Let's get the most obvious thing out of the way: after the boring calamity of last week's J.J. Watt episode, it was an immediate relief when RuPaul strutted on stage for this weekend's episode of Saturday Night Live. The overall episode didn't scale the heights of the Eddie Murphy or Adam Driver episodes this season, but having a host who had the experience and confidence to own the stage in every sketch made it a much more enjoyable watch than last week.
RuPaul kicked off the show with a wonderful, humorous Monologue about his philosophy on drag and life, and his memories of first moving to the city: "I moved to NYC in the 1980s with a pair of high heels and a dream. Back then, New York was full of drugs, streetwalkers, and seedy night clubs. But it wasn’t all good!"
Kate McKinnon and Aidy Bryant often do their best work together, and that was especially true in Old New York Show, in which they played lifelong drinking buddies Madge and Dickie. Chockfull of hilarious references to the Rudy Giuliani-era of NYC, this was the best sketch of the night (even though it seemed to go over the heads of the audience a bit).
The unexpected MVP of this episode was Pete Davidson, who has been almost completely absent from live sketches this season. This was the first time this season that he's felt present and part of the cast, popping up in multiple sketches and even the cold open. His best moment came in Chad & RuPaul, a pre-taped sketch in which RuPaul discovers Davidson's dimwitted Chad and transforms him into a drag queen.
(Davidson remains one of the most fascinating current members of SNL: over five seasons on SNL, it's become very clear that he isn't particularly good at live sketches, can't do any impressions, and breaks on camera in almost every sketch. He barely appears in half the episodes over a given season, yet he seems to have a guaranteed spot as a castmember because of how beloved he is behind-the-scenes. His best moments on the show are almost always his Weekend Update segments, which are cousins to his confessional stand-up material. His mix of vulnerability, crassness and youth endears him to people. He is, along with Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon, one of the defining figures of this current SNL era.)
RuPaul seemed very much in his wheelhouse in The Library, in which Ru offered a Drag Race-style “reading” of some children’s book classics including Eloise and Madeline.
The usual cold open/political sketch problems were there for New Hampshire Democratic Debate Cold Open. These sketches aren't good, but I'll just add a few specific notes: Colin Jost is doing absolutely nothing as Pete Buttigieg, and the idea of being stuck with him as Mayor Pete for four years is a nightmare. Multiple people have played Tom Steyer, but Davidson got his turn this week for some reason. If I were Joe Biden, I'd much prefer having Jason Sudeikis playing me than Woody Harrelson; Sudeikis leans into Biden's more likable qualities, while Harrelson plays up the creep factor. And Larry David remains utterly hilarious as Bernie Sanders, whether he's ordering "a pound of whatever's about to go bad" or acting as an agent of chaos.
Check out the rest of the sketches from the night: two families faced off in an intense game of Family Charades; Cecily Strong and RuPaul played a pair of women who were NOT on board with Check-Splitting; Ego Nwodim and RuPaul teamed up as a pair of Thirsty Cops who had a thing for Pete Davidson; and Beck Bennett played a very sad dad in the Boop-It commercial (which I wish had gotten a more expansive, Roach-Ex treatment).
Bowen Yang, one of the two new SNL castmembers, has gotten to shine multiple times this season on Weekend Update as Chen Biao, the perpetually-excited Chinese minister. This week, fellow SNL rookie Chloe Fineman finally got her breakout Weekend Update moment in Chloe Fineman on The 2020 Oscars, showing off her expansive and truly impressive range of impressions.
Besides Fineman, there was one other guest on Weekend Update: Cecily Strong was great as ever as Michael Jost's neighbor Cathy Anne. Not only was it Cathy Anne's 21st birthday—it was also Strong's birthday for real!
Justin Bieber and his dirtbag mustache joined forces to perform his new singles "Yummy" and "Intentions."
There was also one cut-for-time sketch in which Ru and Bowen Yang had a Coal Miners Face-Off that seemed more like an episode of Dynasty.
SNL is taking the next two weeks off, and will return on February 29th with a very exciting lineup: John Mulaney will host for the third time in the past three seasons, alongside musical guest (and Sack Lunch Bunch member) David Byrne.