Aubrey Plaza was a terrific, funny and fully engaged host, busting out a dynamic array of theatrical skills, while Sam Smith's two performances certainly left an impression on a cameo-heavy first Saturday Night Live of 2023. Here's everything that happened this week.
The Cold Open
The Fox football broadcast squad did their best to tamp down the furor over the NFL's barbaric violence and horrifying on-field injuries before welcoming a new correspondent. Bowen Yang played highly suspicious U.S. political figure George Santos, whose flurry of lies now included a celebrated football stat sheet. This was all mildly amusing.
Newly bottle blonde, Aubrey Plaza did her best to assert her normalcy and welcome her family from Delaware to the studio to see her fulfill a childhood dream. Plaza recalled her time as an NBC page and then gave us a personalized tour of studio 8H. The revealing walkthrough eventually led us to a cameo by Amy Poehler and also a trio from the set design crew. Heart warming and funny for the page-turned-host, this was good.
This bit riffed on the somewhat recent (like from three weeks ago) viral video of beauty pageant contestants screaming answers into microphones, including the maniacal representative from France. Judged by the actual Property Brothers and Tony Hawk, the latter of whom got some genuine laughs. This was pretty good, actually.
The Black Lotus
A funny satire of HBO's The White Lotus, this remote imagined what might happen if the hotel staff were all Black and incapable of suffering any foolishness, which was very amusing.
New neighbours, played by Plaza and Mikey Day, made an odd impression by revealing a lot about their true selves during game night. In every instance, they admitted to crimes and other morally reprehensible acts, which was outlandishly entertaining.
Molly Kearney and Plaza played Irish nuns, Sister Clarence and Sister Cecilia, respectively, who made morning announcements at a Catholic school. Andrew Dismukes turned up as a stage shy student who couldn't tell a joke, while Sister Cecilia had some kind of mental malfunction following an electrical charge she recently experienced in the bathtub. Climaxing with the performance of a Lady Gaga song, this was not good.
In a remote movie preview, Plaza and Chloe Fineman each played iterations of the popular movie figure M3GAN, who is purportedly also a gay icon that warrants a sequel. With a brief cameo by Allison Williams, this frenetic bit wasn't overtly funny.
Outfitted in a massive pink coat made from ruffled tulle, Sam Smith looked rather devilish, losing themselves to the pulsing beats of "Unholy," later revealing a huge surprise when Kim Petras emerged from the bottom of the coat to sing a verse. All sort of compellingly chaotic.
A professional choir wearing sparkly black hooded robes did most of the singing on "Gloria," while Smith mostly looked on, and the actual Sharon Stone laid atop an altar, eventually popping up with an alarmed look on her face. This was strange wtf performance that will surely spark debate in the coming days.
Colin Jost began update with some digs at George Santos and his bizarre litany of strange lies. Michael Che doubled down on the Santos jokes by also jabbing at Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Jost then accidentally welcomed George Santos to the desk, which oddly meant Bowen Yang reprised an impression he already performed earlier in the evening. This also meant that the jokes about him lying all the time returned, which was actually better at the desk than it was on a football field.
Che reported on China's declining population with two swift and good jokes, while Jost made a decent white-guy joke and, later, two good Kevin Spacey jabs. Plaza appeared as her Parks and Recreation character, April Ludgate, to encourage young people to get city jobs. Before long, Amy Poehler appeared as Leslie Knope and also take up her old spot as a Weekend Update anchor.
Playing Avatars, Mikey Day and fellow castmates dug into a sketch about being infiltrated by human moles. Plaza and Heidi Gardner played the humans and this meandering bit of cosplay failed to be funny or purposeful in any way.
Plaza played a director struggling to film an HIV medication commercial, when an actor named Jamal, played by Devon Walker, struggled to play a character who isn't straight. This was vaguely funny.
In this homage to film noir, Plaza and James Austin Johnson engaged in old-timey, clipped repartee before Sharon Stone appeared as the mother of Plaza, and things got more intense. This was a humorous enough exercise.