Dwayne Johnson and Beck Bennett.
It’s wild to think that Dwayne Johnson first hosted SNL in 2000. Back then, he was still “The Rock,” just taking baby steps out of the WWE ring. While his star has risen, and Johnson has become famous worldwide for dishing one-liners while scowling in the Furious franchise and singing about his pecs in Moana, he’s become a more confident actor and comic. His SNL outings have toyed a lot with the beefcake bod and public persona — see everything from the Rock Obama to his “Tough Guy” opening song — but he’s been more than willing to look absolutely silly doing it. This season finale also marks his fifth time hosting the show, while it’s sadly the last show for both Bobby Moynihan and Vanessa Bayer.
Hallelujah Cold Open
Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) sits at a piano, playing and singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” his face puckered in concentration. Trump is joined by Kellyanne Conway (Kate McKinnon), Mike Pence (Beck Bennett), Sarah Huckabee Sanders (Aidy Bryant), Eric Trump (Alex Moffat), Donald Jr. (Mikey Day), and two Melanias (Scarlett Johansson and Cecily Strong). They all sing along and then Trump says, “I’m not giving up, because I didn’t do anything wrong, but I can’t speak for these people.” Unlike the first time SNL had a politician sing this song earlier this season — Hillary Clinton (McKinnon) sang it pretty somberly after the election — this one is played for laughs, with lots of witty moments and knowing looks. It’s a wink to those SNL watchers who have been with it all season, a way of acknowledging that things have come full circle (in a sense).
Dwayne Johnson Monologue
The cool and confident Johnson, clad in all black, finally addresses the rumors that he’d like to run for president: “I want to put this to rest, and just say once and for all … I’m in.” Though Baldwin shows up to give the former wrestler a Five-Timers’ robe, Johnson already has a running mate in mind: the much beloved Tom Hanks. “No one can seem to agree on anything anymore, except for two things,” Hanks says. Johnson adds, “Pizza and us.” The actors list their qualifications, including the idea that Hanks could reassure ruffled citizens with the commanding yet comforting tone he learned doing ten different WWII movies, and decide they’re probably even more qualified than the current president. It’s a welcome drop-in from Hanks, and a cheery way to start the show — whether or not the Rock is actually serious about his plan.
This commercial parody follows around a “magnetic” woman at a glamorous party (Vanessa Bayer) who also happens to have anxiety. To fill that little gap in her life, her adoring partner (Beck Bennett) gives her the only accessory a girl could want: a 14-karat-gold fidget spinner encrusted with princess diamonds. “You give her the sun, the moon and the stars,” says the voice-over. “But for now, give her something to distract her.” As rich folks swirl around her on a rooftop, she marvels at the device on her thumb. That way, her boyfriend doesn’t have to think about how low her Uber rating is and why she says things like, “There’s nobody good here.” This feels a lot like SNL’s perfume-ad parody “Red Flag,” but there’s still a lot to enjoy about this takedown of the messy and mediocre.
WWE Promo Shoot 2
Rival wrestlers KoKo Watchout (Johnson) and Trashyard Mutt (Moynihan) stand face-to-face to talk trash about one another before facing off in Wrestlemania. While Mutt is happy to talk about bringing the smackdown from the top rope, KoKo’s attacks get personal. Turns out Mutt is not only impotent, but he is adopted and spends his days doing Katy Perry karaoke in homemade costumes alone in his room. It just gets worse from there. This sketch is a sequel to a sketch with the same players from the Rock’s hosting gig in 2015; it can’t touch the novelty of the first time it was on, though it’s just as ridiculous and playful. And this time, KoKo’s final accusations get even freakier.
Big Chris (Kenan Thompson) is introducing a few rappers from the New Money Crew who will drop a verse on his new track: Shantasia, Yung Bitch and, okay, Sno’Cone. But hold on, here comes Sloppy Moses, Skiffle, and … David S. Pumpkins? The list of guests just gets longer and longer, much to Big Chris’s chagrin. The sketch is simple but very funny, and worth it even if just for the ever-expanding list of silly rapper names. (It also reflects the reality of the massive rosters on some current hip-hop hits.) This one will definitely get passed around online, even if people just witness the gross glory that is Pregnasty.
Would-be comic-book hero Scorpio (Johnson) swoops into the office of friend and journalist Linda (Strong) to talk about his plans to defeat the evil Maximilian. Before she’ll let him go, though, she wants to talk about the amazing design and construction of his costume. All the little flourishes impress, including that little zipper on the side and its “earthy color story.” Linda is so impressed, she invites friends to stop by and check it out too. They all ask questions like, “Your superpowers include impeccable tailoring?” Scorpio gets so wrapped up in the attention, he forgets about his mission and considers opening some sort of boutique. Maximilian, meanwhile, blows up the city. The little world this sketch creates is cute and diverting, and does make you wonder about all those heroes at their sewing tables late at night.
Jurassic Park Ride
As happy couple Gene and His-Wife-Who-Will-Never-Be-Named (Kenan Thompson and Vanessa Bayer) prepare to take a ride on the Jurassic Park River Adventure at Universal Studios, they’re joined by a loud guy (Johnson) and his British girlfriend Gemma (Strong). While Gene seems to get along okay with the noxious interlopers, his wife is insulted and doused with water as the others on the ride stay dry. This is another return to a setup from an earlier Johnson-hosted episode, and all the same bits return: The loud boyfriend talks boners and Gemma sings a half-baked song. The character combo of Gemma and the boyfriend is great, and the crew deserves praise for pulling off the mechanics of the ride, but the sketch itself gives diminishing returns.
The latest in erectile-dysfunction medicine is Xentrex, according to one adamant construction worker (Johnson) who hit 50 and found himself needing a bit of a boost. When he asked his doctor about Xentrex, that medical professional said, “What’s Xentrex?” After looking at the ingredients, the doctor added, “If you put that junk in your body, it’ll kill you.” The construction worker wasn’t phased, despite the long list of side effects including “trouble swallowing” and “coma.” Now, despite dealing with bleeding and “cold bones,” that construction worker is proud of his boners. It’s an unnerving, well-constructed, and funny take on the pharmaceutical testimonial.
Naturally, Update went after all the turmoil in the White House this week. Regarding Trump’s avowal that he never asked James Comey to stop the Russia investigation, Colin Jost asked, “Who are you going to believe, the director of the FBI or the guy who’s definitely lying?” There are some good zings about Trump calling Comey a “nut job,” what made him share intelligence with Russian emissaries, and what it’ll feel like when Trump gives a speech on Islam in Saudi Arabia. (“It’s like Mike Pence giving a toast at a gay wedding.”) Nervous, garbled weather reporter Dawn Lazarus — Vanessa Bayer’s most recent Update character — makes another appearance because “it’s a last show and I gonna sneak that in.” Like always, Lazarus keeps it sunny while fumbling through weather clichés and saying things like, “Stay hydrated and water that mouth.”
The second half features jokes about a new Kickstarter for a men’s romper called a “romphim” (“As in, the victim of the beating was wearing a romphim”) and a new workout venue that looks like a prison and has exercises developed by former inmates (“So you may want to shower at home.”). Then Drunk Uncle (Bobby Moynihan) makes his final appearance, talking about kids these days who don’t get summer jobs and just want to know, “Is this pomegranate juice gender-fluid?” He also gets mad about La La Land losing the Oscar and women playing Ghostbusters before he tried to cajole Jost into playing Russian roulette with him. It’s been some time since Drunk Uncle made an appearance, and the pause energized the character. Of course, it also helps that it’s Moynihan’s last show.
RKO Movie Set
In 1948 at RKO Studios, a young leading man named Brock (Johnson) and an established leading lady named Janet (Bayer) prepare to shoot the first scene of their new film, Murder by Numbers. When Janet farts and calls cut because she “made a mistake,” the trajectory of the sketch is set. It’s one, long fart joke, and the foley artists deserve credit for producing a range of high-pitched squeakers and pant-splitting butt-blasters. (When certain insistent barks fill the air, both Johnson and Bayer break and shoot looks at the techies just off-camera.) No, this sketch won’t make the annuls, but that isn’t how it was designed. Sometimes, a sketch is just aimed at the funny bone of the 12-year-old in all of us.
World’s Most Evil Invention
Wow. This sketch goes darker than nearly every other SNL sketch in recent memory, and it just might be a one-of-a-kind product-placement sketch. The International Mad Scientist Society gathers to judge which of their inventions is the most evil, and the usual suspects step forward with their shrink rays and freeze rays. Then, a guy in a lab coat who identifies himself only as Roy unveils his nefarious new invention: a child-molesting robot that is capable of “molesting twice as many kids as a human molester in half the time.” The other scientists balk, though Roy swears he just went in a “slightly different direction,” citing Mussolini’s evils as “where the goalposts are.” Then, to top it off, he invites all the scientists out for hamburgers at White Castle. Roy’s carefully reasoned argument and the flabbergasted reactions of the cartoonish scientists make it work; the shock is also funny. Either White Castle said, “We’ll be happy with whatever gets us any kind of attention at all,” or somebody has a vendetta against the burger chain.
Because he lacks confidence around women, a lonely guy at a bar (Johnson) lets the bartender (Bennett) talk to cute women in his stead. After the bartender’s secret little chats, these ladies are apparently interested … but only if it’s a threesome or another configuration that also involves the bartender himself. The lonely guy is just not interested. Especially not when you throw in Carlos (Moynihan), another weirdo bar employee who’s ready for action. This one becomes quickly repetitious and the pacing is a little labored, so it never quite hits.
At a gathering to celebrate the Millwood High School graduating seniors, the teens (Moynihan, Strong, Bennett and Mooney) perform an unpolished sketch show with appearances from Deadpool, the Stranger Things kids, and a remix of this year’s Oscar Best Picture mix-up. While the principal (Johnson) counts down the days until he and all the kids can hang out and go drinking, the cafeteria lady (Leslie Jones) takes it on the chin for serving bad roast beef. The content of the sketch mirrors that of self-serving teens, but it’s hard to argue with writers who want to give Moynihan and Bayer a few last minutes of stage time.
This episode definitely feels like a finale, insofar as there are a lot of excellent sketches that may have been held back for this week and a few calculated risks that pay off. Most everything in the first half shines, and the commercial parodies and the video segment are particular highlights. On its own, the mad scientist sketch makes the second half. Though Johnson didn’t do anything too far out of his range, he came to play and deserves credit for his commitment to Roy and the child-molestation robot. This also feels like a fitting send-off to Moynihan and Bayer, who get fun, meaty parts in sketches and time to show off on Update.