Robert De Niro and Alec Baldwin help deliver the Mueller Report as “Saturday Night Live” takes aim at all the top stories over and over again.
Sandra Oh has proven herself an incredible actress over the years, and she’s even shown a bit of a comedic side, but she wasn’t having her best night on "Saturday Night Live" this week.
The "Killing Eve" star didn’t even plug her own show in the monologue, instead kind of fumbling through a nicely written piece about humility and confidence.
She was flanked on the night by Alec Baldwin and Robert De Niro returning as Trump and Mueller, respectively, to deliver the Mueller Report’s devastating news to Trump’s opponents. Especially as filtered through Aidy Bryant’s William Barr.
Both Aidy and Kate went male again this week, and it’s a welcome development that we’re seeing more and more of. Men have been dressing up as women for comedy for centuries, so it’s nice to see the tables turned. If you’ve got the best take, your gender shouldn’t matter.
Overall, it was a very hit-or-miss night of "SNL," with some true standouts, as well as some disappointments. One sketch cut for time proved better than half of what made it to air.
Plus, you could totally tell "SNL" was itching to get back on the air because they came at Jussie Smollett, the Mueller Report and the college admissions scandal over and over againn.
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: Sandra Oh
Sandra Oh clearly wrote a clever and fun monologue about her struggles accepting compliments as an Asian-Canadian, but she really didn’t know how to deliver it. This was a fascinating dichotomy of sharp material delivered in an over-the-top manner like an amateur improv troupe just trying way too hard. Leslie Jones came out for an assist to help her own her self-confidence nee self-cockiness. It could have worked, it just kind of didn’t.
COLD OPEN: Mueller Report
"SNL" summed up the breakdown of the Mueller Report brilliantly with Robert De Niro’s Mueller turning in his 380-page report only to have Aidy Bryant’s William Barr prepare a nearly four page summary that Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump didn’t read, but Sean Hannity was a big fan. For some reason Kate McKinnon’s bat-like Rudy Giuliani dropped by, too, but that was probably just so she could do the character again. The fun was in seeing the different interpretations of Mueller’s conclusions, though Aidy lacked conviction and most of the jokes were just so-so, #FDRWithLegs notwithstanding.
Clearly disappointed to have been out of the news cycle, "SNL" again went in on Jussie Smollett, this time to talk the benefits of writing checks for all your nefarious deeds, or just to buy people off. They’re so much more dramatic, though nothing is as dramatic as the women whispering "Cheques!" into the camera throughout this piece. It even featured a helpful how-to on writing checks, because who really knows anymore.
Kate McKinnon turned 85 years old at work and for her birthday, wants everyone else to kiss each other for some reason. Kate loves playing older people, and she’s definitely hamming it up here trying to convince her coworkers to all kiss one another. After all, her friends have all died. And she’s dying tomorrow. Everyone else nailed their gentle surprise and resistance to her repeated suggestions. She even had a clipboard of ideas to take it to the next level. It was more weird than funny, but had its moments.
We thought this was going to be about Leslie Jones’ legendary blues pioneer, but it was about Kenan Thompson’s performer just never ending his song "Electric Shoes" on this fake clip from a ’60s British music show. And that was it. Sometimes that’s all you need to have a funny sketch, a simple premise and the full commitment of the cast, in this case Sandra Oh trying to keep it polite and Kenan overstaying his welcome.
Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon were the bad girl and bad boy of this SAT prep class and they were so very dramatic about it. But when Sandra Oh tries to stray from dramatics, Kyle Mooney manages to make a parabola a metaphor for a meteoric high school football career crashing back down to reality. This could be an episode of "Friday Night Lights!" But perhaps the funniest part was watching Pete Davidson on the edges of the screen absolutely failing to keep it together as everyone else waxed dramatic. It ended kind of abruptly, but still brought it.
In this commercial parody, Discover’s commercials about talking to a real person who’s just like you takes a twisted turn into a parody of Jordan Peele’s "Us." Ego Nwodim nailed her sinister alter ego on the other end of that customer service phone call, and delved deep into the mythology of the movie. We’d have loved it to go a little further into the weird movements but they nailed the language and who can be mad at bunnies?
CUT FOR TIME: College Admissions
Responding to the ongoing college admissions scam, this meeting at an elite university was to select the final candidates for the Class of 2023, making sure to focus on merit only … which they immediately abandoned in favor of celebrity and money. It was all pretty surface silly with Aidy Bryant showed up as the women’s crew coach with some choices of her own. Then, it took a twist with Sandra Oh targeting Asian stereotypes with the last candidate. It was a brutal takedown with a fun twist ending. A little long, but this should have stayed.
The third take on the Mueller Report of the night saw Colin Jost and Michael Che watching Trump’s excited Michigan speech, complete with Jr.’s awkward opening number. Che slipped in a timely Aunt Becky joke along the way, too.
Another great impression for the show, Cecily Strong killed the triumphant return as Judge Jeanine Pirro, angrier than ever and saying that she, too, was exonerated by the Mueller Report. What we didn’t expect was enthusiasm-based physical comedy, but we are here for it. And kudos to her for never breaking her faux rage.
Che dropped an Ike Turner joke about how it seems Apple is looking to control every aspect of our lives, and it makes you wonder sometimes how old they think their audience is. Good joke, but right demo? He even followed it up with a "Jagged Little Pill" joke. He was also having a little too much fun gauging audience reactions.
Aidy Bryant dropped by as astronaut Anne McClain, who didn’t get to go on the first-ever all-female spacewalk because NASA only had one spacesuit for a woman and thankfully she wasn’t bitter or angry at all. "I’m happy as hell!" she intoned. It’s such a stupid story and a who-didn’t-figure-this-out-until-the-last-moment? Story, her reaction probably sums up the real Anne’s pretty well. "And to all the little girls out there, I want to say you can all become astronauts … just not at the same time."
Trump not colluding with Russia looked almost as bad for Beck Bennett’s Putin as Mikey Day’s attempt at a Russian accent. Hilariously, Putin reveals he can’t figure out why Trump likes him so much since he hates America and wants to destroy it. A clever twist on the Muller report conclusion brought to new levels of sadness for Putin as his own men, and even Kim Jong-un, begin to question if he’s really all that scary. Plus, any chance to see Beck flex this character is always a good time, and we’ve never seen the desperate scrambling side of it before. In the absence of a male Asian cast-member, writer Bowen Yang killed it as the North Korean leader, speaking only sarcastic Korean. Audition by fire, perhaps?
Jussie Smollett Meeting
Fighting for his job on "Empire," Chris Redd’s Jussie Smollett "accidentally" brought along a bag of clues to his latest victimhood. "Look guys, the killer … he left me a bunch of clues," he said insincerely. Clearly, "SNL" has chosen a horse in this race and it is not believing Jussie Smollett. Chris was having way too much fun with his take on Jussie, but Kenan Thompson’s Lee Daniels was a thing of subtle beauty. And honestly, it’s a pretty accurate assessment of the doubt that will follow Jussie into every claim now.
Mikey Day communicates with his future self, played by Alex Moffat, and discovers he’ll be dating a 40-something Sandra Oh drinking Four Loko’s at 10 am in what was supposed to be an inspiring look forward, but turned into a horror show. Sandra painted a pretty disturbing picture of a crazy girlfriend, and the high concept of this piece was pretty smart. Even the ending, which should have been obvious, brought it together nicely. But mostly it was fun watching Sandra cut loose with that "gugu."
The absolute absurdity of this sketch was every bit of its brilliance. Pete Davidson and Beck Bennett are two terrible shots dueling over Sandra Oh’s affection, while Kenan Thompson wanted to wrestle it out nude for some reason, and Melissa Villasenor was just trying not to get shot. Every moment was an escalation in sheer lunacy and everyone played it so earnestly it worked beautifully.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Kate McKinnon went male twice on the night and hammed it up as an 85-year-old hornball, while Beck Bennett was on fire as Putin and a gun-wielding idiot in love and Aidy Bryant brought heart to a hapless student and left-out astronaut, while she left us underwhelmed as William Barr.
Cecily Strong stole the night as Jeanine Pirro, Ego Nwodim slayed as a twisted copy of herself and Chris Redd’s Jussie Smollett was perfection, but one great performance just isn’t going to cut it. Meanwhile, Kenan Thompson was everywhere, but nothing really jumped out and grabbed us.
The night was so balanced across the cast, it proved one of the hardest nights yet to pick a clear winner, but we’re going to give the edge to Aidy Bryant who made us laugh as she cried astronaut tears and brought the drama in class. We’ll even forgive her uninspired William Barr to open the night. Call it a redemption win!
"Saturday Night Live" airs Saturdays at 11:30 p.m .ET on NBC.
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