Coming home is a big part of the modern American tradition of Thanksgiving, so it’s apropos that self-described Turkey-head Kristen Wiig returned to Saturday Night Live on the eve of the holiday. The SNL all-timer (and five-time Emmy nominee for her seven seasons on the show) hosted once before, in 2013, when she resurrected sketches as Dooneese, Gilly, Target Lady, and Kat. It’s a reflection of her deep bench of characters that she could do another show with zero overlap.
Of course, Wiig could do an entire new show without leaning on her coterie of established cuckoos. She’s that talented a comedian. (Amazing that there was a Target sketch without her in it…) But even Springsteen has to play “Dancing in the Dark” sometimes — hence, a welcome homecoming for Secret Word ace Mindy Elise Grayson and the positively bursting Aunt Sue. But it was Wiig’s monologue that best reflected the divine ludicrousness of her SNL tenure: a post-truth Thanksgiving anthem about the history of the holiday that starred aliens, Santa’s Columbus-era harem, and a stoned Steve Martin.
Cold Open: “Donald Trump Prepares”
If last week’s SNL was one of borderline mourning, with Kate McKinnon’s piano solo lamenting the passing of Leonard Cohen and the outcome of the presidential election, this week’s welcomed back Alec Baldwin as President-elect Donald Trump and seemingly announced that the election result won’t neuter the show’s political voice. Baldwin’s Trump is now in over his head, because as this little Broadway musical of absolutely no relevance says: “Winning was easy, young man, governing’s harder.” Trump’s new reality is delivering on all the promises he made during the campaign, from secret plans to fight ISIS to bringing back all the fossil-fuel jobs to industrial America. Fortunately, he’s got Google, Siri, and his mantra (“Big beautiful boobs and buildings!”) at his disposal. All good, but would’ve welcomed more Jason Sudeikis as Mitt Romney than just an awkward handshake. Depending on the actual outcome of the Trump/Romney summit this weekend, perhaps SNL can reunite Sudeikis (who’s currently starring in the Dead Poets Society play) and Baldwin for some Odd Couple antics.
Best Sketch: “Secret Word”
Consider me a classicist. When I’m not watching “Secret Word” with Mindy Elise Grayson, I’m waiting to watch it. From oral exercises (“Tanya told the teacher that the preacher didn’t touch her”) to the “pink friend” clue for “FLORAL,” Mindy was in rare form. What made the bit top-notch? Cecily Strong’s slap-happy Italian actress.
Best Political Moment: “The Bubble”
Appalled progressive Americans, lend me your ears. Cash in your Bernie Bucks and come to The Bubble, where the Trump presidency is an alt-reality because they are shutting down those annoying sources of disagreement — kind of like your Twitter and Facebook feeds.
Best Political Moment, Part II: “Anderson Cooper 360”
The CNN talking heads almost seem to be programmed to react to the latest drip of Trump news. Get used to it.
Best Short: “Target Commercial”
No Target Lady, but the promise of “A Big Empty Parking Lot You Can Just Come Sit In For a Sec” to hide from the inevitable holiday conversations about the election is the best Black Friday ad of all. Yes, it plainly echoed “Your Hometown Tourism Ad,” but I still expect blue Play-Doh sales to skyrocket this season.
Weekend Update Highlights
Mocking Steve Bannon’s appearance didn’t seem like the strongest start to an Update with so many rich post-election targets, but as everyone knows, all missteps can be redeemed by a well-timed Lou Ferrigno joke. The Thanksgiving holiday and the election made a Drunk Uncle appearance seem inevitable, but Staten Island prodigal son Pete Davidson and irrepressible Willy took the segment in surprising directions.
Best Musical Moment: “On Hold”
The xx don’t exactly rage; they groove. They seem like a band Pete Davidson can get behind.
Cast MVP: Cecily Strong
Again. Overshadowed by McKinnon, but perhaps only because of Clinton, Strong has been the show’s secret weapon. After “Secret Word” and “QVC Audition” alongside Wiig, it’s easy to imagine the pair doing more together. I can only hope for a Kathy Lee/Hoda movie.
Episode Grade: B
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