I had wondered how many of Kristen Wiig's old characters she would reprise on this, her triumphant return to the show, this time as host. After all, she had been such a workhorse for the show for so many years that many (perhaps most?) of her recurring characters had worn out their welcome. She'd already retired Penelope, and there was something of a villager riot over Gilly. It couldn't help but feel like a letdown when this episode featured almost entirely rehashed classic characters. They couldn't have even thrown us a bone and reprised something relatively fresh like Super Showcase? I think we've all been on pins and needles wondering how Vonda survived her backstage decapitating.
On-Air Nap of the Week
Second straight week that the show has gone with the "current events grab bag" option for the cold open. This time, it was back to the trusty C-SPAN template, where the events surrounding the Benghazi hearings, Jodi Arias, and Ariel Castro could be sent up. And by "sent up," I mean "given the most cursory attention in an attempt to wring any kind of recognition laughter from the audience." Really disappointing.
Torrid Kissing of the Week
It seemed like the low-effort theme was continued straight through the monologue, where a random Pointer Sisters song ended up as a focal point for your standard "tour of the backstage area" monologue (last seen in the Martin Short episode). Not that it didn't have its moments, from Kristen Wiig calling Vanessa Bayer "Will Ferrell" to discovering a REMARKABLY pregnant Maya Rudolph making out with Jonah Hill in a closet. I was particularly happy to see those two, since they each shared one of last season's best sketches with Kristen. Of course, the button on the segment was a cameo from Gilly, and your particular levels of rage when it comes to Gilly will dictate how you responded to that. (My opinion, as always: the tenor with which Will Forte — and only Will Forte — said "Gilly" was at least 60% of the worth of those sketches and nobody at SNL ever seemed to realize that.)
Kate McKinnon Takeover Report
The 1-800-FLOWERS Mother's Day ad was genuinely fantastic. So simple. Jokes about unbearable mothers are as old as Eve and Eve's mother, Meredith (ugh, Meredith), but when they're written and delivered well, innovation can wait. The delivery was taken care of by Kate McKinnon, who made the most of everything from checking for nuts in her Eggs Benedict to wondering what's the latest with that LeAnn Rimes girl. ("What a saga that is!")
Determined Textile of the Week
I honestly — perhaps naively — thought we'd seen the last of The Californians. Right? Wasn't there a sense that the show had moved on to different ways of letting Bill Hader and Fred Armisen crack each other up? Maybe Kristen ordered it up by special request? Here. She played "Brad the male gardener," very obviously Stuart's not-dead wife in a terrible disguise. And as expected, Hader, Armisen, and Wiig just flopped around trying to crack each other up while Vanessa Bayer's Quiet Dignity and Vanessa Bayer's Unfortunate Accent kept out of the way. But then ... oh, then we got Maya. And special featured performer The Strand of Wig Hair Stuck to Maya's Lip Gloss. That hair absolutely stole the show, I will not lie.
Funniest Joke of 2003 of the Week
Look, I don't care that J-horror was at its apex nearly a decade ago. The best joke in The Cabin in the Woods referenced it, and now this really excellent sketch did the same. Cecily Strong and Bobby Moynihan are great at playing heedless Disney Channel kids while Wiig is their mom who is also a Korean water ghost (in the style of The Grudge or The Ring). And really, any time you can do a "Korean ghost scampers across the ceiling" joke, I am yours.
Freak of the Week (Also Queer of the Year)
Continuing the theme of me not being mad just disappointed, I was honestly not expecting that there would be quite this many reprise sketches. I don't know why I thought that. (And yet: no Judy Grimes. No Two A-Holes. No Sue the Surprise-Ruiner.) Honestly, nothing makes me sadder than the Dooneese reprises, because the first one (Anne Hathaway, Amy Poehler, and Casey Wilson on backup, for all you trivia nerds) was the funniest thing I had seen in forever, and every time since it's just THE SAME JOKES AND THE SAME RHYTHMS EVERY TIME. You're cheapening a wonderful thing, SNL. Baby hands are not that elastic. That said, if I have to pick a favorite thing about this sketch, it that I'm glad Cecily got to join this esteemed sorority.
Shameful Truth of the Week
... I like Garth and Kat. I'm sorry! I just do. It's a recurring sketch that doesn't rely on how the same jokes are rewritten because the whole point is watching Armisen pretzel his sentences in an attempt to shake Wiig from his tail. It's a comedy of mood and not jokes, and that kind of thing is so much more repeatable. Up until Garth and Kat showed up, Weekend Update had been remarkably strong joke-wise and disappointingly bland guest-wise. Maybe it's just my bias against Secondhand News Guy Anthony Crispino. I know they can't all be Drunk Uncle, but still, Bobby Moynihan can do much better.
Shameful Truth of the Week, Part 2
I also like the Target Lady. Now, that should come with a caveat, because for me, it's Classic Peg or GTFO. But in the absence of Classic Peg, I will still take the grab bag of idiosyncrasies that Wiig brings to Target Lady every time. Like, "I better eat the other half of the almond." Or how happy she was at busting her stereotype of vest-wearing lesbians. I find her charming, even the nineteenth time around.
Secret Sequel to Kill Bill, Volume 1 of the Week
The runaway train sketch is often a favorite as the hour grows later, because as things escalate and just get crazier and less plausible and (as it was tonight) more disgusting, that punch-drunk sense of laughing at unrestrained stupidity is too infectious to pass up. And so we had the acupuncture sketch, featuring Wiig and a very in-her-element Aidy Bryant. My favorite Aidy is when she's panicking or trying very hard not to panic. Also? Not to get too textbook on this, but I thought the pinhole nature of the blood streams were the key to how funny things got. They were just such delicate little streams of water. Like in a koi pond made of blood. Bonus points for Fred Armisen's old-school luggage and hurriedly jumping out the window. (Way more Armisen this week than we've gotten on average all season. Maybe Wiig's return made him want to participate more.)
Soul Mates of the Week
By some deft trick of tone-setting, the sketch where Wiig and Cecily Strong engage in a boozy date with two sixth-grade boys managed to avoid cougar cliches while also keeping light on a potentially tricky subject. But, like, Wiig yelping "a Taurus!" after Moynihan's story about burping root beer after his recent birthday party was a perfect threading of that needle. Also? Props to Tim Robinson for actually stealing some laughs from two phenomenally funny women. He's headed in the right direction as his freshman season winds to a close.
Painful Truth of the Week
My favorite thing about whenever SNL goes after the Real Housewives is that the specificity of the sketches shows just how closely the SNL writers follow these shows. These were some spot-on recreations of songs in the style of LuAnn DeLesseps, Kenya Moore, Kim Zolciak, and way too many more. Super props and a big ouch to "If you're a gay man looking to bring something you can make fun of to a party ... " TOO CLOSE, SNL, TOO CLOSE.