Alec Baldwin and Robert De Niro returned to bid farewell to the White House players for the summer, while we finally checked back in on our favorite "SNL" (fake) romance.
For many hosts, the show is all about them -- for good or bad -- but others allow the ensemble to carry the show. Paul has always been one of the funnier hosts, but it's his ability to blend into the show that helps the jokes and the cast carry as much of the humor as he does.
Alec Baldwin returned as Donald Trump for a musical cold open predicting four more years, and there's nothing Robert De Niro's Robert Mueller can do about it. It was nice seeing our favorite White House players again, including Alex Moffat and Mikey Day as Eric and Don Jr.
And we were thrilled to see the cast skewer the women of "The View" yet again. As this is only the second time they've done it since giving Leslie Jones the Whoopi Goldberg impression -- and every one of the ladies is so solid in their impressions -- we can't help but be a little mad that it took them this long to figure out they had this gold mine.
But the biggest highlight for us personally was the return to our favorite little storyline of the show: the unlikely romantic relationship that blossomed between Leslie Jones and Kyle Mooney. Sure, it was ridiculous and totally fake, but we're still shipping them.
As usual, we're ranking all the sketches from worst to first, including the Cold Open, the regular "Weekend Update" segments and any sketches that were cut for time but made their way online. 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: Paul Rudd
Paul Rudd framed this like a Best Man's speech, figuring a good monologue was funny and heartfelt. So he reminisced about his history with "SNL." It was 2008 when he first hosted and "I hadn't done a Marvel movie yet, so I was still treating people pretty well." It was pretty tame overall, though, with Paul making up a story about running into Lorne Michaels in 1975 when he was 30. Nothing spectacular, but at least it wasn't bad; it was just kind of there.
What happens when you summon a demon and then she won't go away when you've moved on? Melissa Villasenor was the sad and lonely demon who didn't want to leave after the other girls -- as teens -- summoned her. "I like pizza," she said hopefully. Paul Rudd was the dad who forced the girls to be nice to the goth kid, but mostly it was a good showcase for Melissa in a new character she committed to fully.
COLD OPEN: Don't Stop Trump Now
As expected, Alec Baldwin came back for one final appearance as Donald Trump this season, flanked by the usual White House flunkies. This time it was for a rousing and energetic performance of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now." Except for when Eric (Alex Moffatt) and Don Jr. (Mikey Day) stepped in. Then, Eric sang the intro to "The Muppet Show," and if you don't think that's another statement about this motley crew, then you've not been watching this show. It was a cute farewell for the season, if a little lacking in satire and bite. Plus, the sound quality wasn't as sharp as it could have been, leaving the lyrics a little muddled in places. Still, it was fun seeing everyone -- including Robert De Niro as Robert Mueller -- enjoying these characters again.
Chalk this one up for the weird category, with Paul Rudd as an old antique shop owner who recalls the lyrics to this classic tune about a ballerina who turned her life upside down after farting at a fancy party.This one had a fun twist ending after Kenan Thompson randomly dropped by with a gray beard and the music box broke. Plus, Kyle Mooney randomly trashing his own daughter was its own kind of silliness.
CUT FOR TIME: Retirement Party
If this hadn't have been cut, it would have definitely been the last sketch of the night, and it definitely fits the weirdness that usually falls there. Paul Rudd and Beck Bennett give a Devo-inspired tribute to an office party retiree. Beck was all in on this one, pushing it so far he was able to break Aidy Bryant and even the usually stoic Kenan Thompson as the retiree. He then broke himself over his own mention of the "Tintendo," which is always funny to see.
A Kate McKinnon classic where she tries to come up with as many rhyming phrases for her nether regions, without repeating over the course of these bizarre abduction stories. Cecily Strong is always alongside with the amazing and beautiful story of her experience. "Little different for me," Kate would counter whatever Cecily and Paul Rudd went through with some horrific and graphically disturbing details. Even though it was expected, it was still hilarious when she used Paul as a prop to explain what she endured. Kudos to him for keeping a straight face through the assault.
What's Wrong with This Picture?
Game show sketches are always good for a laugh, and Kenan emcees them better than anyone on this cast right now. "Well that made me angry," he said calmly after a round of idiocy with the contestants unable to identify what's missing. They took it way too far with esoteric, perverted and downright stupid answers. It didn't have the sharpest ending, but was worth it for their terrible guesses.
Leslie Jones was back helming this brilliant satire of "The View" as Whoopi Goldberg, and we can't help but wonder what took them so long to figure out they had this down. Cecily Strong's Abby Huntsman is adorably needy and Kate McKinnon's Joy Behar could care less. Melissa Villasenor's Ana Navarro is a bit too broad -- she hasn't settled into it yet -- while Aidy Bryant's Meghan McCain is so upset over everything. Not as sharp as the first time, but we still want to see more parodies of this in the coming season.
"Game of Thrones" Rap
Okay, mad props to Pete Davidson and company for this hilarious rap that starts out about "Thrones" before Kenan Thompson calls out Pete (with an assist from Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson) for knowing nothing about the show. So he switches it into a tribute of Netflix' "Grace and Frankie." Even better, they got Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in for a quick Pete-tastic tribute. The best part, though, was just how well they knew the plot of the series across five seasons.
Leslie & Kyle
One of the funniest recurring elements that dropped off this season was the fake romance between Leslie Jones and Kyle Mooney. It was built hilariously and beautifully over several sketches and then sadly abandoned. That was even the setup to bring us right back into their ridiculously goofy chemistry. And then... enter Paul Rudd and we're still laughing at his reactions to everything he witnessed. Please, please don't abandon this through-line again, "SNL!"
The guys dug into Trump hoping we don't go to war with Iran and Alyssa Milano's proposed sex strike over the new anti-abortion laws, suggesting that Republican lawmakers aren't going to miss it because they're not getting "Alyssa Milano-level" sex anyway. They got a nice gasp from the audience by suggesting they would just spend more time in men's rooms.
Something tells us Colin Jost might not have been prepared for Cecily Strong's Judge Jeanine Piro spitting and then tossing her "alcohol" right into his face in shock at Trump possibly testifying before Congress. "I'm glad your drink is gone," he said before presenting his next point, only to have Michael Che offer her an extra one. It was ridiculous physical comedy and it worked perfectly.
This segment where Che and Jost make the other read jokes they've not seen before never ends well for Jost, as Che really gives him some radically off-color material. "The idea Michael isn't to try to sabotage each other, it's just to give each other fun jokes," Colin said. "Uh-huh," Michael agreed sheepishly. After reading a few of them, Colin said, "You're gonna get me murdered." But at least this time, he gave almost as good as he got.
Leslie Jones came out to be the voice of reason (outrage) after Alabama's restrictive abortion ban, and she did so wearing "Handmaid's Tale" garb. "This looks like the mug shots of everyone arrested at a massage parlor," Leslie said of the 25 white men who voted in this bill. It was funny and impassioned and righteously angry and she even got to yell at Colin, which is a real win.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
So far, we haven't heard that any in the cast are leaving. Given that recent seasons have seen grand farewells, does that mean we might get a full return of the repertory cast as we did last season? Kenan Thompson has already suggested he'll be back for a record-setting 17th season.
The next longest-tenured players are Kate McKinnon in her 8th year, with Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant right behind her in their 7th seasons. Will all three women return? Kate's movie career continues to grow while Aidy recently launched her own show, but we've seen cast-members juggle both before.
This finale didn't appear to serve as a swan song to any particular cast-member. Kate reprised her trashy abductee character, while Aidy didn't have any breakout moments at all. Kenan continued doing what he does, and the rest of the load was pretty balanced.
This week, though, we have to declare a tie. Leslie Jones cracked us up in her "Update" appearance, as well as our favorite romantic coupling with Kyle Mooney and again as Whoopi, but no one made us laugh harder than Cecily Strong.
Cecily slayed again as Judge Jeanine Piro, brought a daft charm to Abby Huntsman and carried that cold open with her singing voice. But mostly it's because of Judge Jeanine soaking Colin Jost over and over again that she jumped into a tie with Leslie.
"Saturday Night Live" returns for a groundbreaking Season 45 this fall.
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