And so we come to the end of this very transitionary, somewhat undercooked season of Saturday Night Live. Andy Samberg returned to host for the first time since he left the show, and he did not come alone: he brought Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Paul Rudd, Martin Short, Lil Jon, Lonely Island, 2 Chainz, Pharrell, Tatiana Maslany, and a photo of Justin Timberlake with him. It wouldn't take much convincing to think you were watching an episode of SNL from 2009.
So whether or not you enjoyed this episode likely relied upon how much nostalgia and affection you have for the 2009-era cast. They completely dominated the sketches last night, brushing aside most of the newer cast members (along with main cast members such as Tarran Killam, Bobby Moyniham and Vanessa Bayer) to conclude a season filled with episodes in which the new featured players were routinely brushed aside. It was both fitting and disappointing that a frustratingly inconsistent season ended in such a manner. This will probably be the last we see of some of the new faces—or perhaps not even, since Noël Wells, Brooks Wheelan and John Milhiser barely even popped up in the background of sketches (although Milhiser at least got to go out committing seppuku during the Bass Drop digital short).
But maybe because this season has been completely lacking a breakout star/character, I happened to really enjoy some of Samberg and the 2009 cast's throwbacks. The monologue was an impression-off between Samberg and Hader (with Meyers officiating, and Short inexplicably delivering roses to Hader to fill 30 seconds of screentime) that reminded everyone how much natural charisma those guys have, even when they're just screwing around; Samberg got to play an overgrown child, one of his favorite modes, in Camp Wicawabe; and there was the triumphant return of the spit-swapping Vogelcheck family. This might have been one of their best sketches yet, with everyone (successfully) trying to get Armisen to break, and an actual underlying point about Americans squeamishness over Michael Sam's NFL draft day kiss.
Not all the throwbacks worked so well: it's hard to believe anyone finds Blizzard Man as funny as Samberg (besides 2 Chainz, of course). And then there was the not-so-triumphant return of Samberg-style Digital Shorts. Both were fine: When Will The Bass Drop? was packed with visual jokes and an exploding-heads finale, and Hugs featured the whole Lonely Island team back together, making sweet parody music. At the same time, neither sketch made me miss Lonely Island—as we noted last week, the one truly notable thing to come out of this season of SNL is the increase (and consistency) of the pre-taped segments, culled from various video teams. We would have really loved to see Samberg collaborate on a Mike O'Brien or Kyle Mooney/Beck Bennett -led short, but there was no time with all the callbacks. Let's just hope they (along with the other video production teams behind-the-scenes) are all back next year.
One positive development: this was perhaps the least cringe-worthy cold open all season! Tackling the Jay Z/Solange fight was a no-brainer, but the show had three things going for it: Jay Pharoah's perfect Jay Z impression, the elevator fight voiceovers (spiders!), and Maya Rudolph's larger-than-life (as she should be) Beyonce. Rudolph also popped up in Hugs (as a drug-peddling Oprah) and the Vogelchecks (as a nurse), which reminded us that even though SNL has some amazing female cast members currently (Kate McKinnon, Aidy Bryant, Cecily Strong, Vanessa Bayer, Nasim Pedrad), we really do miss Rudolph.
Weekend Update showed some more improvement from Colin Jost, who felt a tiny bit more himself and a tiny bit less Seth Meyers Automaton. It didn't hurt that both guests were fantastic: Mooney's secretly depressed comedian Bruce Chandling made his best appearance yet, and Samberg brought back his absolutely perfect Nic Cage impression.
Click through for all those sketches plus the return of the former porn stars (one of our favorite recurring characters from the last two seasons), a very swag hunchback, KimYe talk show, Legolas and Gimli at Taco Bell, a few cut sketches, and musical performances by St. Vincent. Check in for some best of posts on the 2013/2014 season next week, and we'll see you next season.