We'll get to Charlize Theron's uneven time on Saturday Night Live, her second appearance in fourteen years, but first we should have a quick moment of silence for Justin Mitchell, one of Rick Shoulder's many victims.
Alright, now that's out of the way, we can move on to Charlize Theron, the rare actor appearing on our show with nothing to promote. Except for A Million Ways to Die in the West, which she failed to mention even one time, definitely not because it looks like a mortifying disaster that no actress would want to be a part of. The freedom that comes when the host has no obligation to shoehorn mentions of Bikini Beach Party (coming out on May 17!), or whatever, means the writing staff can do whatever they want. It's both liberating and terrifying for the writing staff. This week they treated us to new appearances from old favorites, like Heshy, Nasim Pedrad's weirdo Yemeni motivational speaker. This was also one of Theron's rare moments to shine playing Gayle, Heshy's overachieving but still undersexed protege.
Another old friend — an old family member, actually — appeared during Weekend Update. We haven't seen poor Drunk Uncle in so long, and he was in one of his lowest states yet. It was a bad first impression to make in front of the new guy, Colin Jost, who hasn't experienced his hijinks before. Jost was obviously concerned. Drunk Uncle? He was fine, if a little depressed, and wrestling with his lingering feelings about never graduating high school, and the lackluster graduation celebrations from exterminator school. We're pulling for him to still master dragon training.
Speaking of family, this weekend is all about moms, which the show addressed int he first sketch of the night. Mother's Day Game Show was a sketch with an A+ premise, tons of initial promise, and an ending that fell flat. The kids could all win one prize of their choosing if they could answer more of Kate McKinnon's mom questions correctly. The sketch hits all those family notes perfectly, but ends when Kyle Mooney banged a neighbor. No one wins their prize. But I would love to see more adventures from the family itself. And Linda, of course. She needs the help.
Probably my favorite sketch of the night was Bikini Beach Party, the Gidget parody with an explosive twist. Taran Killam won the sketch as dreamy Darren, the 22-year-old who seduces a 13-year-old Gadget (Charlize Theron). He's the only older boy who talks to Gadget and her 13-year-old friends. (Darren is sooooo dreamy.) Despite Aidy Bryant's lame scientific warnings about the dangers of meeting a boy near an exploding whale, which Gadget uses later to impress Darren, she goes anyway and, well, the inevitable happens. The exploding whale should maybe be in this spot as the real champion, but instead we'll reward Killam for his ukelele skills and for standing in the face of impending exploding whale guts without flinching. Twice.
In an episode with few standout performers, Aidy Bryant contributed solid work to a number of sketches already mentioned above, and then she had a Girlfriends Talk Show, which in a dud episode this big, is about enough to get you on the MVP list. There’s no new ground for Girlfriends to break at this point, but it’s a pretty reliable player for a cast that has few recurring sketches to lean on. Charlize dropped in as an “experienced” former drama teacher who had plenty to say about her sex life. It was probably Charlize’s best work of the night, but the increasingly tense Aidy was still the standout. She really, really doesn’t want to talk about “the underneath,” guys.
There was basically one sketch that really worked this week, and it was one of the weirdest. Mike O’Brien hasn’t had nearly enough to do in his debut season as a performer, but his work as Rick Shoulders in HBO’s documentary spoof “Dragon Babies” was evidence of just how good he can be. Much like his Winston Sam Bass Investigative Report from earlier in the year, it’s clear that O’Brien’s skill lies in strange, more developed characters who dominate a sketch, especially pre-taped material. Hopefully he’ll stick around next year and give us more and more of that.