Saturday Night Live: Ryan Gosling brings the Kenergy in a strong episode

<span>Chris Stapleton, Ryan Gosling and Sarah Sherman.</span><span>Photograph: NBC/Rosalind O'Connor/Getty Images</span>
Chris Stapleton, Ryan Gosling and Sarah Sherman.Photograph: NBC/Rosalind O'Connor/Getty Images
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

This week’s Saturday Night Live wasted no time giving its fans what it wanted, with the cold open reuniting host Ryan Gosling with his Barbie co-star Kate McKinnon for a reprisal of their popular Close Encounters sketches (it’s only too bad they couldn’t also bring back Cecily Strong, although Sarah Sherman is fine as her replacement).

Anyone who’s seen any of the previous versions of this sketch knows what to expect: Gosling and Sherman’s alien abductees describe their transcendental time among beings of pure light, while McKinnon’s hapless southern schlimazel, Colleen Rafferty, details a very different experience: “Little different for me: I was by the lake taking a whore bath … then out of nowhere I get sucked up by a giant vacuum cleaner hose, and I land on the ship, still pants-less mind you, so my juicer and my deucer are on full display, and I see my old buddies, the gray aliens with the big dumb eyes.”

McKinnon spends a good chunk of the sketch rooting around Gosling’s crotch, while Gosling tries (and fails) to keep from breaking.

For his monologue, Gosling promises not to talk about his Barbie performance, since “Ken and I had to break up.” Instead, he sings about it. Donning sunglasses and his character’s iconic white fur coat, he performs a version of Taylor Swift’s All Too Well, before being interrupted by his Fall Guy co-star Emily Blunt, angry that he’s not promoting their upcoming movie. After bashing him over the head with some chairs and beer bottles, she joins in on the musical fun, and the two perform a Barbenheimer duet. This one really hits all the mass cult favorites: Barbie, Oppenheimer, Swift. It’s not necessarily funny, but, like the cold open, it’s what the people want.

Then, Gosling and Chloe Fineman play a newly engaged couple meeting her close friends (Ego Nwodim and Andrew Dismukes) for the first time. Everything seems pleasant until the women leave the guys alone for a minute and the groom-to-be immediately confesses “I think I made a mistake.” Every time the women step out, he keeps detailing his escape plans to his horrified host. Gosling’s quiet, ratcheting desperation is a blast to watch, but his constant breaking hurts the overall sketch.

Next, Nwodim, Fineman, Chloe Troast and musical guest Chris Stapleton sing a pop-country ballad about getting even with their cheating lovers. Nwodim and Fineman’s revenge is standard stuff – vandalizing their ex’s cars – but Troast’s is much more elaborate and disturbing: she’s been breaking into his house and “replacing his shoes with the same set of shoes but half a size bigger”, in order to make him fear he’s shrinking. This is only the first in a prolonged regiment of psychological torture. This could have gone longer and darker, but it’s still good stuff (catchy song, too).

Three dudes (Gosling, Marcello Hernandez, Kenan Thompson) are hanging out at a Cabo Grill and planning a wild night out at the club with the dog from the original Beethoven and Jon Taffer from “bar reCUE.”. All three are sporting Latin accents, but only two of them are actually Latino: Gosling’s suave hombre is from Tennessee and has only been talking like that since he married a Cuban girl. Gosling’s heightened accent is impressive – he sounds indistinguishable from Hernandez.

A livestream town hall on the subject of AI barely gets started before the expert guest is distracted by the sight of Gosling’s audience member who “looks strikingly similar to Beavis from the cartoon Beavis and Butthead.” The audience member moves when asked, only to be replaced by a new guy who looks exactly like Butthead (Mikey Day). The end button references Mike Judge’s other classic animated series, King of the Hill. Much like last week’s Jumanji sketch, this is a case of 90s nostalgia done right, thanks in large part to the perfectly ridiculous cosmetic effects. It’s also the rare case of cast member breaking – Heidi Gardner has a full on laughing fit – adding to, rather than taking away from, the whole.

Following the first performance from Stapleton, it’s on to Weekend Update. Colin Jost invites the first guest: cast member and “resident boyfriend” Michael Longfellow. There to discuss the trending topic of men using “weaponized incompetence” in their relationships, Longfellow plays coy, claiming to be genuinely incompetent, before turning the tables and charging women with deploying weaponized competence: “Why do you know all this stuff? How do you know the word ‘duvet’? Who taught you that? I’ve been living on the same earth as you girl, never once heard the word ‘duvet’. And now you’re mad at me because I don’t know how to put it on? Put what on what?!”

This battle of the sexes continues after Michael Che takes a groan-worthy dig at college women’s basketball star Caitlin Clark, only for the real Clark to show up and take him to task for the constant insults he hurls at women’s sports. Jost “brings the receipts” in the form of a supercut of said jokes (which actually only comes out to three). Clark then takes her revenge by getting Che to read a series of jokes she’s written for him, about him. Despite Clark clearly being game, and the show even giving her space for a sincere tribute to her fellow players, this segment instantly spurred angry responses from Clark stans, who don’t seem to grasp the basic concept of comedy, across social media.

A family awaits news of their father/grandfather’s medical operation, only to be informed that he’s passed away by a very strange, very suspicious doctor (Bowen Yang), who assures them, “It wasn’t my fault.” They’re soon joined by his associate, a fellow long-haired weirdo (Gosling) in a blood-soaked surgical gown, who tells them, “I didn’t drop anything in anything.” The biggest laughs here all come from Gosling, who once more can’t stop himself from breaking.

Stapleton performs his second set, then the show ends with TCM’s look back at the classic film Erin Brockovich. We watch the dramatic meet cute/game of punny one-upmanship between the titular heroine and her biker suitor. After the earlier, superior Beavis and Butthead sketch, which is similarity based around a piece of media from 20-plus years ago, this probably should have been cut.

Despite the drop-off of the last two sketches and Gosling’s inability to keep from cracking up, this was another overall good episode, which makes for two in a row. Hopefully, SNL can keep the momentum when it returns from a short hiatus and closes out season 49.