Will Ferrell‘s Saturday Night Live homecoming marked his fifth turn as host — but there was no mention of the esteemed Five-Timers Club during his “terrible” introduction. Instead, the beloved alumnus fawned over studio audience member Ryan Reynolds, and was eventually joined by former castmate Tracy Morgan. It was the best monologue of the still-young season, and one of the many highlights from this weekend’s above-average show (which admittedly got off to a rough start with that lazy, laugh-free cold open).
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Surprisingly, Ferrell did not reprise any of his signature roles, like George W. Bush or Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. He instead opted for new (and timely) characters, like U.S. Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland and billionaire presidential hopeful Tom Steyer. He also took part in not one, but two Thanksgiving-themed sketches, one of which doubled as excellent political satire.
BEST: 2020 DEMOCRATIC DEBATE
Rachel Dratch’s Amy Klobuchar, Maya Rudolph’s Kamala Harris and Fred Armisen’s Michael “Big Gulp” Bloomberg all appeared opposite Ferrell’s Steyer in this top-notch debate skit. I’m not sure which joke I loved more: Larry David’s Bernie Sanders using Billy Joel lyrics to describe his recent heart attack, Cecily Strong’s Tulsi Gabbard assuring viewers that she was not Cruella de Vil, or Ferrell’s Steyer walking directly up to the camera. I also appreciated the callback to Rudolph’s former role as FLOTUS (“Gonna tell my kids this was Michelle Obama”).
Ketchup is an unusual condiment to keep on hand at Thanksgiving dinner, but that’s my only gripe with this otherwise perfect commercial parody. The actual product — a newly designed ketchup bottle that makes a not-so-innocent noise — was brilliant, as was Ferrell’s delivery of the line, “I didn’t cut a fart at Thanksgiving dinner. I wouldn’t do that. That’s not who I am.”
BEST: FIRST THANKSGIVING
Ferrell was at his very best in the role of Pochahantas’ prejudice grandfather, who waxed on about “our great and mighty chief” and the need to “build a wall.” (Any of this sound familiar?) Having him break the fourth wall was a bit corny, but not quite as corny as what mended the political divide between the elderly native (who gets his talking points from an actual fox), his left-leaning relatives (who get their news from a “lying peacock”) and “pale face” colonialist John Smith.
BEST: PIZZA AD
Ferrell gave off serious “Brennan from Step Brothers” vibes when he started crying during the filming of this pizza commercial. But the true MVP here was Kate McKinnon, whose horned-up mom proved to be the glue that held her family together.
Five-to-1 sketches don’t get much more bizarre than this — and that’s what made it so great. Cecily Strong’s reaction when Ferrell’s Wally Culpepper stuck his hand in a vat of Vaseline, before he put it back inside alleged dummy Chippy, was truly priceless.
WORST: CINEMA CLASSICS: THE WIZARD OF OZ
This “deleted scene” wasn’t bad, per se, but I laughed more at Reese De’What’s introduction than I did at the big reveal, when Ferrell, Kyle Mooney and Bowen Yang showed up as never-before-seen characters who appeared in Dorothy’s dream as inhabitants of Munchkinland.
What were your favorite sketches this week? And what missed the mark? Watch all of the highlights (and lowlights) above, then grade the episode in our poll.