Despite a game and strong host in John Cena, this episode's quality was varied and full of odd premises that still generated some good jokes. Here's everything that happened.
The Cold Open
Beck Bennett played CNN's Jake Tapper, host of The Lead, whose guest is Kate McKinnon's subtly oversharing Trump advisor, Kellyanne Conway. The premise is that Tapper is scrutinizing some of the obvious conflicts of interest in Trump's cabinet picks when Conway tries to assuage his doubts by introducing their pick for head of the Drug Enforcement Agency. That's when Bryan Cranston made a cameo to reprise his Breaking Bad character, meth kingpin, Walter White. What followed were some inside jokes for Bad fans and some light mockery of Trump's ridiculous election victory.
John Cena suggested he might sing a song with a New York Santa, until the latter turned out to be a Roddy Piper-esque wrestler named the Waddler played amusingly by Bobby Moynihan. Leslie Jones played an amped-up and eventually aroused version of herself and Kenan Thompson riled Cena up enough for the wrestler to reveal his gigantic biceps in anger. Not a bad way of incorporating the host's livelihood into the show.
Hook a Hunk
A fake dating game goes awry when Cecily Strong's Michelle falls hard for the show's host, played by a strapping Cena. As the three would-be male dates try desperately to get Michelle's attention and play the game, it's clear that Strong and Cena's character are experiencing a lifetime of love in a matter of minutes. Bennett and Kyle Mooney don't let all of this get in the way of love though, in a telegraphed but somewhat funny way.
The Karate Teen
A Karate Kid spoof that imagines what might've happened had Mr. Miyagi's sage advice and go-for-broke strategy backfired. Mikey Day plays the student, Thompson is his sensei, and Cena is the gigantic opponent. As Day struggles in the match, he pulls out a Hail Mary move that fails so hard, Cena clobbers him with enough strength to propel him through five walls. And that was pretty much the whole point of this forgettable remote.
Applied Science 101-A
Cena plays a college football star with honour named Ray, who refuses to play on the team unless he can maintain an A+ grade point average. As it happens, students who build things like particle accelerators are judged by the same merits as an affable moron who gains praise for identifying the term for a peel. Not a disaster but not terribly funny.
Dyke & Fats Save Christmas
The return of McKinnon and Aidy Bryant's faux Chicago cop partners, named for notable characteristics of each, was a kind of a treat but it was over while that sensation was still being processed. A riff on '70s TV cop shows, the bit is basically just the title sequence, filled with silly sight gags and action highlights. Dyke and Fats actually engaged with Cena's police chief and things were okay until he made a somewhat sexist remark. Then this remote piece ended, just like that, as though it never really existed in the first place.
A young country music fan, Maren Morris seemed like she was auditioning for a Nashville talent contest. Over two songs, she conjured a thousand country clichés about the culture of the music itself, by singing a "we're going out tonight" jam after reverent lyrical nods to Hank Williams and Johnny Cash. This was all fluffed up "respect" designed to disguise rudimentary arrangements and ideas from a youth product being propped up by industry hacks somewhere.
Colin Jost and Michael Che each delivered a slew of great jokes, starting off with cutting lines about Donald Trump, Russia's infiltration of the U.S. election, Trump's unwillingness to attend intelligence briefings and also his insistence on maintaining his role as an executive producer of The Apprentice, while also serving as President of the United States. For joke writers, the current American news cycle is like shooting fish in a barrel.
Kate McKinnon, a favourite on update, reprised her lively impression of German Chancellor Angela Merkel processing a Trump world, while Cecily Strong's erratic character, a lady who screams outside of Che's window, misspoke and misunderstood the news in a dizzying display, calmed only for a knowing moment, calling out Trump for spending so much time watching SNL.
Where'd Your Money Go?
A game show making fun of pro athletes who are bad with money, Thompson and Cena salvaged this with their respective portrayals of Charles Barkley as host and football contestant Rob Gronkowski. The questions and answers were all expectedly, nonsensically absurd and landed laughs but it was really Cena's obliviously giddy Gronk and Thompson's put upon Sir Charles that gave this thing its energy.
Office Christmas Tree
Bryant plays Joanne from accounting and offers to place an angel atop an office Christmas tree only to fall out of the window of the company's skyscraper. Though her colleagues could easily haul her back inside, they are instead preoccupied with saving the tree, which Joanne is holding onto with one hand. Like other sketches tonight, there were a surprising number of laughs wrought from a rather thin premise.
Through Donald's Eyes
This was a relatively cool idea, satirizing Donald Trump's view of the world and himself, as shot from his perspective, roaming around his penthouse and office. Sort of surreal yet sharp, it took aim at all of his insecurities and "yes" people by implying that Trump's motivations might be linked to a filtered version of events. Of course, in his reflection, he is a man of John Cena's considerable strength, looks, and physique.
The Scorched Corset
Cena's studliness was well-used fodder already but never utilized quite like this. Thompson and Byrant work at an erotic bookstore and when customers come in asking for titles, Bryant summons Cena's Jean-George for assistance. Cena is done up like Fabio — a romance novel cover boy — and Bryant indulges him in sexy fantasies and role-playing. Bryant is inspired in her physicality here and Cena is game to play a self-aware man-toy in a hilarious manner. An episode highlight.
United States of Talent
Last of the night for good reason, this was a filler sketch about a talent show and a pair of contestants, the Klovok brothers who have an owl trick. Unfortunately, their owl was in an accident and, instead of performing as planned, it shits, pisses, and pukes all over them. A visual stunt mired by some script reading and directing miscues, this thing was an appropriate closer for a weirdly clunky episode.