. From rich people to their kids, and then rich kids to their molly dealers at Coachella.”
And then, in a world laden with North Korea having the ability to nuke the U.S. and the president accusing a TV show host of murder (which is the punchline because this is our reality now), there’s a whole segment dedicated to those who have become This Week’s Sexual Predators. The segment features a shoutout to Ann Curry and her contentious relationship with fired Today cohost Matt Lauer: “On Wednesday, the Rockefeller Christmas tree was lit and so was Ann Curry.”
Kate McKinnon hops in as British Prime Minister Theresa May, and it’s absolutely wonderful because it dives into the hilarious dichotomy between taking down the president and the admirable decorum the British are known for. McKinnon’s May is hilariously muted, even though she sounded nothing like Theresa, but hey, if we get the line “The b— tagged the wrong Theresa May,” then it was worth it. We also get a return of the Duncans, the couple who are trying every sexual position in the Kama Sutra (played by Leslie Jones and Mikey Day).
Best Sketch: ‘Welcome to Hell’
In a Katy Perry-esque, candy-colored world, Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Saoirse Ronan front the music video “Welcome to Hell,” which illustrates that this whole slew of male predators is actually anything but a trend. It’s a REAL troubling issue, and it’s been going on for a while. Like … throughout all of history. And while our “heroes” may be getting ruined, the women of SNL kick back and forth on swings and clouds to explain that the problem is bigger than losing out on House of Cards.
The Slow Burn That’s Worth It: ‘The Race’
This is one of those weird skits that you’re either into or you’re not. But in this strange ’80s twist on an office drama, Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett play two rivals who are in constant competition to be the first to grab documents for their boss. Does it translate on paper? Absolutely not. It’s all about the aesthetics of big hair, office humor, faux-gremlin, and SPOILER: the surprise twist that Saoirse Ronan’s Lindsay is a ghost all along.
The Slow Burn That’s Maybe Not: ‘Late for Class’
Luke Null gets his moment as a classroom bully who comes in, hits on a girl, and then calls her a lesbian. He makes his rounds through the class being as disrespectful as he can, and it’s a lot to get through, but here’s the thing: It’s all for a reason. Null’s bully, Brody Chode, just wanted to come in and make a splash with the class, but it’s a lesson in being kind. Does it work? Maybe not. Does it serves as a great introduction to Luke Null? Sure, why not.
Aidy Bryant Appreciation Moment: ‘Return Counter’
This K-Mart customer service counter that places Mikey Day front and center is a departure from most SNL skits because it relies on (nearly ALL of) the cast being fast, funny, and smart with just a couple of lines. We get a couple fighting, a woman trying to go viral, and Kate McKinnon on a Hoveround, but it’s actually Aidy Bryant and her diarrhea bird that takes the cake. The change of pace is nice because it’s a testament of just how talented the cast is.
Worst Sketch: ‘Bachelor Auction’
This whole skit revolves around a bachelor named Chad, played by Pete Davidson. The thing is, Chad is awful. He vapes. He does bad dances and poor impressions, and it’s everything the women in the audience want. It turns into a series of rich women trying to outbid one another to take Chad home for the night, and once the bids get up to $1 million dollars, Kenan Thompson’s flamboyant character steps in and bids $10 million. Then John McEnroe comes along and no one wants to bid. Is it strange that it actually might be … John McEnroe who stole the show?
Best Use of Host’s Accent and Dogs: ‘Aer Lingus’
Usually by the time the show comes to an end, it’s like the weakest material is just getting thrown around, but “Aer Lingus” carries its weight. Focusing on a couple of Aer Lingus flight attendants, there’s not a lot of plot going on, but hey: It uses Saoirse Ronan’s gorgeous accent and a slew of dogs that apparently all belong to the captain. Also, there’s a lowbrow potato joke, and that’s all we can ask for.
Best of U2: ‘Get Out of Your Own Way’
Sure, their first performance of the night may have been flashier, but when Bono and company are left to simply sing a good song with that signature U2 beat that follows them around like a shadow, it’s a solid reminder of why the band has existed and thrived as long as it has. And for this Irish showdown, there’s not much they could have done wrong.
MVP: Cecily Strong
It’s easy to fall to the wayside with Kate McKinnon’s big characters and an ever-growing cast that focuses so heavily on politics, but Cecily Strong is a true Saturday Night Live anchor. She played perfectly alongside Ronan on “Aer Lingus,” gave us a hilariously punchy Melania Trump in the cold open, and offered up a good laugh in every skit she was a part of. And she nearly broke character in “Aer Lingus,” which is always a delight to watch because she’s usually one of the most composed.