For the first seven episodes of its current season, “Saturday Night Live” was without the services of Kate McKinnon while she worked on other projects. This had temporarily deprived the show of one of its most prolific impressionists, and though other cast members helped to fill the void, “S.N.L.” wasted no time in putting McKinnon back to work upon her return.
This weekend’s episode, for which the pop star Billie Eilish was both the host and the musical guest, began with McKinnon returning to the role of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, in a speech where she addressed concerns about the rise of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
But first, McKinnon asked, “Do people still think I’m sexy or are we done with that? When people see me on TV, they think, this can’t be good. And their children think, wow, that Elf on the Shelf got old.”
She then introduced a series of short scenes meant to dramatize real-life scenarios that people might find themselves in this holiday season.
In the first, Mikey Day played a prospective customer at a restaurant who had lost his vaccination card. “Then you are banished from society,” its hostess, Heidi Gardner, told him. “Have fun living in the woods.” (As Fauci, McKinnon helpfully commented on their interaction, “You can get a replacement card. I think.”)
In other scenes, Bowen Yang and Ego Nwodim played an airline passenger and a flight attendant, and Kyle Mooney and Melissa Villaseñor played a mall Santa Claus and a child hoping to sit on his lap.
Another scene that McKinnon said was about “two unemployed brothers on Christmas Day” turned out to depict ex-New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (Pete Davidson) and the recently fired CNN host Chris Cuomo (Andrew Dismukes).
“We both lost our jobs,” Davidson said, pausing to add, “because of Covid.”
Cecily Strong and Chloe Fineman appeared as Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, both wielding assault rifles, and Aidy Bryant played Senator Ted Cruz, describing herself as “the weirdo with a beard-o.”
At the sketch’s conclusion, McKinnon tried to find some common ground. “Clearly this country is divided,” she said. “But I think we all agree on at least a few things. We all want to spend time together with our families.”
Bryant interjected, “Or run it back solo to Cancun.”
Davidson observed, “Family is all we have.”
“Yeah,” added Dismukes. “As of two weeks ago.”
Dose of the Holiday Spirit of the Week
If the various decorations and poinsettias around Studio 8H didn’t already remind you that this was a Yuletide episode of “S.N.L.,” the holiday mood was quickly established by this sketch in which Villaseñor and Alex Moffat played a couple watching the Christmas cards on their refrigerator come to life.
The well-wishers included Fineman and Day as the parents in a particularly fertile Christian family; Yang and Kenan Thompson as a middle-aged gay couple with a long-lived dog; and Punkie Johnson, who strong-armed Miley Cyrus (playing herself) into posing with her for a photo.
Social Media Parody of the Week
What’s the shortest duration of time in which an “S.N.L.” character can exist? A sketch? A Weekend Update deskside bit? How about just one joke?
It’s a mathematical riddle that gets put to the test in this segment that sends up the viral video site TikTok and features a seemingly endless stream of single-serving characters. Watch for Fineman as a conspiracy theorist obsessed with Blake Lively’s attire; Eilish as a dancing nurse oblivious to her own patients; Aristotle Athari as a stand-up comic who doesn’t handle heckling very well; James Austin Johnson (we think?) as something called Homer Simpson A.S.M.R.; and possibly 20 or 30 other bits we may have missed.
Weekend Update Jokes of the Week
Over at the Weekend Update desk, the anchors Colin Jost and Michael Che riffed on headlines from the week, including the guilty verdict in the Jussie Smollett trial and criticism of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Five Minutes ’Til Closing Credits Sketch of the Week
Your reward for making it to the end of the show was this loopy segment featuring McKinnon and Eilish in a promotional video for an utterly generic — and yet thoroughly objectionable — hotel chain called the Inn & Suites & Hotel Room Inn.
Eilish’s brother, Finneas, turns up as a chaotic valet (who performs a few extra duties on the side) and Eilish declares in her best deadpan, “See why Trip Advisor called us a stock photo you can sleep in,” as she and McKinnon try and fail to prevent themselves from cracking up.