Well it had been rumored for weeks but it finally happened last night ... Mark Wahlberg made an unannounced cameo on "SNL!" Oh, and there was also a brief appearance by the Governor of one of our least populous states. So make with the funny already!
Cold Open -- Sarah Palin (played once again by the ever-remarkable Tina Fey) gives her first press conference. It features lots of straight talk about some of the more un-American portions of the country and plenty of fancy runway walking. But there's trouble a-brewing backstage ...
Oh. My. Gawd. It's the actual Sarah Palin -- looking a bit less like herself than Fey does -- discussing the impression with the always inert Lorne Michaels. The aforementioned Wahlberg also shows and complains about Andy Samberg's impression of him two weeks ago. Then it's a cameo-a-palooza! Alec Baldwin pops up to protest the appearance of "that horrible woman," Sarah Palin, addressing the actual Governor with a sidelong, "Hey Tina."
Despite rumors of a side-by-side appearance, Fey-As-Palin and Palin herself share the frame for only a split second as the former abandons her press conference podium to the latter. Palin delivers the show's signature opener. Why do I get the feeling that's as close to a press conference as we'll get from Palin before November 4?
But is it funny? Well, yes and no. The scene opens promisingly enough with yet more nice work from Fey, even though she's essentially a comedic Judas Goat in this appearance. Palin herself makes very little impression, standing there as an observer while Baldwin rants. She gets one actual joke to deliver -- her line about "Caribou Barbie" -- and she doesn't do much with it. Not that there was much for her to do with it. Looks to me as if "SNL" is using her the way the "RNC" has been using her all along: traffic her out to draw the crowd, then keep her under wraps so (theoretically) nothing can go wrong.
Palin's walk-on serves to deaden whatever political satire might have been available to the scene. And maybe that was the plan all along. 2 stars.
Monologue -- Josh Brolin, star of the recently released -- and brilliant -- W. steps up to home base and boasts of his film work, especially the underrated Goonies. Then he gives us all a brief tutorial on how to impersonate the man who, rumor has it, is our current President. Brolin adopting the W. squint is genuinely uncanny. Oliver Stone makes a brief and utterly unnecessary promotional cameo. Geez, cameo much, "SNL?" Was Chris Parnell busy? I find that hard to believe. Anyway, Brolin is decent at the always awkward intro. I can't wait for the George W. Bush sketch they're undoubtedly going to do later where they take advantage of his Bush cred. 3 stars.
MacGruber I -- Everyone -- including me -- loves Will Forte's MacGruber. This time around, the ever-resourceful hero is taking a bit of a bath in the financial crunch. Looks like Brolin went down to the Halloween costume shop and bought himself an Anton Chigurh wig. MacGruber makes the mistake of checking his stocks before saving the oil refinery. Oh, MacGruber. Will you never learn? 2 1/2 stars.
Japanese Restaurant -- I think they said it was called "Tagasawi's." Just guessing. Chris (Brolin), can't wait to surprise his girlfriend Kat with a proposal of marriage, much to the excrutiating delight of Sue, the Woman Who Loves Surprises. Kristen Wiig reprises the character of Sue from last season's Christopher Walken episode. Now as then, plopping such an extreme personality into a sketch forces everything to be one note and one note only. That note is one of ever-increasing spasmic ecstasy. Kristen plays it well, but she can't overcome the inherent limitations. Somehow, they got pregnant Amy Poehler on the floor. I've been around a few pregnant women in my time: I wonder how many stagehands it took to lift her back to her feet. 2 stars.
MacGruber II -- This time, MacGruber has to save an Italian Mafia Hideout from a makeshift Gamma Bomb! Forte shatters a bottle to try to steal his assistants' ready cash, valuables and, inconveniently, Vicki's watch. The best MacGruber segment in this (somewhat weak) bunch. 3 stars.
The Suze Orman Show -- Everyone's favorite chiding financial guru is back in yet another fabulous jacket. Kristen does a devestating impression, last seen in the previous season's Shia Labeouf episode (which, oddly, is also the last time they did MacGruber). With the economic crunch, the Orman sketch is a bit more relevant than it has seemed in the past. Brolin contributes the character of Dick Dundenkirk under yet another bizarre wig. Dick is so desperate, he has had to sell his nipples to a medical school. I didn't know they were buying. Suze recommends a book of whimsical cat photographs called "Master-Pussies," and admits she had a great time with Dick. Nice work, my dear people friends! 3 stars.
Andy Meets Mark Wahlberg -- After Lorne gave him up in the Cold Open, Andy runs into Mark Wahlberg backstage and gets upbraided for the inaccuracy of his impression on the previous show. The real Wahlberg talking to a donkey is funnier than the pretend Wahlberg talking to a donkey. Also funny: Wahlberg plugging "Entourage" and Max Payne. Andy runs away like a little girl. 2 1/2 stars.
Cowboy Bar -- The impressively pregnant Amy Poehler dances around seductively in a boot-scoot bar rife with mullets to the haunting strains of Gregg Allman's "I'm No Angel." No real scene here, just a fairly funny visual. Will puts in a brief bit at the end as "old, weird Gregg Allman." 2 stars.
MacGruber III -- On board a Human Traffic Supply Ship, MacGruber is all out of options and reduced to shooting ping pong balls out of his posterior for cash. Oh dear. Not one of the show's proudest moments. Wonder how Palin is enjoying this. 1 star.
Adele performs "Chasing Pavements" -- I confess I was unfamiliar with Adele before tonight's show. She seems to be in the (recent) tradition of British soul chicks like Amy Winehouse and Duffy. She doesn't have the raw chops of Winehouse or the winning pop sensibilities of Duffy. Like Duffy, she's Welsh. It's an invasion! I like the all-girl string section. 2 1/2 stars.
Weekend Update -- Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler. Fake news. You know the drill. But this one is all about the guest appearances by some old favorites and more. So let's get to the meat.
Will Forte's all-purpose political maladroit Tim Calhoun is first up. He's running for President as the nominee of the Write-In Party. Nice. Calhoun has been much funnier in previous appearances. I do like his flag pin, however.
Then, we get Kenan Thompson's French Def Jam comic Jean K. Jean. Maybe it's the four year's worth of High School French I took, but I love this character. Cracks me up way more than he probably should. He gives me a baggatte in my pants. Zut Alors!
And finally, it's time for the main event. The Governor sits at the Update desk and watches while Amy brings the house down, rapping in her name. Frankly, a mannequin could have contributed to the sequence as much as the Governor did. Symbolism, anyone? The Palin-isms come fast and furious in the persons of Fred and Andy as Eskimos, Jason as snow-machine champ Todd Palin, and even a moose. It's a scream. 4 stars for Amy and company. The Update overall gets 3 stars.
Fartface -- Three businessmen call each other fartface. Even the studio audience can't muster much enthusiasm for this one. Maybe if someone shot a ping pong ball out of his bottom, it could perk things up a bit. Ah well, it will all be worthwhile when we get that George W. Bush sketch starring Brolin. I can't wait. 1/2 star.
Narc School -- Everyone in Miss Matthews's 9th Grade Algebra class is actually an undercover narc. Cute idea that doesn't really get developed. Brolin's mustache and Kristen's glasses are nice touches. Darrell sticks his head in at the end, just to remind us he's still on the show. I could really go for one of them "Drug Parties!" 2 stars.
Readitrade.com -- Jason does an ad for an online brokerage that offers the best financial advice currently available: Sell! The Readitrade.com website with one big "SELL" button is a hoot. 2 1/2 stars.
Correspondence from the Underground -- Trevor Dicks (Bill Hader) introduces a look at singer/songwriter Joshua Rainhorn (Fred Armisen), who is dreadful. Fred seems to really like these characters who are simply horrible at whatever it is they do. Joshua Rainhorn is the musical equivalent of political comedian Nicholas Fehn. I don't much care for either. Hader's good as one of those overly effusive British presenters. 1 1/2 stars.
Adele performs "Cold Shoulder" -- "Shower me with words made of knives," Adele sings. Yee-owtch! It must be cold in the studio: Adele is wearing her grandmum's cardy. Is she yodeling? I'm not becoming a fan. 2 stars.
Fall Foliage -- Well, here we are. The last sketch of the night. We're certain to finally get that political scene featuring Brolin's incredible George W. Bush. I mean, they couldn't possibly have Brolin on and not take that opportunity, right? Right?
Wrong! Instead, we have Brolin addressing a business meeting about the beautiful fall foliage. And as far as it goes, it's okay. Brolin's excessive descriptions of the leaves as "buttery rust" or "toasted orange" are chuckle-worthy. Kenan ends the show with one of the worst jokes in the show's history, an unfunny rape jest. Crickets. 1 star.
And cue the good nights. Palin hung around through the whole show. I wonder if her encounter with the British Adele counts as a meeting with a foreign dignitary. Someone update the resume!
Next week it's Jon Hamm and Coldplay. It's gotta be better than this one.