Sometimes, the best episodes and sketches in the history of Saturday Night Live are those that, when the writers inherently recognize the guest host’s strengths and weaknesses, lean into both instead of ignoring one in favor of the other. (Ryan Gosling‘s inability to keep it together comes to mind, repeatedly.) Such was the case for this weekend’s Liev Schreiber-hosted episode, in which the Ray Donovan actor was cast in various scenes that required, as he admitted in the monologue, something he’s not known for: being funny.
“I am not someone who is generally considered to be a funny person. Which is a good thing, you see, because the way I see it, this is all about managing expectations,” he explained. “Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with being funny. If you are, good for you. It’s just never really been my thing. I have attempted humor in the past. It mostly involved trying to talk to girls while I was in college, but I’m not going to lie, that didn’t go so great.”
It’s a simple joke for the monologue to hinge on, let alone the entire episode, but it works. Schreiber is principally known for his more dramatic film and television work by general audiences, so for SNL to use this as the episode’s mission statement is a great, easy way to get the ball rolling. And roll it does, for while Schreiber’s participation this season isn’t quite as good as Jonah Hill‘s last week, it contains some of the year’s greatest SNL moments so far.
Here are five of the more memorable moments from this week’s show.
Ms. Rafferty returns
SNL loves recurring characters just as much as audiences do, so when Kate McKinnon’s Ms. Rafferty popped up in “Paranormal Occurrences” alongside Cecily Strong and a mulleted Schreiber, everyone in Studio 8H and at home knew they were in for a treat. And what a treat it was! Rafferty’s first two appearances on the show were in episodes hosted by a giggling Gosling and concerned alien abduction. This time around, the trio was interviewed about encounters of a more ghostly nature. Or as Rafferty declared, “Beetlejuice got me on one of those Bird scooters.”
Pete Davidson gets his comeuppance
While Pete Davidson’s pre-midterms roast of various conservative candidates (and additional comments about Ariana Grande) dominated last week’s episode, it was the young comic’s offhand joke about Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw that stirred a hornet’s nest of bipartisan scorn. So Davidson opened his “Weekend Update” segment with an apology to the Texas Congressman-elect, who then appeared alongside him to roast him in turn. Crenshaw got a few good and well-deserved zingers in at Davidson, though he and his policies were decidedly left off the table.
House Hunters gets surreal
SNL releases two promos for each new episode: a straightforward advertisement and a short sketch. For Schreiber, the latter included an odd, horror-tinged game of jump rope between himself, Leslie Jones and Mikey Day. This has nothing to do with the “House Hunters” bit, but I mention the promo because something about Jones and Schreiber’s chemistry stuck out, and I was happy to see the pair together in SNL‘s weirdly surreal take on the popular HGTV program. Whatever you end up buying, make sure it has a man cave!
Dave can’t keep it together outside the women’s bathroom
Sometimes, a sketch can be so silly that it probably never should have made it to air, but even when what looks like a mistake at first glance keep chugging along, magic can happen. Like “Outside the Women’s Bathroom,” a purposefully awkward interview show in which Schreiber’s Dave waits outside a restaurant’s women’s bathroom to interview its users as they come out. Don’t get me wrong — the sketch has some great built-in jokes. But Schreiber’s inability to keep it together and say his lines straight is just as funny, if not more so.
McKinnon says goodbye to Jeff Sessions, for now
Among the many insane things that happened in the heat of this week’s midterm elections, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ resignation ranks pretty high on the list. So of course SNL was going to do something with the news, as the current trend for cold open sketches is to skewer whatever big political bits are on everyone’s minds. Plus, McKinnon’s creepy take on the former Alabama senator has been a delightful distraction from Alec Baldwin’s lazy Donald Trump impression, so she and Aidy Bryant’s Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave the act one final bow.
As great as Schreiber’s episode was, however, SNL this season shows no signs of trying to improve on some of its more deplorable failings as of late. This is especially true in terms of the diversity of the guest hosts, which Awkwafina called out (in padded language, obviously) during her monologue. The Crazy Rich Asians star’s ode to Lucy Liu was beautiful, to be sure, but aside from her episode, every other edition of SNL so far this year has been (and will be) hosted by white men. Steve Carell‘s next week will be the program’s sixth of at least 21 entries this year, so there’s still time to fix this.