Emma Stone is clearly a gifted comic actress, but she’s yet to find a role that shows the depth of her skills, humor-wise (except maybe arguably Superbad?) and this episode also falls short in finding ways to play to her strengths. Stone excels at the handful of throwaway characters she’s given (a spacey model, a sexy dancer, a music video babe, an understanding mom) but again – like when Kristen Wiig guested – we went in hoping for big risks from a strong host and came away wanting more.
Classroom Cold Open
Security briefings are probably the most exciting part of a president-elect’s preparation process, but apparently Donald Trump loves tweeting so much he’d rather dig through @replies from teens than learn the truth about space, as documented in this sketch in which a weary Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon) tries to keep the eternally distracted Trump (Alec Baldwin) on track. As agents Kenan Thompson and Alex Moffatt attempt to explain North Korea’s nuclear problem, Iran’s instability, and the difference between building a wall and draining a swamp, Trump turns to his #1 distraction tactic: doing weird shit on social media. It may be insane that he’s spending so much time not learning how to do his job, but at least the random citizens he’s been RT-ing –- like a high schooler (Pete Davidson), a proud racist (Kyle Mooney), and a wide-eyed creep (Bobby Moynihan) – are excited about it.
The sketch takes a couple of tepid jabs, but overall, SNL’s take on Trump – which was pretty soft to begin with – is becoming even more watered down in the weeks since the election. Sure, he’s totally fucking up, but he’s singing Britney Spears while he does it, so he’s can’t be a dangerous monster, right?? And McKinnon’s Conway has cooled down quite a bit, too; at the start of the season, she was all wild eyes and rambling, delusional responses, which was actually pretty accurate – but now, Conway’s become more of a tired but wise babysitter type, even showing remorse and regret about her role in all this. Sorry, but I’m not buying that. Anyways, eventually Steve Bannon walks in, and he’s literally just the angel of death, and LIVE, FROM NEW YORK…
An actress since her early teen years, Emma Stone more or less grew up on sets and stages, and so this third time at SNL is a sort of homecoming for our host. Stone takes us on a stroll through the 30 Rock halls / down memory lane, reminiscing about smoking pot with Thompson and having a fling with undeniable heartthrob Bobby Moynihan. She definitely doesn’t remember Leslie Jones and Kyle Mooney making out all over the place, but as we learned earlier this season, theirs is a love that cannot be tamed.
High School Theatre Show
With so much going on in the world, it’s important to step back and take a good, hard look at what’s really going on – and who better to open our eyes to The Truth than suburban white high school theatre students? Along with baffled parents Thompson and Bayer, we’re treated to another edition of Woodbridge High School’s student theatre showcase, a truly enlightening evening of politically charged performance that includes a surprising take on AIDs and plenty of tiny kisses.
The Christmas Candle
SNL’s female-led musical numbers have become some of the show’s strongest pieces (like this season’s “A Girl’s Halloween” and last year’s “First Got Horny 2 U”). They have at least one thing in common: each singles out and celebrates tiny, generally un-thought-of life truths in a way that inspires instant, intense delight – the kind of joy that comes from unexpectedly and deeply relating to something. In this case, “The Christmas Candle” lays down the rules for insincere gift-giving (a cheap candle or cheap lotion, but never both), and makes me personally feel better about having just moved across the country with a box half full of gifted Diptyque candles I’ve been holding onto for years just in case.
A struggling student gets a pep talk from the posters on his wall when he dozes off while doing his homework in this sketch that proves models don’t know math, and that Pete Davidson is the most fun person to watch fall apart.
When Davidson falls asleep wishing he didn’t need to know algebra, his (oddly huge) posters come to life to preach some More You Know moments – Mooney’s snowboarder uses math on the slopes, Thompson’s standup comic needs to count to hit his perfect timing, McKinnon’s video game assassin is literally made of numbers, and Stone’s high-voiced model just really wants to eat some hot dogs.
The Hunt For Hil
Hillary Clinton’s still in the spotlight, whether she wants to be or not – and it seems like she doesn’t want to, since she’s been spending so much time hiking in the woods near her NY home. But that hasn’t stopped tons of hikers from forcing her to take selfies, and since there have been so many Hil spottings in the wild recently, paranormal investigators Rafe DeGraw (Beck Bennett) and Coop Dixon (Mooney) are on her trail, interviewing housewives and setting up traps to try and catch a glimpse for themselves.
This weekend’s Update touches on the ridiculous concept of a “thank you tour,” Colin Jost explains NoDAPL with an extended Office Space metaphor, Michael Che shows why banning smoking in public housing is stupid and mean, and Leslie Jones stops by to offer some very legit sex advice to guys:
Actually, the advice is to be confident, which she means mostly in a dick-related sense but is a good guideline in general.
And, riding the wave of nostalgia sparked by last week’s Gilmore Girls drop, Rachel from Friends (Bayer) stops by to blink and stutter her way into an explanation of the show’s enduring legacy – until actual Jennifer Aniston shows up, to disagree with / affably play along with supporting Bayer’s whiny impression of her.
A bunch of officemates anxious to get home for the holidays get a last minute gift from their timid cleaning crew: a surprisingly racy performance of several original holiday tunes. Trapped first by politeness, then confusion, boss Bennett and co-workers Bayer, Moffatt, Davidson, and Sasheer Zamata watch as Jones, Stone, and Cecily Strong shimmy along to sexy songs about Santa.
Everyone’s favorite film legend, Debette Goldry (McKinnon), is back at the Paley Center to share some old Hollywood stories with contemporaries Jones, Stone, and Aniston. In a conversation about gender equality in film, Goldry (the first woman to jump into a swimming pool onscreen, apparently) teaches her peers the right way to use arsenic, and learns an exciting lesson herself – that women can direct now, too!
Wells For Boys
This Fisher Price commercial parody is easily one of the season’s best sketches, and certainly this episode’s brightest moment. Unmistakably the work of writer Julio Torres (along with Jeremy Beiler, as confirmed by Aidy Bryant on Twitter), the spot introduces an exciting new line of toys for untraditional kids: pastel plastic replicas of wells, “for sensitive boys to wish upon, confide in, and reflect by.” To demonstrate, the world’s most adorably pensive child stares into his well’s shallow black water, ignoring his father’s calls and his playful siblings; when he ventures back inside, he’d rather watch Y Tu Mama Tambien than go ride bikes. “Some kids like to play. Other just sort of wait for adulthood,” says the faux Fisher Price spokesperson, highlighting related items like a massive toy balcony (for making announcements) and a miniature shattered mirror (for contemplating). A beautifully, functionally bizarre sketch that’s a pitch perfect embodiment of the cheery darkness that characterized much of SNL’s early years.
The holiday story we’re used to hearing might be a bit embellished, it turns out, as we see the birth of Jesus from his mother Mary’s point of view. The ensuing celebration takes a totally different tone when you consider that those three wise men just showed up, unannounced, and assumed that manger would be big enough for company? And um, Mary is kind of tired? Honestly, how rude.