The Lead with Jake Tapper Cold Open
The Cold Open this week took another expected dig at president-elect Trump without featuring Alec Baldwin. Instead all the heavy lifting went to Kate McKinnon’s Kellyanne Conway as she attempted to answer questions about Trump’s dubious cabinet choices. That is until Trump’s choice to head the DEA was introduced: Breaking Bad‘s Walter White himself (Bryan Cranston in a brilliant cameo), giving us the new campaign slogan “Make American cook again.” It was short, to the point and very funny. A good start to the night.
John Cena Monologue
John Cena’s monologue felt like no one had any idea what to do with him as cast members constantly interrupted anything he tried to say. But it was still funny with Bobby Moynihan playing a wrestler calling himself The Waddler, Leslie Jones being Leslie Jones (although her entrance was hilarious), and Kenan with a folding chair. The best line from the entire monologue was when Cena introduced himself to the viewers who voted for Hillary: “I’m a wrestler.” Again, a short piece but still bringing the laughs.
Things slowed down a bit with the first proper segment, an MTV dating show called “Hook a Hunk” which featured Cena has the host decidedly hunkier than the three contestants. Of course the woman was immediately attracted to the host, leaving the three guys to uncomfortably continue to try to play the game. It was all rather tame until the sort of unexpected punchline that made the whole thing worth it.
The Karate Teen
The first pre-recorded bit of the night was a riff on The Karate Kid featuring Mikey Day as the teen facing off against his opponent, of course in the form of the massive Cena. There were some funny moments but the piece garnered huge laughs with a brilliant sight gag. It was almost let down, however, by not knowing when to end.
Three college student at Alabama are presenting their applied science projects. One, played by Cena, is on the football team and needs to be on the field for the big bowl game. But he won’t play unless he gets an A+ in all of his classes. The administration is not shy in showing their favoritism with the ridiculous science project given to that particular student: bananas. There were some funny moments, and Cena gave it his all playing the big oaf, so I’d say the show scored another win with this one.
Dyke & Fats Save Christmas
We’ve seen this riff on the female-led 80s cop show before. It could be seen as offensive considering the openly gay McKinnon plays “Dyke” (a shortened form of the character’s last name) and Aidy Bryant plays “Fats” (again, a short form of the last name), but as it was conceived by the two actresses, they get a pass. The pre-recorded piece was very short, featured a great montage of the two cops “saving Christmas” and had an okay punchline.
“Weekend Update” this week started off a little slow, but once they got rolling with the digs at Trump, the laughs just snowballed, capped off by another appearance by McKinnon’s Angela Merkel. The Merkel character usually just appears but doesn’t comment much on current events, but this time it was all about Trump and the alt-right, or as she called it, “why grandpapa lives in Argentina now,” a sharp dig at the movement many compare to Nazis. The whole segment rolled along with more laughs than groaners, then it ground to a complete stop with Cecily Strong’s unintelligible Cathy Ann, the women who yells outside of Michael Che’s window all night. Her best moment came when she too talked about Trump and pointed directly at the camera and said, “I know you’re watching.” After a few weeks of so-so jokes, Jostm Che and company almost hit this one out of the park.
Where’d Your Money Go?
The return of the game show where all the answers are “no” featured Cena as football player Rob Gronkowski, a completely unrecognizable Alex Moffat as UFC champ Conor McGregor and Bobby Moynihan as golfer John Daly. The segment poked fun at the excessive spending of sports figures who can’t say no to any scenario. Cena did a good job with Gronk’s party boy persona, but Moffat really stood out, having the best banter with host Charles Barkley (Thompson). At one point, the audience was practically stunned into silence when Barkley told McGregor he should invest in an IRA with McGregor’s comeback line, “I’ve been in the IRA since Protestants moved into my neighborhood,” also garnering a priceless reaction from Kenan, perhaps reacting to the audience’s reaction. This sketch was completely owned by Moffat.
Joanne & the Tree
And here’s where the show starts to fall apart. An office Christmas party gets out of hand when Joanne (Bryant) volunteers to put the angel on top of the tree … next to a window. You know from that moment she’s going out the window, and she took the tree with her, leaving her dangling on the ledge by her fingertips. But all anyone is concerned about is the tree. Some humorous sight gags with a green screen and a power drink, but overall this one was a dud.
Through Donald’s Eyes
Of course the Donald of the title is, again, Trump but not in the form of Baldwin, this time featuring a day in his life as seen through his own eyes with the punchline being how he sees himself. It was a bit of wicked satire not just poking fun at the ego-maniacal narcissism of the man, but jabbing him over and over again with a very, very sharp stick. Probably the most pointed political commentary SNL has done on Trump so far this season.
Another odd sketch featuring Bryant and Thompson as employees at a bookstore that only sells romance novels, and Cena as Bryant’s assistant (who she pays out of her own paycheck) Jean-George (say it with a French accent), a Fabio-lookalike straight off of the cover of one of those novels. The whole sketch was a bit puzzling as the two would step behind a bookcase and recite lines from a novel, making Thompson’s character and the various customers very uncomfortable in the front of the store. Probably the least successful sketch of the evening.
“United States of Talent” featured Day and Cena as two performers whose act involved an owl that was supposed to fly through rings, retrieve a piece of paper and put it in a tiny mailbox held by the lone judge played by Thompson. But the owl had previously been injured and was definitely not ready to perform again, if ever. The sketch really hinged on the gross-out effects of the owl, which of course had the audience howling, but aside from some good lines from Thompson the whole thing needed a bit more polish. And this was the only sketch this week to give Sasheer Zamata any screen time, and all she did was wave at the camera. Not the best way to end the night, but not the worst either.
Musical guest Maren Morris performed two songs, “My Church” and “80s Mercedes”, and could quite possibly have scored very big with viewers. I’m no country music fan, but Morris can definitely carry a tune and both songs were rather catchy, so from a performance angle she did a great job, and from an exposure angle, this could be a real star-making moment for the virtual newcomer who won Best New Artist at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards and was also named the 2016 CMA New Artist of the Year. No better place for a musician to get discovered than on SNL.
After last week’s satisfactory episode with Emma Stone, SNL hit a home run this week, using Cena to the best advantage. The host proves he is game for anything, and the writers obviously had a great time writing for him. With only one episode left before the holiday break, it will be interesting to see if they can keep the momentum rolling with host Casey Affleck on the Christmas show (an interesting choice since we usually see a familiar face or SNL alum hosting that episode).
What did you think of this week’s episode? Tell us in the comments below!