Cold Open — Expectedly, SNL took up Miley’s VMA appearance, using a flash forward to suggest that it was the moment that signalled the downfall of America, and then using Vanessa Bayer as “old-Miley” to offer sage advice to Young Miley pre-‘VMA.’ It’s a high-energy sketch, and there’s actually some decent, though generic stuff in it about Miley’s need to make her own mistakes and learn from them. Unfortunately, Miley seems to be saying the words without expressing any actual self-awareness. The whole sketch crumbles into a mess of mediocre impressions and incoherence. 5/10
The Monologue — One of the shortest “SNL” monologues I can remember. There’s not much too it: Miley talks about the VMA performance, says she’s not sorry, then there’s a “Wrecking Ball” joke. The end. I feel like there was probably another idea that was scratched at the last minute. Points for brevity? 3/10
50 Shades of Grey Screen Tests — The entire sketch is basically an excuse for the cast to show off their impressions. Noel Wells is terrific as Emma Stone; Taran Killem”s Christoph Waltz is fantastic; Nasim Pedrad does Aziz Ansari, and the unexpected MVP is Kenan Thompson’s Steve Harvey, who ask Rebel Wilson if he can go straight to the butt stuff. 7/10
Girlfriends Talk Show — A recurring sketch that wasn’t particularly good the first time around, and it’s not improved by the presence of Miley and a tired nod to twerking. But they do say “cray” a lot, which only highlights how long the sketch overstays its welcome. 4/10
Why Did We Stop the Government — Taran Killem’s blinged-out, ass-flaunting, gay-loving John Boehner and Miley Cyrus’ slutty, tongue-wagging, booty-shaking, masturbating Michelle Bachman music video is .. uh, kind of great. No, it is spectacular. It is one of the few SNL sketches in recent years that’s actually likely to get people upset (or at least the Tea Party). Fox News is going to go apeshit on Monday morning. Outstanding, and the perfect use of Miley. The song itself — a reworking of one of Miley’s hits — isn’t bad, either. 9/10
Piers Morgan Live — Nasim Pedrad cracks out the Arianna Huffington impersonation in a sketch to discuss the recent cancellation of two Hillary Clinton biographies. There’s a poor Breaking Bad parody, some lazy nods to a few other shows, and a couple of jokes about Clinton running in 2016, but the sketch is weak sauce. 3/10
Weekend Update — A more relaxed Cecily Strong is already showing more confidence in her second week, and a very sharp winners/losers segment demonstrated a growing chemistry between Strong and Meyers. Strong even mastered one of the most important aspects of a successful “Weekend Update”: She sold a couple of bad jokes with a acknowledging smirk.
Kate McKinnon also does a segment as a wide-eyed stay-at-home Mom who is obsessed with Grand Theft Auto. McKinnon is quickly becoming the most reliably funny cast member on the show, and this is the best bit of the night. “I was supposed to run the car pool tomorrow, but do you know what I did instead? I shot a stripper in the boob for sport. Step the eff back, because Momma is a Latina warlord now!”
Jay Pharaoh does a good Shannon Sharpe impression in another segment that doesn’t gain much traction while Vanessa Bryant brings back Jacob, the Jewish son of Seth’s podiatrist. It’s a funny impression, but the segment quickly wears out its welcome.
Headlines: 8/10; McKinnon: 9/10; Shannon Sharpe and Jacob: 5/10
Cheerleaders — Miley plays a head cheerleader who tries to keep practice going in the midst of an alien abduction. This sketch is a goddamn mess that goes from bad to worse to WTF? It’s painful to watch. 1/10
Mornin’ Miami — Three bored, grumpy and tired morning news anchors turn up the chipper during a series of promos. It works because the promo-spot parodies ride the wave just a hair above reality. McKinnon kills it again here: “Are ghosts real? Turns out, no! Here to talk about it is actor Topher Grace.” 8/10
Poetry Class — Vanessa Bryant trots out a new hyper-enthusiastic, stuttering, and oblivious character that teaches poetry to high-school students, but the sketch doesn’t work at all. 4/10
Miley Sex Tape — A silly, but cute sketch in which one of the new cast members blows his chance to have sex with Miley Cyrus in his office. Miley is not shying away from jokes at her expense, but the way she enthusiastically embraces her overly-sexualized personae feels a little abrasive. 6/10