Though Chris Pine hasn’t had a leading role in a comedy, his appearances in the Wet Hot American Summer series reboot, Funny or Die sketches, and other tidbits in films like Horrible Bosses 2 prove that he gives good high-status goof. Even his turns as Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek films show that he can endow the handsome man’s-man with a convincingly self-aware smirk and deliver the occasional punch line. This is Pine’s first time hosting Saturday Night Live, so there will surely be some Trekkie biz, but let’s hope the writers also stretch him into weirder realms like the creepy, tattooed dirtbag he played in Smokin’ Aces.
Morning Joe Cold Open
Backing away from real politics for a week, this cold open deals with one thing and one thing only: the announcement that MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski got engaged. While Joe (Alex Moffat) and Mika (Kate McKinnon) get fired up talking health care and Trump, they end up hot and bothered, just inches from one another. All of the other pundits and commentators are grossed out as Joe and Mika call each other cute nicknames and bite one another’s noses. It’s softer than much of the satire that has kicked off SNL since Trump took office, but it’s appealingly silly.
Chris Pine Monologue
In one of the season’s best opening monologues, Chris Pine tries to convince the audience that he’s not Chris Evans, Chris Pratt, or Chris Hemsworth — in song. While an enormous poster of the various Chrises is wheeled out, Pine does his best to delineate what differentiates him from his cohorts to the tune of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.” SNL cast members come out to help him, without much success. (“You’re all scruffy and squinty and jacked, in a sweet way,” Kate McKinnon tells him.) Yes, Pine did sing in Wet Hot and Into the Woods, but who knew he would be called on to prove his singing chops so quickly?
Where in the World Is Kellyanne Conway?
This 90-second game-show parody revolves around one solid joke, and it’s very much worth watching. Given SNL’s very careful dissections of Trump’s formerly ubiquitous adviser Kellyanne Conway, who ostensibly has an office in the White House but has been essentially off the radar for weeks, this is a nice follow-up. In this sketch, the famous kids’ game show about international criminal Carmen Sandiego becomes “Where in the World Is Kellyanne Conway?” and contestants must hunt down the suddenly absent counselor. It’s at once a jolt of nostalgia for former tween geography buffs and a flip side to SNL’s big Chicago parody that feels far away, despite the fact that it was just a few months ago.
World Peace Rap
Bald, leather-clad singer Slav D isn’t as tough as he looks. He sees the injustice of the world today, mourning long-dead (and a few living) rappers and talking about the world’s ills, in a foggy graveyard. Though he and his crew (a mumbling Kyle Mooney and wailing Chris Pine) understand there is “so much pain in the U.S.A.,” they can’t quite overcome a language barrier. And other problems, too: While Martin Luther King “did the march,” and has Slav D’s respect, Slav D can’t stay on message because of his overwhelming addiction to internet porn. What begins as a call to end violence becomes a much more personal plea to stop making porn. The whole exercise is delightfully weird, and toys with a broad accent and hazy cultural assumptions much like Andy Kaufman played with his “Foreign Man” character.
Two officers on a stakeout can’t give the “all clear” to take out a suspect until the noise at the neighbor’s apartment dies down. Inside that neighbor’s apartment is something neither of them can quite believe: two grown men (Pine and Mikey Day) dancing and eating cotton candy, joyfully and completely free of irony. No, it’s not a “fetish thing,” they say. It’s more of an “11-year-old, best friends at a sleepover” vibe. The party heats up as Leslie Jones shows up in a zoot suit, chomping on an enormous gummy bear, and the original target is all but forgotten. The officers stop wondering about machine guns and positions, and begin asking themselves, “When did I stop allowing myself to just cut loose?” It’s a question for all of us, really, and this silly sketch may have the answer.
In what appears to be a human-resources meeting, Liz (Aidy Bryant) and Nadine (Vanessa Bayer) call Michael (Pine) into their office to discuss something. No, he hasn’t done anything wrong — the ladies just want to sing the words to Brandy & Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” and force Michael to choose between them. Michael is more than a little confused, but he’s willing to entertain the ladies while they shimmy on top of the desk and ask him uncomfortable questions such as, “Who’s it going to be, a diabetic mother of two or a childless MILF with an eye for design?” Bryant and Bayer relish the inappropriate seduction and all its clueless dance moves, and the fun of it all really comes through.
Did you know The Real World is still being made? I had to look it up, but Beck Bennett and Kyle Mooney were clearly well aware of the fact. This slow, methodical dissection looks at the state of the original reality-TV show, in what might as well be its 600th season. The bros of The House encounter drama that’s almost impossible to believe: Adam (Pine) told Ryan (Bennett) he’d watch TV because he forgot that Alex (Mooney) was going to make margaritas for the two of them. How on Earth will they ever get out unscathed? Prepare yourself for lots of confessional addresses to the camera and true understanding between bros. The sketch is purposefully glacial, its tiniest moments blown up to billboard size, and the over-the-top awkwardness feeds to Mooney’s strengths in particular.
“President Trump started building his wall,” Colin Jost says at the top of Update, “a wall between millions of Americans and their health care.” This sums up much of the first half of the segment, as Jost and Michael Che talk about premiums, preexisting conditions, and why the new bill requires children’s wheelchairs to explode. There’s a great jab at the ad touting Trump’s first 100 days, and there are even nice jokes for the older crowd: “Even the AARP criticized the Republican bill, saying the rush changes make a bad bill even worse. It was the AARP’s most scathing indictment since, ‘Soup too hot.’” Vanessa Bayer shows up as Dawn Lazarus, a woman who won a contest to be Update’s new weather forecaster. Now that she’s on camera, she’s supremely nervous, spouting weird snatches of weather-ese (“Sunny skies will push it away, then clouds starting for Thursday.”) before just devolving into peppy but unintelligible verbiage (“Hap!”).
In the second half, Che and Jost talk racism in baseball and the U.S. at large. (“The White House celebrated Cinco de Mayo on Friday by giving away hundreds of free trips to Mexico,” Jost says, while his over-the-shoulder graphic changes to a horde of ICE officers.) Finally, Leslie Jones shows up to talk about her trip to Jamaica and, more specifically, why she is “no longer thirsty.” She met a man in Jamaica and they “did the do-not everywhere,” including a nice spot in the cliffs where the crabs could watch. The monologue isn’t dense with punch lines, but Jones’s appeal is much more about her personality, and that is vibrantly displayed here.
Just a bunch of guys hanging out in a garage, wearing work jumpsuits and talking RuPaul’s Drag Race. By now, everyone knows someone who is intimately familiar with RuPaul’s reality show and the affiliated nomenclature, and this sketch takes that conversation to a site that exudes hetero masculinity. Here, the boys talk about Trinity Taylor’s flat tucks and whether or not a queen’s “whole picture is fishy realness.” Soon enough, conversation isn’t enough to scratch the itch: Two of the mechanics (Pine and Moynihan) get involved in a lip-sync battle, complete with choreography. The writers are smart enough to avoid big cliches here, instead letting these macho guys burst from their jumpsuits, fulfilling a wish to become just a bit more like Ru.
The Handmaid’s Tale
This parody of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian story starts off on the same foot as the recent Hulu adaptation: In the not-too-distant future, a quartet of women clad in weird habits discuss their oppression at the hands of men and a budding resistance. Then, some dudes in jeans show up. One guy wants to know why the ladies missed his “Cinco de Mayo half-birthday,” and tells them to fight against their oppressors. The sketch has good intentions, taking aim at men who are feminist but essentially aloof when it comes to fighting alongside their female friends, but it doesn’t quite come together. It’s hard to know what to make of the anachronistic dudes (or exactly how to feel about them) until the thing is nearly over.
Star Trek Lost Episode
The Star Trek parody proved irresistible to SNL writers, but this is an offbeat and dippy one. Excited astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (Thompson) explains that in its third season, the series went downhill and many episodes were never aired after they were filmed. In this one, Spock (Mooney) reveals that he has a brother, Spock-o (Moynihan). Apparently, Star Trek producers decided to turn some one-hit wonder named Sal Delabate loose on the set. He invents his own awful catch phrase (“Now that’s a Star Trek!”), compliments Uhura’s butt, and makes everybody dance to his big tune, “Pizza Beach.” There’s not much here beyond that, but Pine’s William Shatner impression and Moynihan’s mugs keep it afloat.
Couples Game Night
Three couples get together for a game night, taking turns singing TV theme songs until the others guess what those songs are. But what starts with the chipper Golden Girls tune gets quickly absurd as one couple (Pine and Cecily Strong) pull out a little keyboard and launch into a mini-opera about Joe and his wife. There’s strained marital relations, recriminations, and no hint of the sorts of earworms that kicked off shows like Cheers. The other baffled couples watch in disbelief as their friends really get into it, gazing dramatically out of windows before punching through panes of glass. Though there aren’t many hard jokes in the big number, it’s oddly engaging, and Pine and Strong bring a healthy commitment to the bit.
In the “SWAT Recon” sketch, that cotton-candy dance party was described as “very fun and silly, but they know it’s silly.” This applies to tonight’s episode as a whole. There’s not a lot of bite to the sketches, as a group, but almost every one of them has some ridiculously fun and silly premise, character, or bit in it. The entire cast, Pine included, seems energized by this goofiness. (And presumably, Pine showed up on Monday and said, “Y’all, I’m ready to sing. Make it happen,” since nearly every sketch involves some sort of crooning.) Consciously or no, SNL gave us a break from the heavy politics of past months, and it makes for a show as light and sweet as that aforementioned spun-sugar confection.