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Scoring 'Saturday Night Live': The Luminous Kerry Washington Hosts the Season's Best Episode So Far

By Dustin Rowles | TV | November 3, 2013 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | November 3, 2013 |

Cold Open — Kerry Washington comes out as Michelle Obama (which could not be more perfect), then comes out as Oprah when Kenan Thompson refuses to do so (and again, could not be more perfect), and then the voiceover announcer apologizes for the number of black women Kerry Washington will be forced to play tonight. Ha! This is a first (to my knowledge). Sure, celebrities frequently appear on the show to rehabilitate their reputations after scandals by poking fun of themselves, but here, SNL is attempting to rehabilitate its own reputation for a lack fo diversity by making fun of its lack of diversity. Will it make a difference (as the actual Al Sharpton asks)? No. But is it amusing and self aware? Absolutely. (Many on Twitter, it appears, disagree with me. I suppose a more cynical take is that, by making light of a serious situation, SNL is minimizing it.) (Score: 8/10)

Monologue — Washington deals with cast members issues a la Olivia Pope, and again, SNL makes fun of itself a bit when Washington suggests that Bayer maybe oughtn’t play Miley Cyrus so often. Unfortunately, the monologue is another too short one that ends just as it seems to warm up. (Score: 6/10)

Career Week Speaker — Nasim Pedra plays a Yemenese motivational speaker, who cha-chings with machine-gun audio effects. I don’t really know what’s going on in this sketch. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, and it’s not very funny, but Kerry Washington is fantastic in it. (Score: 2/10 for the sketch; 9/10 for Kerry Washington’s performance).

What Does My Girl Say? — A parody of “What does a Fox say?” that only works — and works brilliantly — because it’s Kerry Washington who is playing the bitchy girlfriend. YAN YANH YAN YAN YANH YAN. (Score: 9/10)

How’s He Doing? — A recurring sketch in which black voters are asked how Obama is doing, after voter approval with that constituency falls to a startling 93.6 percent. Basically, it turns into a great stand-up act about how annoying white people are, and it is fantastic. The jokes about The Wire? All directed at 90 percent of the people who read this site. BOOM. Roasted. (Score: 8/10)

Ms. Universe Pageant — Not a great sketch, although Washington as Ms. Uganda is fun, and Kate McKinnon as the coked-up Ms. Bolivia is terrific. (Score: 5/10)

Weekend Update — Kerry Washington’s energy clearly worked itself into Weekend Update, as Seth Meyers and Cecily Strong turn in a great outing with Obama-heavy Headlines. Strong lands the best joke with a Kanye/Kardashian dig. (Score: 8/10)

Angela Merkel — Kate McKinnon plays the Chancellor of Germany who had criticized Obama and the NSA for tapping her phone, and here, she’s revealing all of her embarrassing Google searches. “Jason Segal naked.” Eh. Not even McKinnon can save this one. (Score: 3/10)

Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal — I have no idea why Jay Pharoah is channeling Sling Blade for his Shaq impression, but it works. (Score: 7/10)

Cartoon Cathphrase — The phone-a-friend segment on a daytime game show goes awry in a very, very bad sketch that not even Kerry Washington, as the game show host, can salvage. (Score: 2/10)

Principal FryeNo. Attention Teachers and Students: The show took a wrong turn after “Weekend Update.” (Score: 2/10)

MTV’s Date or Diss — And we’re back … I don’t know if this sketch is making fun of a real MTV dating show, but it feels like a slightly heightened version of one of them, and it’s weirdly hilarious. Aidy Bryant steals it with some great Melissa McCarthyesque lines. “If you tickle me, I dump.” (Score: 7/10)

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Ice Cream Parlor — What the f**k? What. The. FUCK. (Score: 5,000,000/10)

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.