Saturday Night Live, Sunday Night or Later: Episode 17


General Overview:
“I was only doing method acting because I thought that’s what you had to do to be a serious actor, and I kind of forgot how to have fun. That’s when I realized something I should have realized a long time ago: acting is a really stupid job. It’s pretend and it’s fun and it should be filled with joy. Well, I’m finally embracing that joy again, and that’s why I’m standing back on this stage.”
—Jake Gyllenhaal, 4/9/22

This episode started with a heartfelt celebration of the first Black woman elected to the Supreme Court, serving as a tribute to glass ceiling breakers in government and beyond. The next segment, Gyllenhaal’s monologue, was devoid of any feeling altogether despite him going all out with an “It’s All Coming Back to me Now” parody.

This juxtaposition began a trend that continued throughout the night, as Gyllenhaal took me out of almost every scene he was in in one way or another: while his performance was never enough to kill a sketch, I could feel that with a better host this could have been one of the best episodes yet.

“Weekend Update” was probably the best it’s been all season, with the possible exception of Episode 4; nearly every joke was good enough for the coveted “Best Joke” segment of this review. It benefited from the main trend of this episode, “this is well-written, but Gyllenhaal makes it mediocre,” by not having Gyllenhaal, leaving only the good writing.

The most clever sketch of the night was undoubtedly “Why’d You Like It,” the game show about the mind games of likes and follows Instagram. SNL’s game show sketches are some of the best, and I’m always glad to see when they add a new one, especially when the concept has real potential like this one.

The contestants’ breakdown as they confess their Freudian impulses on social media was quite entertaining, but I hope they do this sketch again so that Gyllenhaal doesn’t have to be one of them. The sketch was still one of the best of the night, but it could have been one of the best of the season with a more compelling performance.

Apart from the best two sketches, though, everything else was just okay. I barely remember half of the sketches because they were neither good nor bad. Gyllenhaal and his disconnected acting worked like a buffer solution, bringing every sketch towards the mediocre quality he represented in every sketch he was in. The problem was that with writing this good it was almost always a damping force.

Best Sketch:
“Dream Home Cousins.” This sketch, about an old mother ruining her son and daughter-in-law’s “dream home” plans, had a strong concept, strong characters and solid jokes. Even better, for every room the titular “dream home cousins” designed, the sketch had an animation of the ideal room transforming into the dystopian vision the mother wanted for herself, whether that was a chair lift for her 27-year-old cat on the stairway or 90 ceramic ducks in gangster outfits polluting the yoga studio.

Best Joke:
“Health officials in Washington, D.C. confirmed that a fox that bit a congressman near the Capitol had rabies. Officials suspect the fox contracted rabies when it was bitten by Marjorie Taylor Greene.”—Colin Jost

Overall Score: 6/10
This episode felt like the complete inverse of the last one: the sketches seemed more polished and fancy and funny, but it lacked so much of the charm that kept Episode 16 afloat. If these episodes had switched hosts, then they probably would have been two of the most polarizing episodes of the entire season instead of equalling out at a bland 6/10. I’m honestly not sure which I would prefer.