Why’d you do it, Saturday Night Live? Why did you take a basically perfect episode of SNL, brilliantly hosted by Timothée Chalamet, and pop Alec Baldwin in at the last possible second?
SNL’s hot streak was alive again this episode, with Chalamet returning as host for his second time. We saw his TikTok rapper return. We got a sequel to “Tiny Horse.” The cast was clicking. Rookie Chloe Troast had her breakout sketch.
And then Alec Baldwin appeared.
To the best of my knowledge, Baldwin isn’t promoting anything. He isn’t in Wonka with Chalamet. I absolutely know he isn’t in Dune: Part Two. (Unless he has a secret role voicing a sandworm.) For some reason, Lorne Michaels decided to bring back the dark shadow that haunted SNL for so many seasons, blocking out the careers of an entire generation of the cast, for a throwaway gag at the end of the night’s final sketch.
SNL doesn’t need Alec Baldwin. (Especially not after James Austin Johnson delivered another tour de force performance as Donald Trump in the cold open.) His involvement with the show should’ve stayed done after we last saw him on Nov. 7, 2020. What an insult to how far SNL and its faith in the cast has come over the last three years.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a political sketch like this on SNL. In fairness, it’s been four years since the last primary season began, but that feels like a lifetime ago. With the “Republican kids’ table debate” happening earlier this week, SNL had the chance to return to the political well.
- “It’d be like Paul Rudd in there or something”: This one felt different because the show’s actual cast got to play the Republican candidates. Instead of a celebrity like Jim Carrey or Maya Rudolph snagging one of these roles, SNL went with Molly Kearney as Chris Christie (previously played by Bobby Moynihan), Heidi Gardner as Nikki Haley, John Higgins as Ron DeSantis, Ego Nwodim as Vivek Ramaswamy and Devon Walker as Tim Scott.
- “My sweet, little middle-aged criminal children”: With apologies to Darrell Hammond (and no apologies to Alec Baldwin), James Austin Johnson is the best Donald Trump in SNL history. No one nails the cadence, the segues and the nonsensicality of Trump like Johnson. It’s a shame he’s not doing Joe Biden anymore, but that’s a worthy sacrifice to keep his Trump in play.
With the actors strike over, Timothée Chalamet was allowed to promote his upcoming movies, Wonka and Dune: Part Two. Had the strike still been going on, we wouldn’t have been able to visit this “world of shameless self promotion.”
- Baby faces: While Chalamet’s monologue began with a spoof of a classic Wonka song, it shifted to a rap with Marcello Hernandez about having a baby face.
SKETCHES OF THE WEEK
I’m breaking the rules here and naming two sketches of the week. (I’m still kicking myself for not going with “Washington’s Dream” as the sketch of the week from Nate Bargatze’s episode.)
Museum of Hip-Hop Panel
There were two sketches that Chalamet had to bring back when he hosted SNL for the second time. This was one of them. We first met $moke Chedda Tha Ass Getta a few years ago, and it seems like his knowledge of hip hop has only gotten worse during that time.
- Where’s Guap Lord? The first time we saw $moke Chedda, he was teamed up with Guap Lord, played by Pete Davidson. With Davidson no longer part of SNL’s cast, Guap Lord was missing from the sketch, apparently laying low in Turkey after fundraising for New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
- Another presidential candidate: The Republican candidates for president in the cold open weren’t the only impressions of White House hopefuls we got this episode. Kenan Thompson portrayed Cornel West in this sketch — and got to spank Chalamet’s TikTok rapper.
- A recurring character: SNL feels light when it comes to recurring characters these days, right? Nwodim’s Lisa from Temecula is the main one from recent seasons that stands out in my mind. It’s always fun when we get a host who has their own recurring characters.
And this was the other sketch that had to return with Chalamet. The last time we saw Tiny Horse, he was, well, tiny. Now he’s giant — and he “wants to crush the human race.”
- “It’s extra bad in the future tonight”: I don’t know why I found this line incredibly funny, but it was.
- Another recurring character: Hey, Tiny Horse is officially an SNL recurring character now.
Little Orphan Cassidy
SNL added only one new castmember this season: Chloe Troast. And the “Little Orphan Cassidy” sketch is her breakout moment. I don’t know why this character sings like a combination of Michael McDonald and Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg counting down the steps to putting your dick in a box, but it worked.
- Silly moon: It was a simple part, but Chalamet struck the right level of confusion as the moon. (Look, if you don’t watch the sketch, that sentence is going to make very little sense.)
The Woman in Me: Auditions
Chloe Fineman’s impression of Britney Spears continues to be one of the strongest portrayals that SNL currently has in its arsenal.
- Chloe! More Chloe! Spears wasn’t the only celebrity Fineman took on for this sketch, also playing Timothée Chalamet, Natasha Lyonne and Julia Fox.
- Who’s who: This sketch also gave us Heidi Gardner as Allison Janney, Chalamet as Martin Scorsese, Mikey Day as Steve-O, Sarah Sherman as (a fantastic) John Mulaney, Molly Kearney as Kevin James (the meme version), Bowen Yang as a member of the B-52s, Ego Nwodim as Jada Pinkett Smith (“reading from the wrong book”), Kenan Thompson as Neil deGrasse Tyson, James Austin Johnson as Werner Herzog, Punkie Johnson as Ice Spice, Chloe Troast as Dame Maggie Smith and Michael Longfellow as Bill Hader.
A simple sketch idea but a very effective one thanks to the writing. Chalamet’s line “a dog isn’t the color dog” made me laugh.
Your Co-Worker Who Is Extremely Busy Doing Seemingly Nothing
I believe this is the second time that Heidi Gardner has visited the Weekend Update desk as Crystal, your coworker who is extremely busy doing seemingly nothing. As always, Gardner goes all out, tossing phones and destroying a Chipotle burrito.
- Burrito phone: I thought burrito phones were only for episodes of Full House where DJ needs help cheating on a test …
- Not expecting visitors: For the third episode in a row, Weekend Update had only one guest to the desk. I’m curious if this is the new format or if some combination of writing and timing has kept a second visitor away over this time.
Troye Sivan Sleep Demon
This one feels like an end-of-the-night sketch. The weirdness of Troye Sivan as a sleep demon probably wouldn’t have clicked right off the monologue. Chalamet was having fun with this one, doing his best to hit the dance moves next to Sarah Sherman.
- “Being played by an American actor who can’t do an Australian accent”: This might be the line of the episode.
Please Don’t Destroy: Jumper
Please Don’t Destroy hasn’t missed an episode yet this season (and John Higgins even got to be in the cold open). Seeing the trio outside of their SNL office gave “Jumper” a bit of a Digital Short vibe.
- “I’m not sharing a song by Hamas on Instagram”: Chalamet’s character really should change the name of his band.
Calm Sleep Story
When I saw the recording studio set, I thought we were going to see a return of Devon Walker’s Young Spicy from last season’s Ana de Armas episode. Turns out it was just a recording session for an increasingly deranged Calm sleep story.
- Why, SNL, why? Once again, why is Alec Baldwin here? I thought you quit him, Lorne.
GUEST STAR WATCH
- Alec Baldwin (“Calm Sleep Story”)
WHO’S HOSTING NEXT?
Jason Momoa hosts SNL on Nov. 18 with Tate McCrae as the musical guest.