The last three episodes of Saturday Night LIve have been big ones, thanks to the surprising election results, the much-anticipated hosting debut of Dave Chappelle, Kristen Wiig returning, and the always-game Emma Stone. This week was big for a whole different reason with wrestling superstar and nude scene-stealer John Cena serving as host.
Cena, who turned in hilarious performances in both Trainwreck and Sisters, flexed his comedic muscles throughout the episode, with such versatility that he could go from playing a football player… to playing a football player… to playing what Donald Trump imagines he looks like. The former WWE champion’s enthusiasm and charm couldn’t completely save the episode, which suffered from weak sketches, but was propped up by a solid Weekend Update and great run of shorts.
“To those of you who voted for Hillary, I’m a wrestler,” Cena joked upon introducing himself. If his saying he was a wrestler wasn’t enough of a hint, then the whole monologue was going to make sure we all knew his occupation. While Cena kept wanting to show off his (probably) beautiful voice with a song, he was constantly interrupted by wannabe challengers trying to take him down, whether it was Bobby Moynihan’s The Waddler or Leslie Jones, who clearly doesn’t need an alter ego. “Wrestling character?” she scoffed. “I’m Leslie Jones, bitch.” Eventually, Cena gave up on singing and gave the people want they really wanted — a glimpse at his biceps.
Best Use of an Iconic TV Character: Cold Open
Since the ending of Breaking Bad, fans of the beloved series have assumed that Walter White died in the last episode’s final moments. But apparently, the drug dealer/manufacturer/murderer has just been biding his time and waiting for the perfect opportunity to reappear. And that time is now… as Donald Trump’s new head of the DEA.
The episode kicks off with Jake Tapper (Beck Bennett) grilling Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon) over the president-elect’s recent selections for high-ranking positions in his administration. “They’re alt-good,” Conway says in defense. Then, in a shocking and delightful surprise, the newest person picked by Trump happens to be the man who knocks.
Bryan Cranston makes a crowd-pleasing cameo as White, who scored this plum role thanks to the recommendation of Steve Bannon. The high school teacher turned drug kingpin hasn’t met Trump, but he’s a big supporter of some of his ideas, especially building a wall on the Mexican border to keep out the competition. “You mean jobs?” asks Tapper. “Sure,” White smirks. He also is quite a fan of Trump’s popular slogan, albeit with a twist: “Make America cook again,” he says. “We want to fill this nation with red, white, and a whole lot of blue.”
Best Sketch: Dating Show
“Hook A Hunk” wins out for two reasons: the tremendous and constant use of puns and the unexpected ending. Michelle (Cecily Strong) is a dating show contestant who happens to fall in love with Ryan, the show’s host (Cena), instead of the guys that are there for her to pick from. While Michelle and Ryan’s instant connection is solid, the sketch’s hilarity comes from the hunks being ignored. “I love hot dogs, and if you were my girl, I’d relish you,” says Jared (Kyle Mooney), dropping just one of the sketch’s many cheesy — but amazing — lines. It turns out that I wasn’t the only one who loved the puns, as Jared and fellow competitor Dustin (Beck Bennett) begin to bond, eventually engaging in a hardcore makeout session, clearly deciding that they’d rather hook a hunk, too.
Best Political Moment: Through Donald’s Eyes
There was a lot of discussion about the future president in the episode, but he was nowhere to be seen… until we actually saw what he sees. In the best moment of the night, America gets the chance to see the world the way that Trump sees it, which includes reading The Failing New York Times and looking in the mirror and seeing Cena, but with more hair and gigantic hands. The sketch ends the only way it could, with Trump dancing with himself.
Weakest Sketch: Science Presentation
In a night of mediocre sketches, this stands out as the worst, relying solely on jock stereotypes and, for some reason, banana humor. Cena is committed and does his best to sell it, but nobody could save a line like, “I used to not like bananas because they looked like boys’ weiners.”
Best Short: Dyke & Fats Save Christmas
Les Dykawitz (McKinnon) and Chubbina Fatzarelli (Aidy Bryant) are back on the case! The TV cops make their long-awaited return in the latest escapades from the spoof of ’70s police shows. During the original “Dyke & Fats” sketch, things ended with the duo being offended by their captain calling them by their nicknames. Here, they are relieved when their new captain (Cena) uses their real names, only for him to then say they are “two damn fine cops… for broads.” These feisty partners aren’t having that. “We’re back to the women thing,” yells Dykawitz, while Fatzarelli screams, “We’re past it!”
Weekend Update Highlights
Trump isn’t even in office yet and he’s already providing enough material for Michael Che and Colin Jost that they barely have time to hit any other topics. This episode’s Weekend Update scored plenty of laughs, whether it was from commenting on Trump’s connection to Russia, his role on Celebrity Apprentice, or his Twitter habits. “We can’t trust him with secrets,” said Che. “This guy tweets everything that pops into his head. And he’s so petty and so vindictive, how long before he tweets out the president of China’s home phone number because he got a bad egg roll somewhere?”
This week, Trump was named TIME’s Person of The Year, which made it the perfect time to bring in last year’s winner, Angela Merkel (McKinnon). While she delivered many great lines, including “2016 has been a real Volkswagen,” the best was her definition of alt-right: “In America, you call it the alt-right,” she explained. “In Germany, we call it why grandpapa lives in Argentina now.”
Best Musical Moment: “My Church”
Maren Morris brought her soulful country to the SNL stage with tried-and-true single “My Church,” which just this week nabbed two Grammy nods.
Cast MVP: Kate McKinnon
She could probably get it every week by default, but she earns it here by scoring laughs as three very different characters: Kellyanne Conway (twice), Officer Les Dykawitz, and Angela Merkel.
Episode Grade: B-