Nobody has been able to explain why exactly Edward Norton was hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend—other than the fact that he's never done it before—but unlike Bruce Willis' depressing outing last week, we had much better results. Norton embraced every ugly wig the show threw at him during a highly surreal episode of SNL that may have been the best episode of the season so far.
The writing seemed much sharper this week than it has the previous two—the extra week off may have been a boon for the writers—but the real difference was Norton, who never broke during any sketches, and proved he has a surprisingly versatile comedic ability. A sketch like Possum Hunters would have flailed in weeks past, but Norton made it hilarious.
The other great part of this week's show was the abundance of surreal sketches—and how that element elevated some sketches that would otherwise be flat. Besides "Possum Hunters," we had the students who couldn't understand why they shouldn't talk to strangers (all that sweet candy!), the physically-elastic Ruth’s Chris Halloween, and one of the two best sketches of the night, Halloween Candy. The other highlight: the amazing parody of Wes Anderson movies, The Midnight Coterie Of Sinister Intruders. It would have been wonderful had they just nailed the Anderson aesthetic—but on top of that, Norton does a pitch perfect impression of Owen Wilson.
Another great sign of improved writing: the solid cold open. It's entirely possible my standards are pitifully low after several seasons of cringe-inducing, laugh-free political cold opens, but the Affordable Care Act website sketch was... not bad! Most of the credit goes to Kate McKinnon, who is very much stepping into the Kristen Wiig role (but with less annoying recurring characters). Also, AOL jokes are always welcome, and Bobby Moynihan continues his streak of hilarious walk-on bits.
Not everything was great: the Rain Man sketch didn't go anywhere, 12 Days Not A Slave was bad bad bad, and the unnecessary cameos from Miley Cyrus added absolutely nothing (it's not much of a coincidence she appeared in the worst sketch of the night). Also not good: the new cast members didn't have much to do this week (except Brooks Wheelan, who was overshadowed by Norton in the Possum Hunters sketch).
Click through for all those sketches plus Weekend Update, The Steve Harvey Show, musical performances from Janelle Monáe, plus a bonus sketch, "Don't Smash My Pumpkin."