©2015/Mary Ellen Matthews/NBC

Saturday Night Live is fun again. For the third episode in a row, viewers were treated to some fantastic writing and performances from the cast. These are the types of shows that bring viewers back and put to rest the “Saturday Night Dead” articles for a few seasons. With two more episodes this month before SNL takes its holiday break, including the highly anticipated Tina Fey and Amy Poehler co-hosting episode in two weeks, SNL is primed to end the first part of season 41 on a very high note.

Part of the fun for this episode was watching first-time host Ryan Gosling try not to “break” during each live sketch. In fact, he broke during his first three sketches before pulling himself together (sort of) by the end of the show. Gosling at times seemed awkward, but it somehow didn’t kill the show. Possibly because of the veteran cast around him, and also because he seemed to carry a smirk throughout the entire episode.

Cold Open: A Christmas Message from Donald and Melania Trump
This cold open that was not only short (2:34), it ended abruptly and didn’t have any bite. As the Trump campaign continues to lead to protests and weirdly, outrageous statements (my personal favorite this week: Trump tweeted that his doctor would find “perfection” after a physical), the SNL writers went the easy route again and decided to focus on the fact that Trump is egotisical and rich. Maybe the insensitive comments posted almost daily by Trump are forbidden territory outside of Weekend Update, and if that’s the case, SNL might want to shelve Taran Killam’s Trump for a while.

Best Sketch: Santa Baby
Gosling and Vanessa Bayer portray a new couple to a neighborhood who are very obsessed with meeting Santa at a neighbor’s Christmas party. The tension between the guests and the couple continues to rise in this thinly-veiled Quentin Tarantino parody as the homeowner (Beck Bennett) tries to explain that it’s not the “real” Santa upstairs.

Second Best Sketch: Close Encounter
On paper, this sketch was probably not as funny as it seemed. But Kate McKinnon’s performance as the lone alien abductee who didn’t have a magical time broke almost everyone, with only Cecily Strong holding it together somehow.

Weekend Update Moment: Bobby Moynihan and Ryan Gosling
The man who hears his news second-hand, Anthony Crispino (Moynihan), appeared for the first time in a year and brought along his friend, Angelo Skaggs (Gosling), who hears his news third-hand from Anthony.

The Crispino/Skaggs segment also had a Star Wars: The Force Awakens joke that may have been lifted from Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. During a #ForceAwakens Twitter Q&A on Friday, Hamill asked this question to director J.J. Abrams:

Best Impression of the Night: Ryan Gosling as The Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz
On a night with impressions of the Trumps, George Clooney and Danny DeVito, it was Gosling’s impression of Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow lost in “East Oz” that was the most memorable. This was the third year in a row that NBC aired a live musical, followed by SNL parodying the event.

Other Notes:
Mike Myers appeared during Gosling’s monologue and the two sang a song about Canadian Christmas.

Pete Davidson and Jon Rudnitsky continue to battle it out for the least amount of screen time in every episode. Davidson appeared briefly (with no lines) in the “Settl” sketch, while Rudnitsky didn’t appear at all.

Leslie Jones tweeted out a picture of herself backstage with former member of N*Sync, Justin Timberlake. Timberlake and Gosling both starred on The Mickey Mouse Club in the mid-1990s, along with past SNL hosts/musical guests Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

Please check out Leon Bridges’ musical performances. It is hard to follow Adele, but Bridges handled himself nicely during performances of “Smooth Sailin‘” and “River.”

Two characters returned: Aidy Bryant’s dad-obsessed Melanie (who first appeared in the Drake episode from Season 39) and the submissive elves (who appeared during the Louis C.K. episode last season).

Saturday Night Live returns on Dec. 12 with host Chris Hemsworth and musical guest Chance the Rapper.

About Jeremy Klumpp

Jeremy is a contributor to The Comeback. He lives in Ypsilanti, MI.

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