This week's "Saturday Night Live" encapsulated everything wrong and right about the show these days.
On the one hand, a lot of the sketches felt tame and safe, as if the writers just wanted to try to get a bit of tepid laughter and be done with it. But then there were a few moments of just plain weirdness — and it was actually awesome. We kind of like when "SNL" gets silly, goofy, odd, and quirky. Maybe it doesn't work all the time, but at least it's something different than the usual shrug-worthy fare.
Host Edward Norton was really into it — though it took him a few sketches to warm up. He was allowed to show off his full range (and got really, delightfully weird by the end), but at the beginning, he was rather hampered by cameos from Alec Baldwin and Miley Cyrus.
Norton played the straight man newbie, while Baldwin and Cyrus tried to give him advice about hosting. He did get to do a Woody Allen impression, but otherwise, it felt as if the other two sucked the air right out of his monologue.
Check out our thoughts on the rest of Norton's first-time hosting "SNL":
Best: "Autumn's Eve Pumpkin Spice"
As soon as the leaves turn, everything becomes pumpkin this, pumpkin that. This parody commercial dials that up to advertise a pumpkin-scented feminine wash. What's best about this is how it puts the women of "SNL," who are killing it this season, front and center. They're all really good, but Aidy Bryant is starting to come into her own more and more. Her facial expressions in this are just priceless.
Runner-up: "The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders"
OK, if you don't watch Wes Anderson's movies, this probably didn't make any sense. But if you do — wow, it was amazing. Norton does a fabulous Owen Wilson impression, with Noel Wells as a disaffected Gwyneth Paltrow in a trailer for a fake movie about a home invasion. Baldwin lends his voice as the narrator. We can't decide what's the best detail — the homeowners sending beautifully-crafted notes to the intruders, the kids' list of potential weapons, or the "panic room" that was actually a tent.
Worst: "Ruth's Chris Halloween"
This is the perfect example of the show falling back on tired, one-joke sketches. It's like someone comes up with an idea — "virgins who act out sex, even though they have no idea what sex is" — and they just do the most literal take on that possible. Blah.
Biggest Surprise: "Halloween Candy"
Usually, the last sketch of the night is a throwaway, and at first, this seems to be just that. Norton is a creepy guy who goes through his Halloween candy offerings. But then it gets really, really weird — and we love it. Norton looks like he's eating up every second. None of it makes a lot of a sense — the kale chip inside a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup? Adult Ruth? An M&M taped to a peanut? The Pez dispenser in his likeness? — but it's just funny. Can't explain it.
Second Best Use of Host: "Pest Control"
This sketch features Norton and new cast member Brooks Whelan as a pair of backwoods exterminators who come into a professional office to get rid of some possums. It's not Norton's best performance of the night (see above), but he really sells the sketch (which veers dangerously close to being boring) as his character bonds with, then gets betrayed by the possums. This man can act.
Worst Use of Host: "Stranger Danger"
Norton has to play the straight man in this sketch about a police officer who tries to teach a group of kids about staying away from men in vans on Halloween. It's clear from this and the monologue that Norton is wasted as the straight man. Still, it's good to see Nasim Pedrad in a more featured role this week.
Sound off: What were your favorite sketches of the week?