Welcome to our post-mortem on this weekend's episode of NBC's Saturday Night Live, with Jonathan Majors (Loki, Lovecraft Country) hosting and Taylor Swift offering some seriously strong musical support. While not quite the vibe of last week, this week's run was still definitely worth staying up for with a line-up that had no real misses, a couple of head-scratchers, a few stumbles, some that came close to making the cut, and some really righteous standouts. Starting off with the sketches or moments that didn't make the cut, Majors did a solid job with the monologue with the first-timer nerves quickly giving way (though the segue from his personal story to launching the start of the night felt a bit forced). "Audacity in Advertising" had some hard-hitting takes but Majors' Jake from State Farm and Heidi Gardner's Flo from Progressive imitations were too weak to make it work.
"March of the Suitors" came close to making the list, with Chloe Fineman spot-on as the Queen (and bonus points for Aidy Bryant's reaction to the simple yet well-endowed suitor). "Strange Kids Tales" with Majors and Kenan Thompson had us with, "You're watching the SYFY channel. Why?" and Thompson proving once again how he might be the best Saturday Night Live cast member going when it comes to facial reactions. "Broadway Benefit" gets the prize for being a truly beautiful disaster. I never bought into the sketch's premise, but you have to love & respect the work Majors, Bowen Yang, and Cecily Strong put into that performance. "Pastor Announcement" was another fun one that came close to making our list, with Ego Nwodim's Pastor's Wife keeping it all together & making it work. "Pet Store Ad" with Majors, Thompson, Nwodim (we had to go back & watch again to make sure they weren't lying to us), and Chris Redd suffered from excellent performances weighed down by a sketch premise that feels like it was done before and a three-minute runtime that felt twice as long. So with that out of the way, let's take a look at what really, really worked for us last night:
"Ted Cruz Sesame Street Cold Open": Right off the bat, the premise of having Bryant's Ted Cruz hosting a version of "Sesame Street" for Newsmax Kids alone won us over. Bryant has Cruz down as well as anyone on SNL has impersonated a political figure before and was the perfect ringmaster for what was to come. From Strong's take on the dangerously vapid Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Dismukes' COVID conspiracy-spewing take on Big Bird to Bert & Ernie (Alex Moffat, Mikey Day) confirming their marriage status and Redd's Oscar the Slouch personifying every stereotype the right has about those who don't think like them, SNL didn't hold back right out of the gate (bonus points for sneaking in Fineman's Britney Spears to stay timely). Much of it worked and worked well, but even the moments that might not have been funny were still stinging enough in their message to work for the sketch. But the highlight for us (though he wasn't on the screen for long) was Pete Davidson's Joe Rogan offering "some Zinc, ayahuasca and horse medicine" in all of his jacked-up "bro glory."
"Man Park": Speaking of Davidson, he serves as the perfect focal point for a mock commercial for an outdoor part made exclusively for men who are in relationships who need to learn how to make friends with other men. But to be clear, this is a true ensemble piece that worked because everyone nailed their parts in ways that left viewers either laughing or cringing over the characters in the sketch who reminded them of folks in their lives (or themselves, we'll own it).
"Weekend Update": My favorite moments between co-anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che are when they've had a run of jokes that they find funny but the audience reacts with a mash-up of laughter, cringing & awkward silences. Because that's when they dig in their heels and just say, "f**k it." When Jost has to begin a joke headline with "three dead giraffes" after joking about how he's sure this will be the one that gets the crowd back? Perfect. And Sarah Sherman is now at the top of our "Must Watch" list with a segment that (if we're doing the comparison game) reminded us a lot of Bill Murray and Gilda Radner's breakout moments on SNL, those moments when they stopped themselves bare and presented themselves to the audience- love them or not. Take them for who they are. And Sherman is definitely someone we need to see more of (damn those fake news reads worked well). And Aristotle Athari's Laughingtosh 3000 had no right to work as well as it did, walking that fine line between creepy and funny (thankfully, we have Staten Island to help save the day). Here's hoping he gets upgraded for a return visit.
"Please Don't Destroy – Three Sad Virgins (ft. Taylor Swift)": First, Please Don't Destroy (Ben Marshall, John Higgins, Martin Herlihy) have been f**king killing it this season with their filmed sketches. What made this one work on an entirely different level is that it felt like a passing of the torch from Davidson to them, with Davidson having taken over as the Saturday Night Live video king from Andy Samberg and his crew years ago. Of course, no one ever said the trio weren't going to get a friendly roast from Davidson on his stomping grounds, the music video. While having Swift in the mix definitely wasn't a surprise considering she's a gamer like that, it did make the stings from the jokes that much sweeter.
"Taylor Swift: All Too Well (Live)": You don't have to be a Swift fan to appreciate not only the voice but the passion she brings to each of her live performances, and performing the ten-minute "All Too Well" is a helluva way to make a statement that (much like she's doing be re-recording her music) Swift is an artist who won't let anyone control her art- or her future.