Published Jan 21, 2018Jessica Chastain brought a disciplined actor's chops to a solid turn hosting an uneven Saturday Night Live, and Troye Sivan made his every moment on stage count. Here's everything that happened.
The cold open
Aidy Bryant played White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders holding a presser, and sarcastically alluded to the Women's March from earlier in the day, as well as the government shutdown. As these were each fresh developments, this quickly morphed into a sketch about the president's much-scrutinized medical update from earlier in the week, with Beck Bennett playing Dr. Ronny Jackson, lying about how ridiculously fit the president is. This was funny and notable for a meta bit where Pete Davidson played himself, sidelining the gathering by asking about the fiasco involving porn star Stormy Daniels.
Jessica Chastain joked about the Women's March in a way, with Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong backing her up for a rendition of "You Don't Own Me." The song was interrupted by various characters and cast members exemplifying shady or hypocritical aspects of the resistance, but it was all rather short and impactful.
A play on The Bachelor that SNL has attempted before, where most of the female cast and, in this case Chastain, try to ingratiate themselves to some vapid dude. It's never really worked before and here, it felt subdued and disconnected from any particular current situation. Unless the point was to show desperate women marching up to a powerful white man? Seemed like a weird day to stage this idea.
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air Gone Wrong
Wow, so what if the harmless, hummable story within the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air actually had a dark conclusion where the "couple of guys who were up to no good" were actually hardcore gangsters (one played by Method Man) who followed the Prince to Bel Air and changed his life forever? It's the kind of detail in the song you might hone in on if you were, say, high, and then let your true crime paranoia run wild. The premise was amusing, the execution was bleak, and the result was memorable.
A play on corporate forums designed to address social issues like bullying, Chastain played the eager host who gathered young people in-studio and online to discuss mistreatment and insults from their peers. But beyond some jabs at such gatherings and Beck Bennett's standing desk jokes, the primary premise here was that one of the teenagers, played by Mikey Day, looked and sounded a lot like Bart Simpson. It was a tad random but worked as an understated form of physical comedy.
What Even Matters Anymore?
A very funny premise, this fake game show wonders if anything the president says or does has any actual consequences. Chastain plays the frazzled, beleaguered host who can't handle the state of her country and puts her confused contestants through their paces, as they struggle to understand how the game works. The funny payoff arrives when Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong, and Kenan Thompson break character to soothe their host, Chastain, revealing that she constructed this whole sketch out of exasperation without much input from anyone else.
The young actor/singer showed up determined to make a big impression, and he sang and danced like he was feeling it all. Backed by the hypnotic R&B pulse of "My My My," he was a whirling dervish, slinky and animated, singing the verses in a husky, sexy voice before letting himself and the song go for the choruses
For the notably lower key but no less captivating "The Good Side," Sivan occupied more of a Bon Iver or Sufjan Stevens mode, their respective influences becoming especially clear as the song blended acoustic folk with electronic and robotic flourishes for something rather contemporary and uplifting.
Colin Jost and Michael Che led things off with a litany of jokes about the government shutdown before getting to Stormy Daniels bits, which Che expressed disappointment about for its lack of kinkiness. They each traded jokes about Trump's physical and mental acuity, which was funny. Cecily Strong played Stormy Daniels, suggesting that she's the hero America, in its depressed state, deserves right now. Comedy writing and performance pair Alex Moffatt and Mikey Day played a bickering Prince William and Prince Harry, ostensibly to comment on the president cancelling his UK visit. But it took a long time to get there, and this was awkward. Kate McKinnon played special counsellor Robert Mueller, and she played him very cocky about the info he knows. It was a one note joke that lasted an agonizing three minutes.
A take on the news report that Amazon has settled on 20 cities to vie for a second corporate HQ, Kyle Mooney (whose increasing invisibility this season is worrisome) played CEO Jeff Bezos, entertaining pitches from reps from various cities. The only really notable aspects of this were Alex Moffatt's Casey Affleck underselling Boston and Mikey Day's Pitbull overselling Miami but, in the end, these had all the impact of tiny, little stunts.
Heidi Gardner and Chastain are women at a restaurant discussing a brain-strengthening app when their waiter, played by Mikey Day, approaches. Chaos ensues when he suggests they can each take advantage of a 2-for-1 taco offer, which they can't wrap their brains around, which worked well enough thanks to everyone's performances.
A remote piece set in a hospital, Chastain is a doctor lusting after a young patient. Unfortunately, her charge is Pete Davidson's agreeable, vacant teen, Chad, who's lost in his own immature mind. As such, her innuendos fly past him and his mumbled "okays," which, as always with Chad, is mildly amusing.
The bad director
This marked the return of Kenan Thompson's curious director, who attempts to "improve" dramatic scenes. Unfortunately, his acting tips all involve exaggerated slapstick reactions that he picked up while on the set of a single episode of The Jeffersons. Props to Chastain and Leslie Jones for behaving in such a bizarre manner and not breaking character once.