It’s a sign of just how wild the 2016 election cycle has been that the second Presidential debate is barely even a week old, yet feels like it happened a year ago. The Saturday Night Live writing staff certainly had a surfeit of cold open ideas to sift through since the middle chapter in the blockbuster debate trilogy went down on Oct. 9, one night after host Lin-Manuel Miranda taunted Donald Trump with a signature line, and endlessly meme-able line, from Hamilton. In the past few days alone, there’s been the People magazine story, the various leaks from The Apprentice set, and Trump’s “drug test” proposition, which dropped this very morning.
But the chance to put Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon on the same stage again is an offer SNL couldn’t refuse. Nor should they; as eager as the country as a whole is to have this election over and done with, the McKinnon & Baldwin duo — as the McKinnon & David team did last season — has provided a breath of sanity amidst all the hot air. So the “second and worst ever” Presidential debate got the highlights reel treatment, hitting such major moments as Trump’s stage-stalking of Clinton (accompanied here by the Jaws theme), the presence of Bill Clinton’s accusers in the audience (a would-be intimidation tactic that prompts McKinnon’s Hillary to respond, “Get real, I’m made of steel, this is nothing,”) and unasked-for thoughts about the state of American inner cities.
Oh yes, and there was Ken Bone, a role that had been pre-ordained for SNL mainstay Bobby Moynihan since the red-sweater wearing, GIF-generating undecided voter first stood up to ask his question. But the writers were also forced to acknowledge the real Bone’s rapid fall from social media grace, with Cecily Strong’s weary Martha Raddatz hoping against hope that this jolly-looking guy doesn’t turn out to be a total creep. “Maybe?” is Bone’s shrug of a response.
With the real Ken Bone now an unironic joke, that’ll probably be the last trip that Moynihan takes to the Bone Zone. On the other hand, the future for McKinnon’s Hillary is getting brighter and brighter. “Just last Friday, he handed me the election,” she said when asked to list the one thing she liked about her opponent. Unlike the real President Clinton, though, don’t expect the actress to serve out her full four-year term. With Ghostbusters and a bunch of other scene-stealing film roles under her belt, she’s successfully campaigning for movie stardom.
Speaking of movie stardom, host Emily Blunt is having a bit of a moment between her recent box office hit, The Girl on the Train, as well as the news that she’ll be carrying Julie Andrews’s umbrella in the upcoming Mary Poppins Returns. And any lingering doubts that she won’t be supercalifragilisticexpialidocious in the role were immediately put to rest by her full-throated rendition of the old standard, “Get Happy.” Too bad the rest of the show didn’t provide her with the material that would demonstrate that her comic chops are as strong as her singing voice. Guess we’ll just have to re-watch The Devil Wears Prada for the zillionth time to remind us just how funny Blunt can be.
Best Sketch: “Short Film”
You don’t have to be a regular film festivalgoer to find this send-up of awkward post-screening Q&A’s — and pretentious short films — on point, but it helps. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen “Qua” at more than one festival and heard the same obligatory questions posed afterwards.
Runner-Up: “The Sink”
Blunt’s hilariously heartfelt narration as a self esteem-challenged sink will make you see your own bathroom fixtures in a different light.
Worst Sketch: “Honda Robotics”
Blame it on the clunky robot suits if you like, but this joke-challenged skit tripped and face-planted entirely on its own terms.
Best Use of Emily Blunt: “The Great British Bake-Off”
Maybe because it came towards the end of the night, but Blunt was at her loosest and funniest as a Big Brother-loving, Brexit-approving baker in SNL’s overdue spoof of the beloved competitive baking series.
Episode MVP: Vanessa Bayer
It’s been a minute since we’ve seen Bayer’s child star newsreader Laura Parsons on the Weekend Update desk, but she’s still the perfectly clueless commentator. Now bring back Jacob the Bar Mitzvah Boy!
Saturday Night Live airs Saturdays at 11:35 p.m. on NBC.