Following a Margot Robbie premiere and last week’s well-received Lin-Manuel Miranda stint, Emily Blunt had some high hosting expectations to meet. While the actress herself proved game for anything throughout the night, the sketches themselves were a mixed bag — and it’s a bit early in the season for that. On the other hand: Reliably biting political commentary, a truly memorable digital short, and Pete Davidson massaging a random audience member within the first five minutes.
Emily Blunt herself came to play, more than anyone in the regular cast this week. Not only did she bring her talented musical chops to her opening monologue, but she also played: Trump daughter, hamster ingenue in a tiny production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” quesadilla-shilling robot, high-end (and high-maintenance) hooker, a literal sink bowl, and lots more.
The range of sketches highlighted Blunt’s range of skills and experience — often in unusual ways — more than any host in recent memory, which is a solid trophy to take home. Even more enjoyably, she handled them with both ease and a jubilant excitement that could have, with a more solid slate of sketches, made this episode an instant classic: Blunt even managed to make Kate McKinnon break during her robot sketch, a role reversal for McKinnon — and not an easy task by any means.
Most Instantly Viral
“Melaniade” was trending on Twitter before the clip was even done airing on the East Coast, and for good reason.
Weirdest Sex Joke
Emily Blunt and Leslie Jones’s escort characters — in the first non-debate sketch of the night, featuring newcomers Mikey Day and Alex Moffat — explaining their uncomfortably long, strange list of rules to their virgin johns was uneven, but Jones’s bad impression of Stewie from “The Family Guy” [sic] and Blunt’s mid-coitus breaks to chug milk were the weirdest of the night.
Honorable mention to Blunt’s roleplay character in this sketch — a clumsy Dickensian housemaid with her own catchphrase, which doesn’t sound that weird but was in fact very weird — and to a “Weekend Update” joke with a Catskills setup: A man gets attacked by two bears after discovering them having sex… With his wife!
Best Returning Character
Also in the clip above: Vanessa Bayer’s wannabe child star Laura Parsons, sing-songing her way through the darkest of the week’s incidents as usual. Like Bill Hader’s Stephon or Cecily Strong’s “Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started a Conversation With,” Laura Parsons is a bit that relies equally on the performance and the writing itself: While all three are a list of jokes with a high premium on randomness, Laura also requires a sunny disposition and dolls-eye lunacy to rescue each successively darker punchline from itself.
Speaking of: Kate McKinnon’s Russian correspondent Olya Povlatsky, also a “Weekend Update” correspondent, a so-so joke whose only upshot is McKinnon’s beaming smile as she delivers weird ethnic jokes about a fantasy hellscape.
Best New Impression
Bobby Moynihan’s Ken Bone. He said a total of five words in the episode’s opening debate segment, but the way that Moynihan perfectly imitated Bone’s “innocent” smile and demeanor from the actual debate was probably the episode’s best visual sight gag, including the sparkle border that they plastered around him. We all needed a hero this election, but as Cecily Strong’s Martha Raddatz ominously predicted, it certainly wasn’t Ken Bone. No matter how badly we wanted him and his red sweater to be.
On the bright side though, we did get this impression, and Moynihan dancing to “Y’all Ready For This” is probably one of this season’s most gifable moments so far, so thank goodness for that.
Most Niche Joke
While not particularly obscure, the film short festival — like the “Crucible” Cast Party skit from last week — nailed the “narrowly relatable” joke space this cast loves to revisit: Shades not just of theatre-kid realness, but the masterful inside-joke secret of “(Do It On My) Twin Bed,” “Back Home Ballers,” or even going back to “Christmastime for the Jews” and Taylor Swift-ribbing “The Squad.” It feels real because it is real — the genius is in making it real for everybody, and some of the oddest and coolest sketches of the past few years have been about revisiting that concept from new angles.
Vanessa Bayer brought the perfect amount of polite awkwardness to her role in the skit as well, playing the only person in attendance that hadn’t worked on the short film, and therefore the only one there to ask questions to the cast & crew. About the only thing that was different about the experience compared to real screening Q&As and press conferences was that Bayer’s questions were actually better than the ones usually asked, no matter how strained or desperate they may have been.
“Saturday Night Live” airs at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.