tv recaps

Saturday Night Live Recap: Reach Out and Touch Justin Bieber

Saturday Night Live

Justin Bieber
Season 38 Episode 13
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Saturday Night Live

Justin Bieber
Season 38 Episode 13
Editor’s Rating 4 stars

Like a beacon through the heaviest snowfall, Justin Bieber arrived at SNL looking to lead us through the storm with the radiant power of his soul-ish teen jams, the heat of his practiced sultry gaze, the shattering screams of his ever-present fans, and the kinetic energy of the fact that everybody in his presence is always touching him. Did you notice that? I tried not to. After the sketch in which he pulled up his shirt, I’d already called the police on all of us, so I was in hyper-vigilant mode.

Anyway. Bieber. Not an actor. He’s actually fairly suited to performing in a setting like this because his whole personality has been an elaborately constructed and built-in performance since he was a preteen, but still, he probably should wait a while before trying acting as a career move. He was pretty game, though, and his fans would cheer for basically anything he did, making for a hot crowd, adding up to a surprisingly decent episode.

Childhood Wish Fulfillment of the Week

The cold open about the Super Bowl blackout felt way more dated than the mere week it’s been since the lights when out in Louisiana. And it was hard not to get meta-snarky about Jason Sudekis (as Dan Marino) saying “I’m runnin’ on fumes, man” right at the beginning there. But the cast members — Sudekis, Kenan Thompson, Jay Pharoah, Tim Robinson — carried off the increasingly harried sportscasters as they found fewer and fewer substantive things to say about the game. By the time they got to Pharoah spouting, “Ray Lewis knows who killed those people because it was him,” the sketch was as much of a success as your average episode of 2 Broke Girls. Bonus: Taran Killam as sideline reporter Steve Tasker, marking the first player from the early-nineties Buffalo Bills teams to be portrayed on Saturday Night Live. If you had told a brokenhearted preteen me that one day, despite losing four straight Super Bowls, Steve Tasker would be portrayed on SNL and that I would be writing about it for New York magazine’s culture website, I would have been shocked, and also impressed that New York apparently had a magazine all for itself, and also what did you say about me being attracted to the man who was playing Steve Tasker?

Completely Sensible Cameo of the Week

I’m of several wildly divergent opinions about that monologue. I liked the idea of mixing up Valentine’s Day and Black History Month, in order to get to the heart of Bieber’s sensitive faux-badass persona. I was (probably overly) annoyed at the part where Biebs goes into the crowd to sweet-talk moon-eyed fans and ends up yelling at some GUY to sit the hell down. Yes, it’s just a joke, but behind that front row of uniformly blonde girls was a row of equally starstruck gay boys who got no love, and it made me sad for them. But whatever, then Whoopi Goldberg showed up for ABSOLUTELY NO REASON and made me forget about everything else. Bummed that this didn’t lead to a View sketch later on, but I survived.

Cecily Strong Takeover Update

Kind of a landmark week for Cecily Watch, as we may have found her first prominent limitation: She cannot do a Californian accent for shit. Not even the ridiculously exaggerated one that Bill Hader favors. In her defense, Fred Armisen seems to have forgotten what his Californian accent sounds like between the last time this sketch happened and last night, so it’s probably a tricky accent to nail. Anyway, by this point, the corpse of this sketch is being paraded around like an Eastern European funeral procession, serving merely as an excuse to get the entire cast onstage at the same time and let Bieber try a funny voice. We can see you reading those cue cards through your squinted eyes, Justin! You’re not fooling anyone!

Jason Sudekis Career Counseling of the Week

It was initially surprisingly that Sudekis was such a presence this week, after being relatively Biden-centric all season. Maybe he’s just a Bieber fan who wanted to be around more this week? But the sketch with the army of Bieber decoys offered a whole other explanation. After some funny bits about how the female Bieber decoys were the most accurate and how apparently “swaggy” is a word he says in real life, the sketch devolved into something of a roast of Justin Bieber, with Sudekis as the surprisingly cutting roastmaster. So, yeah, I got it. He’s auditioning to host one of those Friars Club deals. Pretty good career-planning, Jason. Pretty good. Also, bonus: Kate McKinnon as Ellen Alert! Kate McKinnon as Ellen Alert! (I guess there was too much singing in this one to clear rights for Hulu? I would die laughing if the second and a half of Ellen dancing to “Crazy in Love” is what did it.)

Jax from Vanderpump Rules Reference of the Week

First of all, don’t single out Jax by name, it’ll only go to his head. Second of all, in order, I would watch Moroccans of Mulholland Drive, hate-watch the show about Rod Stewart’s niece Danessa, bitch online about Somewhere Chauffer the Rainbow being Bad for the Gays, not watch A Coppola Coconuts until one day I realized all my friends were and then I’d catch up, not watch Real Houseplants of Beverly Hills but read Julie Klausner’s recaps, marathon The Count of Cabo over Easter weekend at my parents’ house, and live-GIF The Shitheads of Salzburg.

Cooler Head of the Week

Suuuper solid Weekend Update this week. The return of Two Best Friends was as welcome as the sight of my two actual best friends. Tying them to Richard III and his unearthed bones felt like they were stretching for a good excuse to bring the Friends back, but I get it. There are only so many tyrannical despots to go around. (Free tip: Joffrey Baratheon’s Two Best Friends later this spring.)

I also enjoyed Corey the One Black Guy in Every Commercial and his high-fiveing ways. “We all live in the one clean part of Brooklyn.” Indeed. But I thought Seth was the highlight of his own segment for once. Good Star Wars/Madea joke. Survived — if barely — the risky gambit that is making a disparaging Honey Boo Boo joke (seriously, people fucking lose their minds defending that little monster). And best of all, he offered a remarkably sage take on the Monopoly iron scandal, reminding all of us who might be outraged that the Internet’s sad cat obsession has claimed another victim that nobody buys new Monopoly games anymore. He’s right, you guys. Placards down. He’s right.

Copyright Non-Infringement of the Week

I appreciated “Say More Stuff, Say More Stuff …” as a way to do “Summer Lovin’” without paying to do “Summer Lovin’,” but oh MAN did that sketch take the long way to get to the joke about a high-school girl dating an 11-year-old.

Triumphant Return of the Week

IT’S MILEY, Y’ALL! I was so hoping that Bieber’s presence would herald a return of The Miley Cyrus Show. Particularly since when actual Miley was on the show, it was Bieber whom she portrayed. I’m so glad to see that an edgy new haircut and a mature almost-married life has not changed Miley’s motormouthed ways. Rather than have Bieber play a fellow teen pop star (Harry Styles was right there for the taking, people), he was instead shoved underneath an Annie wig and tasked with playing the president of Miley’s fan club. Justin tried and tried to play a convincing dork, but he just COULD NOT DO IT. His innate coolness is an impenetrable shell that not even Stella Adler herself could mold into something less. On the bright side, Justin did get to make a backhanded public statement about getting caught with weed (much like Miley did when she played Justin on this very sketch).

Sketch of the Night

By a country mile, my favorite sketch was the one that started off the least conspicuously. We’ve seen the “boy/girl brings boy/girlfriend home to meet his/her weird family” sketch a billion times before. This time it seemed to be that, plus Bieber. Good enough for a post-midnight sketch. Until Taran Killam took things over a cliff as the obnoxious older brother who just will NOT let go of Boyfriend Bieber accidentally saying “glice” (he wanted to say “glad” and “nice” at the same time — IT HAPPENS). Killam got louder, closer to Bieber’s angel face, and increasingly unhinged in his “messing” with his sister’s beau. I never thought I’d be making this comparison with this particular actor, but it felt like Killam was channeling Will Ferrell as he got into the crazier line readings (“SHOW ME YOUR SECRETS, BEAUTIFUL DRIFTER!”). A-plus commitment from all involved (even the visibly breaking Bieber).

Weirdness for Weirdness’s Sake Update

Not much to say about the sexy Valentine’s Day message from Bieber. Though I expect there to be a YouTube video that’s just twenty minutes of Biebs saying “Fondle butt? Rules are rules” any minute now. Bobby Moynihan as weird Gollum-like “Taco” was weird and Gollum-like, without much of a payoff. I did enjoy Bieber taking a selfie of his junk and sending it to Hillary Clinton, though.

Time-Killer of the Week

Oh, Booker T. Washington High. I don’t like you, and you don’t like me. Sorry, Jay Pharoah. I get it, but I don’t get it. We did get yet ANOTHER poorly rendered nerd character from Bieber (his kingdom to be released from his prison of cool for merely five minutes!). And Kenan Thompson stepped in to save the day with his line reading of, “this little white dwarf virgin and his horny-ass girlfriend …” Thank you, Kenan. Thank you.

SNL Recap: Reach Out and Touch Justin Bieber