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Saturday Night Live recap: Anya Taylor-Joy and Lil Nas X make their debuts in season finale

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Ahoy-hoy, welcome to the final installment in our SNL in Review coverage for season 46. It has been a season for the record books, with peaks and valleys unlike any in recent memory. Given the historic limitations due to COVID-19, specifically the extended breaks between runs, at times this season felt like 3-4 mini-seasons compressed together, with various cast members stepping up or departing as their schedules permitted. Already, palace intrigue has begun on who will remain and who will depart once the summer hiatus begins.

Tonight's season finale is hosted by Anya Taylor-Joy, with musical guest Lil Nas X. Anyone who follows X on social media knows how troll-y and funny the Gen Z provocateur can be. It would be fascinating to see him in a sketch. (Chris Redd already played the charismatic entertainer in a cold open several weeks ago.)

Tonight's recap features commentary from the legendary Jim Belushi, who was a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1983-1985. Today, he is the owner of Belushi's Farm, which began as a meager 48 plants during Oregon's medical marijuana program in 2015, and now encompasses a sprawling 93 acres along the Rogue River; the farm features a range of offerings, including the Blues Brothers and Captain Jack's Gulzar Afghanica, which was known in the '70s as "The Smell of SNL."

Belushi knows a thing or two about SNL season finales. He specifically recalls "chronic exhaustion. You slip into the flu, a cold. Your adrenal glands need a month or two to refocus. It's like a punch in the gut." His advice for the cast? "Let it all go, baby!"

He says: "I watch [the show] all the time," adding: "They have a great sense of humor now. It is a different sense of humor from when we were doing it. But with Lorne at the helm, it stays on point." That is a great way to summarize season 46's whirlwind trajectory, I think. Let's dive in and see what surprises the show has in store!

Cold open

What I Remember — this phrase carries so much, given what we all collectively experienced over the past 15 months. It is our heroes, the show leaders: Kenan Thompson, Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, and Cecily Strong. Each one of the cast members discusses the past year. "Because I believe in science!" says Bryant. This is poignant and warm. There is a great tribute to Hal Willner and a cameo from production designer Akira Yoshimura. "Adversity only sharpens creativity," assures Cecily. Kenan and Beck discuss the bizarre Mike Pence/Herman Cain fly sketch.

Chris Rock returns too! He hosted the season opener and wanted Kanye West to be his musical guest. "The main thing was we were in it together," says Pete, who is in front of a green screen.

I love how heartfelt and emotional this is. It meets the moment. Well executed group LFNY too!

Belushi is a fan of Heidi Gardner and says Ego is "really coming on strong. She's really good." He adds: "They're terrific. It's lovely to see, watch them grow as comic actors. Those two I've been really watching." He also mentions really enjoying Pete Davidson.

I think this opener was written by Colin Jost and Kent Sublette. Before we get started, huge RIP to Charles Grodin and Paul Mooney, respectively one of the show's greatest hosts and writer of one of its greatest sketches. I imagine we will see a tribute to at least one of them post-Update.


It is a fully vaccinated and full audience for the first time this season. Anya Taylor-Joy addresses the crowd; her nationality is "Fashion Week." She gives some tips on playing chess. They spoof Queen's Gambit's pill hallucinations for a moment, complete with Kenan as a chess piece.

Believe this monologue was penned by Kent Sublette and Streeter Seidell.

Belushi dug Queen's Gambit.

Hollywood Squares

Some of you may recall the New Hollywood Squares sketch from season 24 with Cameron Diaz. Now it's the GSN retro, and we are back in 1998! Beck Bennett is Tom Bergeron.

Taylor-Joy is Baby Spice. X gets the square. Bill Cosby is the center square — the show retroactively omits him from the broadcast, given his crimes. So we miss his bit. Baby Spice gets her kind words for Cosby removed too. Jeff Dunham (Mikey Day) also has his segment removed; he voices "funny puppets" that are now offensive.

Oh my, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (Chloe Fineman, Heidi Gardner) are there, promoting their latest direct-to-DVD movie. Subway's Jared Fogle compliments them; his segment gets cut due to his "heinous crimes." Matt Lauer and Kevin Spacey are there, and also problematic.

I think this was written by Gary Richardson and Streeter Seidell.

Picture With Dad

Beck Bennett is an overzealous dad who shoots himself um, there, trying to take a joke photo in celebration of his daughter's prom. He had a gun. He just wants his daughter's date (Andrew Dismukes) not to have sex with her. Our man Paul Briganti shot this.

Making Man

God has asked a team of designer angels to develop "human man." They want hair everywhere, including the butt crack. The human woman team joins them. "Is this final?" asks Ego Nwodim. They went with one huge toe instead of five. They discuss the utility of nipples on each gender — producing milk, versus the illusion of a giant face. The 'dangler' and the 'wrinkler pouch' are also analyzed.

Jesus (Kyle Mooney) shows up to meet some homies too.

Pride Month Song

Pride month was missed last year, so now celebration is allowed. Bowen Yang carries the baton here; he is having a mental breakdown in this spoof of "Holiday" by Madonna. "When did all these straight girls start dressing lesbian?" ponders Bowen and Punkie Johnson. Yang and Kate McKinnon discuss theory and eating Chick Fil A.

Lil Nas X has a verse too, honoring Harvey Milk. "We're just happy that we're queer and can do this every year!" Fun!

Celtic Women

This summer, your girls are back! Anya Taylor-Joy joins Cecily, Aidy, and Kate in Gaelic battle songs, as well as a sexual eye contact adventure. "Witness Irish culture… in Ohio!" This is very specific — "The Lion King for Karens!"

Lil Nas X — "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)"

This is a huge bop, arguably better than even "Drivers License"?! Despite its length, I think it might surpass "Old Town Road," his breakout hit. It's so transgressive — well, this version is extremely edited. "Put a smile on your mouth" — Okay then, ha. Still, with the sexual overtures (pole dancing), dare I say this has some Prince vibes? Too much?

Weekend Update

Huge applause welcomes Jost & Che. Jost points out how much better the country is than when the season started in September. He lays into Matt Gaetz and Mitch McConnell. Che has a funny joke about Gary Busey (shout out Jeff Richards), and makes a joke about his dating app profile, channeling White Chicks.

Pete Davidson comes out to discuss Mental Health Awareness Month. He talks about wearing a mask and being anxious. He says AIDS is like SNL, "It's still here, but no one has been excited about it since the '90s." Ouch! He encourages anti-vax people to move to Florida and send opioids with the vaccine to a Jimmy Buffett concert. He ends by saying it's been an honor growing up in front of us.

End of the season gift bit returns! Jost and Che return jokes from each other for the first time on-air, again. This always lands — and sums up this savage era of Update. "Woody Allen is innocent," giggles Scarlett Johansson's husband

Judge Jeanine Pirro (Cecily Strong) comes out to give her parting thoughts. She, as usual, lands her wine all over Jost. Since it's Cecily, she sings. "The end is near" — is she leaving? Is Pete? I am squinting for clues. She ends crawling into a giant boxed wine container reading White Girl Wasted. The crowd goes crazy. Perfect way to go out.

And they cut to Grodin. Very nice.

Lingerie Store

Aidy Bryant and Anya Taylor-Joy are peddling Brawr Barn as Enid and Astrid. They sell humongous bra designs like the Fortress and the Straight Jacket. The Load Bearing Wall is made of two by fours. Aidy feels up Heidi Gardner as she estimates her bra size. "No one has had a sexual feeling in this store," they say. It's one step away from being a hospital. Denny's Grand Slam and Chicago Style are the names of some of their sizes.

They send Chloe Fineman away. They know Victoria's Secret — the secret is she is too afraid to help. Enid and Astrid feel like they could've been an Aidy and Kate pairing.

Aidy's husband Frank (Beck Bennett) works in construction, he builds prisons.

College Panel

Aidy Bryant and Anya Taylor-Joy are paired again, this time hosting a panel on NYU's film studies department. The cast of HBO's "Roommates in the City" is being interviewed. Max (Pete Davidson) is the breakout star. They are breathless; he gets the softballs. "Can you explain race?" they ask Ego Nwodim. "How has being gay and Chinese prevented you from being happy?" they ask Bowen. He wants questions that are less devastating. "I'm gay, so I can hit you right?" They get increasingly frustrated.

This is a funny take on unconscious bias, and the boxes/standards we put certain groups and celebrities in. I wonder if some of the exasperated responses/delivery here are coming from a very real place. We know how insufferable people who interview cast members can be! The sketch ends sharing all the cast members' cell phone numbers.

"Max, do you like soda?"

Lil Nas X — "Sun Goes Down"

This is X's latest single, released yesterday. This surreal track reflects on his closeted self, namely his struggles with bullying and being gay. I like the reference to his past stanning Nicki Minaj.

"I love you all!" he shouts at the end.

AMC Commercial

Beck Bennett is Vin Diesel, talking about going to the movies. "The pretzels. Don't forget: the moooo-vies." He namechecks all the silly details of the moviegoing experience. They capture it well! And love Beck, even when he is interrupting Anya. She scolds him for not wearing a mask at the end, causing him to shift gears.

Steven Castillo and Dan Bulla wrote this - they nailed it.

Final Thoughts

-That's a wrap! Thank you to all the wonderful former SNL cast members who contributed their time and insights this season: Ellen Cleghorne, Jeff Richards, Gary Kroeger, Victoria Jackson, Patrick Weathers, Matthew Laurance, Siobhan Fallon Hogan, Tom Schiller, Denny Dillon, Dan Vitale, and Jim Belushi!

-What did you think of tonight's season finale? Vote here or sound off below.

-So what did we learn? Season 46 will go down in history, from tackling the end of the Trump era, to their missteps with Biden, to their commendable work dealing with COVID-19 limitations, to Elon Musk, to a bloated, massive cast navigating how to gel together.

-One more thank you to Jim Belushi for his time. Check out Belushi's Farm ASAP. Quick reminder that Belushi sits on the board for the Last Prisoner Project, a criminal justice initiative seeking to free the 40,000 people in prison for cannabis offenses legal in most states. If you are interested in helping out, he says: "Go to the website, donate money. Whether it's $10 or $10,000. Write letters. Plenty of addresses to send letters to. That's all there is to it. Write state attorneys. Let these guys, let these ladies know this was a failed war on drugs and it's ruined people's lives, and families' lives. It's time to set them free."

-If you are interested in SNL content over the next several months, you can do worse than checking out this riveting episode of the SNL Hall of Fame podcast, featuring yours truly. I make my case for why Jay-Z should be considered a legendary musical guest!

-For those keeping score, here are my poll tallies for season 46. Not scientific, but it offers a glimpse of how each one of these episodes was perceived. And click here to vote for tonight. Thank you to everyone who followed along this season!

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