Alec Baldwin's Trump calls on his friends to make him feel better, including Ben Stiller's Michael Cohen and Beck Bennett's Putin, but what is Fred Armisen's Suadi prince doing here?
Always the most nerve-wracking part of the night as there is no character to hide behind, Claire visibly relaxed and settled into the various roles she was given on one of the strongest shows of the season.
Honestly, other than the monologue itself, there wasn't a single sketch that bombed. And that includes the return of Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump and Ben Stiller as Michael Cohen, while Fred Armisen dropped in to portray the Saudi crown prince.
The Thanksgiving break must have served the cast well, as they came back sharp and funnier than ever, even when they were breaking from time to time by making each other laugh. Too much of that can be a problem, but in this case it just showed what a fun night everyone was having, and that proved infectious.
As usual, we're ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Cold Open and the regular "Weekend Update" segments. We'll skip the musical guests, because they're not usually funny - unless Ashlee Simpson shows up. We wrap up with a look at the cast-member who had the strongest week.
MONOLOGUE: Claire Foy
In the midst of Brexit, Claire Foy had to admit that she was glad to be in a country even more chaotic than Great Britain. A cute story about meeting Queen Elizabeth II three years before she portrayed her on "The Crown" just proved that there's an art to comedy and it's all about delivery and timing, as Claire had neither of them to drive home the punchline. It's possible to not be particularly funny and still host "SNL" successfully, the material just needs to be written for that, as Liev Schreiber proved.
Good Morning Goomah
Claire Foy and Kate McKinnon are mob mistresses doing a cable access morning show, but mostly bitching about the challenges of being the mistress but never the wife. Actually, the whole thing was kind of sad, as these women delude themselves that he'll come through for them. Props to Pete Davidson for a creepy drop in as one of the mobsters who treats these women like garbage. That said, we wouldn't want warm orange juice, either.
This holiday ad lampoons Netflix for its exorbitant spending on original programming, teasing that the streamer is just buying every pitch that comes their way, and even spinning off their own programming, like Claire Foy appearing in the high school years of QEII on "Saved by the Crown." But the real highlight was their dark take on "Family Matters" with Chris Redd as Urkel and Kenan Thompson as Mr. Winslow. The timing was a little off, coming on the heels of almost unprecedented cancellations by Netflix, but it was still pretty funny. There's just so much on there.
COLD OPEN: Trump in Argentina
Alec Baldwin returned as Donald Trump alongside Cecily Strong's Melania Trump, struggling to fall asleep. Kate McKinnon brought in a bat-like Rudy Giuliani, who keeps all his secrets where no one will find them: on nationally-televised interviews. Of course, Beck Bennett returned as his best bro (who's totally playing him) Vladimir Putin, cozying up to Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman (Fred Armisen). It looks like the honeymoon is over. Poor Donald was melancholy, which led to a more subdued take by Alec. The impression has always been caricature, but it had been pushing too far into the cartoonish. This was just perfect, with a beautifully rewritten "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" to wrap it up. That's how you poke at politics in a roundup fashion and still make it funny and entertaining.
All I Want for Christmas Is You
Probably for licensing reasons, this one isn't available online from NBC, but the ladies of "SNL" sang a tribute to the holidays ... which was really more a tribute to Robert Mueller and how tired they are of waiting for his report. It's been two years, they lament, detailing all the things they're sick of dealing with in the meantime. Not gonna lie, we're kind of with them on this one. Just get it out there and hopefully it'll live up to the hype and at least be interesting.
The War in Words
We've seen this bit before, but it's still funny to imagine a soldier writing beautifully eloquent letters home to his wife only to get terse and empty responses in exchange. Mikey Day played exasperation perfectly, while Claire Foy exuded indifference and then near-idiocy thinking he and the guys would be aroused by her childhood photo. The sketch took a turn towards brilliance with the inclusion of Kenan Thompson as the new man in her life with even more bizarre secrets about her proving that she does not know how to human, followed by a wicked twist.
Alex Moffat and Kate McKinney have such great chemistry as Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski in this recurring sketch, it almost doesn't matter what they talk about. This time, though, it was all about their wedding, which Willie Geist (Mikey Day) was not invited to. Melissa Villasenor took on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, but didn't have much to say yet as the character other than showcasing her confidence. But it was a fun take that they can dip into more and more if Ocasio-Cortez manages to stay in the spotlight. Claire Foy was well used as a BBC reporter they weren't even listening to. This was strong enough that had Alec Baldwin not been available for the cold open, this could have slid right in.
The best part of this "second Christmas" sketch was when Aidy Bryant rocked a parody of "Last Christmas" all about how some recently divorced dads try too hard and yet utterly fail to connect with their kids as fathers. It wouldn't be nearly as funny if it didn't ring of truth. This was an odd little sketch in that it wasn't the performances of anyone in particular who sold it, but rather solid writing. That said, Aidy Bryant was pretty great when she broke into song ... and that "mom" hairstyle was funny.
Girls & Cars (Web Exclusive)
Cut for time, this was another of those bizarre fake sitcoms from Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett. It almost defies description, it's so tone-deaf and awkward and bizarre. Just imagine the worst in children's live-action entertainment and then get the messages all wrong and add fire. So weird, but funny in its awkward and inappropriately placed sincerity.
There was no chocolate factory in sight, just Charlie and his four grandparents sharing one bed. Claire Foy stepped into Charlie's boots and played confused-but-curious very well. Last time we checked in on this foursome, Grandpa Joe (Pete Davidson) got chewed a new one for being able to walk. This time Grandpa George (Kyle Mooney) and Grandma Georgina (Aidy Bryant) made everyone uncomfortable by basically starting to have sex in the bed. Poor Charlie had no idea what was going on while Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine (Heidi Gardner) knew all too well, to their horror. The rocking of the bed only grew bigger with the laughs and we're not sure if we loved it or we're just horrified.
Right away, Colin Jost and Michael Che went in on Trump's proposed Moscow tower, while also tackling Paul Manafort in a very uncomfortable takedown, as well as Melania Trump's blood-red Christmas display. Surprisingly, Colin actually came to her defense over the display even as he compared the trees to the bloody teeth of a monster.
Leslie Jones lamenting about her sex life struggles in her 50s is funny, but when Colin tried to cheer her up by saying no one looks better in their 50s than her, and then Michael threw out some alternate suggestions, the whole bit became utterly hilarious. Leslie was completely unhinged, lunging at Michael as Colin tried to hold her back, and both sold it perfectly.
Do you know what 100 pounds of cocaine does, because Michael Che does and once you see it, you can't unsee it. And let's just say that when you're high on that much cocaine, you won't be able to close your eyes and you definitely won't miss a thing, even if you did want to!
Beck Bennett introduced a new character in Jules, an economist who sees things differently and boy is he every person you ever hated to talk to anywhere. It was funny in this context, but we were ready when Colin pushed him off the stage. And then, the boys wrapped it up with a sweet tribute to George H.W. Bush by showing when he responded to Dana Carvey's iconic impression.
Cecily Strong was brilliantly self-loathing as a woman who lost all of her tiny homemade precious heirlooms on her way to an appearance on HSN, enabled deeper into her self-loathing by Aidy Bryant as her awful mother, tearing her down at every opportunity. Their banter juxtaposed perfectly with Claire Foy and Kenan Thompson, trying desperately to keep things light and moving as the show's hosts.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Cecily Strong probably gave the single strongest sketch performance of the night as the HSN woman who lost everything she was going to sell, but we have to give the edge to Aidy Bryant for her strong work throughout the night, including as Cecily's terrible mother in that sketch.
Elsewhere, she was so trashy as a mob mistress, got frisky as one of Charlie's grandparents, and absolutely sold the ridiculous "Dad Christmas" sketch single-handedly. Add to that her role in the women's Mueller tribute and it was a great night for the veteran.
For the most part, almost everyone in the cast got a chance in the spotlight, except for newcomer Ego Nwodim, who had to settle for singing a verse with Heidi Gardner and a silent cameo as Laura Winslow. But that's normal for someone fresh-faced and she's probably in good shape as so many of the women in the cast are getting long in their "SNL" tenures.
Her time is coming and we've seen glimpses enough to tell us she should be just fine and so will we as Heidi and Melissa Villasenor are turning into fine performers as well, while Leslie Jones has become a solid sketch player. That said, they will need some fresh female blood sooner rather than later in this cast unless one of these ladies wants to pull a Kenan and hang around..
"Saturday Night Live" continues next week with host Jason Momoa and musical guest Mumford & Sons at 11:35 p.m. et on NBC.
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