It's always a dicey proposition when Saturday Night Live enlists musical superstars to pull double-duty as hosts and music guests—for every success with a Harry Styles or Bruno Mars, there's a Justin Bieber or Blake Shelton fiasco on the horizon. Billie Eilish, who previously appeared as a musical guest on the show with an unforgettable, trippy "Bad Guy" performance back in 2019, joined the ranks of host-musical guests this weekend. And despite a couple rough live sketches early on, the young singer (who turns 20 next weekend) ended up acquitting herself pretty well in an episode that was jam-packed with holiday content, despite the fact that there's still one more SNL episode before Christmas.
Five of the seven live and pre-taped sketches, not counting the Cold Open or Weekend Update, were holiday-themed (there were also two solid cut-for-time sketches that were also in the holiday spirit). This episode also featured the return of Kate McKinnon, who has been absent from the show this season while filming her Tiger King Peacock series, and she was front and center in over half the sketches of the night. And of course she was involved in the best sketch of the night, the pre-taped Lonely Christmas Ad, in which she plays a lonely and possibly murderous older woman whom neighbor Eilish invites over for Christmas via Love, Actually-esque cards. McKinnon kills at a sketch like this, but kudos to Eilish for nailing the reaction faces and making this one a Christmas classic.
The other holiday sketch I enjoyed was Kyle's Holiday, about another lonely soul trying to find their way on Christmas, only this time the subject is Kyle Mooney and he definitely has murderous fantasies about replacing Mikey Day.
A non-holiday specific highlight was TikTok, which felt like something out of the SNL At Home era, and gave most of the cast a chance to shine with some quick, weird characters without any single one having to ground or lead the sketch. My favorites were probably Aidy Bryant's horny teenage costume changer, Heidi Gardner's mom-of-eight, James Austin Johnson's nightmare Homer Simpson, and Bowen Yang's crying mukbang.
Another sketch that felt like a throwback was Fauci Holiday Message Cold Open, probably because we haven't seen McKinnon's Fauci since last season. This was a very solid variation on a sketch we got last season in which most of the cast played members of the CDC acting out various COVID holiday scenarios to funny effect.
The 10-to-1 sketch was Hotel Ad, yet another enjoyable sketch in which McKinnon's mastery of deadpan comedy almost made Eilish break. Then again, who wouldn't when McKinnon can nail lines like, "Be sure to enjoy our hot tub, it's always occupied by an eight-year-old boy in goggles staring at your breasts" or "Situated between the DMV and a darkened Sonic, it's the location that will make your Uber driver say, 'You sure?'"
Check out the other four sketches below: Christmas Card was a solid concept for a sketch which had some funny individual moments, but overall was not the most memorable of the night (it was also the first sketch after the Monologue, and Eilish seemed a bit nervous as well). Santa Song was much better, and featured some great vocal interplay between Eilish, McKinnon and Ego Nwodim. Eilish was also rock solid in her Monologue, in which she talked about why she wears baggy clothes (she was dressed tonight as "Mrs. Claus going to the club") and what it's like growing up in the public eye. And Hip-Hop Nativity was the worst sketch of the night, and one of the worst of the season; even Gardner couldn't make "pimp walk" work no matter how many times it was repeated.
There were two guests on Weekend Update: huge shoutout to Andrew Dismukes' Amazing Animals, which was one of the best Update segments of the season. Dismukes has been somewhat underused in his first two seasons on the show, and sometimes ends up fading into the background of live sketches, but he has had moments this season when it's clear he has a unique energy the show could really use, and this was probably my favorite thing he's ever done on SNL.
The other guest was Punkie Johnson on Her Family's Holiday Rules, another relatively new castmember who hasn't gotten a huge amount of screentime. She took the Pete Davidson-route of showing off some of her own stand-up personality in her desk appearance, whether she's talking about how she thinks women smell like lemon cucumber and stability or how she thinks men smell like Newports and excuses.
I find it infuriating that two excellent sketches featuring new cast members were cut-for-time while the awful Hip-Hop Nativity made it to air; I get that the latter sketch featured more of the entire cast, but it did no favors to any of them in an episode in which the new kids got the least amount of air time of the entire season. I really loved Please Don't Destroy-Future Selves, in which the three guys are visited by themselves from the future, only they've turned into Paulie Walnuts, the ghost of Ed Sheeran, and someone who wears as many accessories as Jared Leto.
And in the other one, Aristotle Athari's bizarre lounge singer Angelo is joined by a giggly Eilish in Angelo Christmas, and if anyone deserves to become a recurring character, it is Angelo.
In addition to hosting, Billie Eilish utilized her signature whisper-singing to perform two songs: "Happier Than Ever" and "Male Fantasy."
Next weekend, Paul Rudd will host the final SNL episode of 2021 with musical guest Charli XCX.