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“Saturday Night Live ”recap: After 12 years, Josh Brolin returns to host with a lively, excitable performance

Plus, Ariana Grande was the musical guest and popped up in a couple of sketches herself.

It’s SNL in Review! So, let’s review.

Tonight’s host is Josh Brolin, who returns for a third stint on Saturday Night Live. His first episode is a borderline modern classic: Days before the 2008 election, a very pregnant Amy Poehler performed the Sarah Palin Rap alongside the actual then-GOP vice presidential candidate. It’s the “Fartface” episode. A very fun era for the show. During Brolin’s 2012 return, he thanked Lorne Michaels in the goodnights for creating the "greatest show on Earth."

Brolin has been a prolific actor since he broke through with Goonies, and especially following his fantastic role in No Country for Old Men. This week, I caught up with former SNL cast member Matthew Laurance at the Lexington Comic & Toy Con. He is anxious to see Dune: Part Two, which features Brolin — though he didn’t love the first!

On Brolin, he says: “I grew up with his father, his acting. I always thought he was wonderful. And Josh is a great actor. I’ve seen almost all his films. A couple of days ago, he just did a very funny thing with Stephen Colbert on his show.” (He also recently rewatched Sin City: A Dame to Kill with Brolin.)

Also returning tonight: Ariana Grande, who first performed on SNL in 2014, then served as both host and musical guest in 2016. She has at least one classic sketch under her belt. So, there’s some potential brewing! Color me cautiously optimistic. Let’s go!

<p>Saturday Night Live/YouTube</p> Josh Brolin on 'Saturday Night Live'

Saturday Night Live/YouTube

Josh Brolin on 'Saturday Night Live'

Cold Open

Oh boy, SNL takes on the State of the Union! Punkie Johnson as Kamala Harris! Michael Longfellow is back as Speaker of the House Mike Johnson. Mikey Day is Joe Biden — or is Joe Biden Mikey Day? I could do without all of this.

Then, Alabama Senator Katie Britt is introduced — and she’s played by Scarlett Johansson. So yes, we return to SNL’s celebrity cameo, political cold open season. Sunday morning YouTube clickbait. I shudder, I shudder.

Look, this is largely bad stuff, especially the beginning. Bad, paint-by-numbers, hamfisted political comedy. Well, to be fair, some of the Katie Britt jokes (the QVC bit and Get Out come to mind) work. Johansson’s impression is commendable. But I want to note her past role playing Ivanka Trump in the show’s Trump multiverse, and how bleak that was. I just don’t want these going back to that pandering place over the next several months. All week, Twitter (“X”) knew SNL was going to this well, that they couldn’t resist. So the show is fulfilling its duty, but taking the ball from one of its capable female cast members. And that’s lame. 

Monologue

Brolin notes that everything is the same at 8H since he last hosted SNL 12 years ago. He jokes about the musical guests during his past episodes (Adele, Gotye) and some of the major events that have happened over the past 12 years, such as Martha Stewart and Snoop Dogg’s friendship, playing Thanos.

Watching Kenan Thompson’s reaction to Brolin’s poetry is a fun bit, as well as when Brolin strips down and hops in an ice bath on stage. Brolin says he's been doing cold plunges for 20 years, and the only thing he can compare this show is that. "Hosting is like jumping into an ice bath," he explains. "Scary, it's exhilarating, your penis is in your stomach. There's just no way to prepare for it, so what you've got to do is just go for it. Just jump right in. Surrender to the discomfort!"

"Bank Robbery"

Devon Walker and James Austin Johnson come to rob a Chase branch. Customers Josh Brolin and Heidi Gardner are very into it, it’s a turn-on for them. They’re a “weird couple trying to hook up with” the criminals. 

"Airplane Song"

Andrew Dismukes! His phone is dead on a long flight, so to entertain himself he watches what the man to his right (Brolin) is watching: Ad Astra. Pretty funny concept and a good song. Brolin is game, and there's a fun duet between the leads.

This did not need Kenan or Chloe Troast jumping in. The show wants to pigeonhole her as "the Voice" — stop that and let her do other things!

"People Pleaser Support Group

This is a solid premise — people who can’t say no, who compulsively fall over themselves when they feel uncomfortable. I like the People Pleasers' Prayer of Deference.

One of the participants is Ariana Grande. Eh.

"Wine and Cheese Night"

A group of friends is tasting fine wine and cheese. Tiger, the house cat, shows up, sitting in Josh Brolin’s lap. He looks and functions like Toonces, no? Brolin is very touched that the cat selected him. His job is awful — he closes nursing homes and turns them into Top Golfs.

He gets irate when Tiger turns to Randall (Devon Walker), and madness ensues. This one is okay.

"Shrimp Tower"

The invention of the shrimp tower. Nice production value.

I dig the odd vibes here, including Kinsky’s violent obsession with his very specific creation.

"Shonda Talk Show"

Is he cheating or nah? Jasmine (Heidi Gardner) appears on Shonda's (Ego Nwodim) talk show because her man is treating her badly and she's fed up with him. The audience is outraged — he sounds like a d-o-g!

When they bring the “dirty cheater” Jerry (Brolin) out, he's in a motorized wheelchair and reveals Jasmine broke his damn neck. The crowd quickly distances itself from Gardner.

Ariana Grande performs "We Can't Be Friends (Wait for Your Love"

Grande's seventh studio album, Eternal Sunshine, was released earlier this week. This is the second single off the album — solid synths, good vocals.

Several scenes from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind are recreated in the music video, which costars Evan Peters.

Weekend Update

Colin Jost acknowledges Biden crushed his State of the Union address. “Colin, you go,” giggles Michael Che. The crowd reacts, and he reacts. The Che Way. Jost jokes Katie Britt’s acting reminds him of his own. Ouch!

We end with a throwback Arby’s joke. Wow, no commentaries. Lean and fairly forgettable.

"Moulin Rouge

Ken Burnt (Mikey Day) is hosting a show on PBS. The format here is like Cinema Classics, without Reese De’What.

Wow, Grande is back. More singing. I don’t love song-heavy sketches, but the medley approach is fun here — '90s songs meeting pop classics and kids' songs.

Brolin is a great host, so regulating him to a small role in this sketch — granted one that allows him to channel Jim Broadbent — feels wrong.

"Sandwich King"

A group of work colleagues is hating their day. It’s lunchtime, and Tommy Fling "The Sandwich King" (played by Brolin) comes around to sell subs to the crew, but they want to eat something else. Their rejection triggers an existential crisis for Tommy - he drifts into a lost headspace soundtracked by the “Barbie song” (a.k.a. Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?”).

Love Sarah Sherman’s fate. Silly.

Ariana Grande performs "Imperfect for You"

Grande, Max Martin, and Ilya co-produced this one. It’s both a love serenade as well as an ode to meaningful family and friendships.

Her mother Joan introduces her here.

"Lisa From Temecula: Sports Bar"

The third outing! Wow — this is a fun surprise. Lisa returns from the bathroom, and this place has "the good soap." We haven’t seen Lisa in almost a year!

Bowen was giggly in this episode! Somewhere, Jimmy Fallon and Horatio Sanz are smiling down from SNL clouds.

Final Thoughts

—Well, what say you? Decent energy, no? Grande was an unofficial cohost? Vote here!

—Maya Rudolph has officially been replaced as Kamala Harris. Punkie Johnson over Ego Nwodim is curious casting.

—An overwhelming 42% of you decided the Sydney Sweeney episode was good!

—Intense dance by Brolin during the goodnights. He again says SNL is the greatest show on Earth! Very nice.

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