The best episodes of Saturday Night Live are a magic trick in which everything looks easy. In lesser ones, you can see palpable sweat as the cast and crew try to stitch things together. While not nearly the abject disaster that was Daniel Craig’s last time hosting SNL in 2012, his second outing didn’t take true advantage of the comedic touch he’s brought to films like Logan Lucky and Knives Out.
Whereas Craig looked comfortable in pre-produced shorts, the live material just never quite reached a level in which the audience was comfortable that Craig himself was comfortable. The sheer number of sketches that put him off to the side in favor of the cast (or, in one fun-but-flawed instance, Rachel Dratch) further suggested that the show itself didn’t want to put too much of a burden on him to carry the episode. Giving the Not Ready For Primetime Players lots of screen time is a good thing, but when they can play equal part to the host, not overshadow him or her.
(The one live sketch in which he seemed most comfortable, “Deep Quote Game Night,” was probably the best of the night, but it’s not exactly one that will set the water cooler ablaze on Monday morning. Even though it’s not included below, it merits mention all the same, because it’s the one time all night Craig looked to be having the time of his life.)
Still, while there were more than a fair share of semi-duds throughout this week’s episode, there were several highlights. Here’s what people will be discussing until John Krasinski (and let’s be honest, probably half the cast of The Office) appear in Studio 8H in three weeks’ time.
Daniel Craig James Bond Monologue
Nothing highlights the show’s reticence to lean on Craig more than this monologue, which wasn’t actually a monologue so much as a short set-up for a digital sketch. Yes, the show always has a monologue, and that’s never going to change, but the show also cuts plenty of things that don’t work between dress rehearsal and the live show all the time. Had the show simply gone from opening credits into this digital sketch, no one would have minded.
But man, that digital sketch though!
From the second that Chloe Fineman blew on Craig’s dice, I thought we were getting another coronavirus segment. But no! We got Super Silly Bond, suddenly obsessed with Red Bull, the thrill of gambling, and The Lion King. Low-key Craig doesn’t work on SNL. Benoit Blanc levels of campiness do, and this was campy as hell.
Still, what makes this truly work is Kenan Thompson’s overexcited bachelor party attendee. He only has about two lines of unique dialogue, but he makes every one of those words count. Craig’s physicality in playing off Thompson is a comedic highpoint for the episode, starting with the rapid head movement while initially comprehending Bond’s new hype man, to the smug “king of the jungle” attitude he conveys by the end. Those were GIF-tastic to say the least.
(Also, if there aren’t “Paul’s Bachelor Weekend Las Vegas 2020” hoodies on the NBC online store right now, what are we even doing anymore?)
The Ingraham Angle Coronavirus Cold Open
What do you get when you re-skin “Weekend Update” as a cold open? You get this! More a series of one-liners than a narrative piece, this lengthy segment overstayed its welcome by a few minutes but still landed an incredible amount of great jokes in that time. Whether it was Kate McKinnon running down a list of things to worry about instead of a pandemic (such as “What is the maid saying?”), Darrell Hammond’s return as Chris Matthews, Alex Moffat’s Eric Trump using a thermometer he found in the park, or Cecily Strong once again channeling Jeanine Pirro, this sketch has about ninety seconds for everyone.
And yet what will undoubtedly make the Sunday morning talk shows will be the surprise appearance of Elizabeth Warren at the sketch’s end. Other than taking continued victory laps over her dismantling Mike Bloomberg in the debates, Warren spent most of her airtime thanking her supporters and taking the high road. Sure, she took a mild swipe at the New York Times regarding their double endorsement, but she stayed far away from anything denigrating either Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden. Politically? A smart move. Comedically? It produced more smiles than laughs, primarily giving McKinnon a chance to say “good-bye” to playing Warren in a screenshot-able moment as the pair stood side-by-side to close things out.
On The Couch
This sketch borrows the musical and editing framework from the Lonely Island’s “Jizz In My Pants,” but takes things in a different but equally hilarious direction. What could have fizzled out after 30 seconds actually takes about three narrative twists before landing on a satisfying conclusion.
What seems initially like an absurdist piece dedicated to repeating the song’s insanely catchy hook over and over again turns into an indictment of three unreliable narrators seeking sympathy from strangers. Whereas initial verses make them seem like the aggrieved party, it’s soon clear that sleeping on the couch is actually more than fair punishment for their transgressions.
In the case of the Weeknd, it’s actually beyond fair, as it turns out he’s sleeping on the couch of his re-married ex-wife. All three men get their comeuppance, and we get both a fantastically stereotypical Boston accent from Daniel Craig and an earworm that will be embedded for the next two weeks. Win win win.