A totally solid 17th hosting turn for Alec Baldwin that also enabled Ed Sheeran to show off his club and mainstream radio viability, this was an enjoyable and pretty airtight show. Here's everything that happened.
The Cold Open
After making headlines for the portrayal last episode, Melissa McCarthy returned to play White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer and somehow topped last week's ludicrous performance. At this press briefing, there were plenty of digs at the Trump administration's various gaffes and offences over the past seven days (court rulings against them, extreme vetting, Nordstrom, etc.) and the jokes were good despite being so on the nose with our new reality. Because leaks emerged about how Trump was particularly upset that Spicer is being portrayed by a woman, his deplorable new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, was made out to be a racist fool by Kate McKinnon, which was such an obvious jab, the studio audience roared its approval at the casting choice alone. After a reporter played by Cecily Strong was physically and sexually assaulted by Spicer with a leaf blower and the uneasy crowd lost its shit when the roving, lion tamer chair podium gag from last week was escalated — McCarthy's Spicer whizzed around on the thing like it was a Segway, mowing down reporters in his path. This was all very inspired and insane.
Hosting for a record 17th time, Alec Baldwin was the subject of a highlight reel and roast by young stoner Pete Davidson. No matter how fondly Baldwin looked back upon an old photo or clip from his three decades of hosting SNL, Davidson would counter by critiquing his aging appearance. It was all in good fun, and Baldwin countered in his own right, hilariously capturing Davidson's physical resemblance as, "Steve Buscemi's lesbian sister." All in all, it was a funny way to undercut Baldwin's achievement.
Russell Stover Celebrates Black History Month
Combining Valentine's Day and Black History Month celebrations in one handy heart-shaped box, this faux ad imagined what it might be like for some well-meaning white men to offer their black loves a romantic ode to historic figures. By munching on tiny, chocolate busts of their heads. "Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Cream?" Leslie Jones mutters, stunned by this flavour. This could be a recurring ad in SNL Februarys to come.
Cheetos ad pitch meeting
Another solid, incisive, topical sketch. Riffing on the devastatingly earnest and politicized commercials for things like Coca-Cola and Air BnB that ran during the Super Bowl, this bit imagined two competing ad agencies presenting pitches to Cheetos. One pair is goofy and playful because, you know, it's trying to get people to just buy a bag of Cheetos. But the other pair is hyper overwrought, imagining all manner of hardships depicted in these spots before hard cutting to: "Cheetos." Yet another well-executed idea about our weird, weird times.
State of the Union with Jake Tapper
Wow. This remote was chilling. After signing off from his CNN show, Beck Bennett's Jake Tapper returns home to discover Kate McKinnon's Kellyanne Conway (who is always either a put-upon yet obedient Trump drone or an obviously cunning opportunist) in his apartment, wearing a slip and accosting him for banning her from his show for repeatedly lying and not really answering questions. This spin on Fatal Attraction finds Conway obsessing over making television appearances and threatening to kill Tapper if he doesn't acquiesce and let her back on his show. Filmed like a thriller, this was more disturbing than funny but was also very well done.
The first 'evergreen' sketch not connected to any news items was a good one about an army company featuring the son of a colonel. Played by Mikey Day and Alec Baldwin respectively, it was an easy thing about an otherwise hardass army man being incredibly soft and sentimental with his son. The performances here made this work.
With a bit of Sting and Gotye permeating his sound, Ed Sheeran sang "I'm in love with your body" over the hypnotic groove of "Love the Shape of You" that was just infectious enough to be more of a pop song than a club jam (but even for a hybrid, it was close). When he returned for "Castle on the Hill," he landed in more conventional U2-meets-Mumford and Sons territory, which was slick, anthemic, and ultimately less interesting than the earlier song he performed.
Colin Jost and Michael Che went to town on the week's news. Everything from "Confederate General Jeff Sessions" to a plea that a physically unfit Donald Trump should pace himself or quit the presidency so he can enjoy "the last two years of his life" was gold. Kate McKinnon played Senator Elizabeth Warren and came out auditing Jost and Che themselves, which was clever. Alex Moffat appeared for a desk piece as a Guy Who Just Bought a Boat, a douchebag who speaks in rich guy shorthand while subtly admitting he is compensating for his small penis. And then Leslie Jones and Mikey Day appeared as a couple that experimented with S&M after watching the new Fifty Shades of Grey movie, leaving Day's bandaged, beleaguered character half-destroyed. A strong WU overall.
The People's Court
Alec Baldwin finally appeared as Trump in a pretty hilarious rendering of the president taking his case against the three federal judges who ruled against his Muslim ban to The People's Court. Most amusing for Baldwin's hideous depiction of Trump's inner and outer ugliness, this thing had nice touches, such as Beck Bennett's always shirtless Vladimir Putin appearing as a character witness.
An ultrasound of Beyonce's womb reveals she has twin boys, played by Kenan Thompson and Tracy Morgan. A silly thing with a few good gags, including some about Destiny's Child that already made the rounds on twitter, this was just fun because Tracy Morgan was in it and was later made all the more poignant when he could barely hold back tears, embracing his old 30 Rock co-star Baldwin, during SNL's closing credits.
Leslie Wants to Play Trump
A good remote piece that imagined what it might be like if Leslie Jones ever decided that she might want to play Trump on SNL. A nice showcase for Jones, there was some interesting behind-the-scenes at Studio 8H stuff here, but the funniest thing was the nod to the recurring plot point about Jones and Kyle Mooney being horny lovers who screw a lot at work.
Woodbridge High School
You gotta end the show somehow so why not craft a sketch about a sit-up contest that is really just an excuse for a stupid fart joke? That's all this was. Nothing really to see here.
The Closing Credits