SNL: Octavia Spencer, Forrest “Jeff Sessions” Gump – On Fire (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

SNL has been rather “up and down” of late, with more shows missing than hitting, but last night’s 15th episode of the 42nd season was on fire. Guest host Octavia Spencer rocked it in her monologue and also appeared in what may be the best topical cold open in SNL history.

Kate McKinnon as Jeff Sessions a’la Forrest Gump had the MVP SNL player knocking it out of the ballpark as “he” slowly confessed to a number of naughty acts. Michael Beck appeared in a “Putin cameo” and the two fist bumped before Spencer showed up as her character from The Help.

As “Minny” from the 2011 film, Spencer offers Forrest Sessions her special pie, the one she serves Hilly Holbrook in that film. (In a splendid bit of fourth wall breakage, “Minny” admits that she is from “another film.” Sessions/Gump asks, “Is this what I think it is?”

Minny replies in the affirmative and with a huge grin, Sessions declares this to be his favorite pie before taking a huge bite. Teeth streaked with “chocolate” McKinnon then makes the “live from New York” announcement. This was classic SNL served up fresh and hot and while Alec Baldwin was absent from the proceedings, Lorne Michaels and his crew of merry men and women socked it to the current cabinet with gusto.

Later in the episode the “Weekend Update” roasted the Trump brothers thoroughly. Eric and “Donnie Junior” were both mocked brilliantly during a “Colin” segment and once again, SNL was on top form.

To be honest, the “Update” segment was also on fire this week with several on point gags and Vanessa Bayer came back  as Laura Parsons. The precocious “youngster” covered the Oscar ceremony and, as usual, Bayer killed it as the outspoken and slightly naughty kid newscaster.

Father John Misty (aka Joshua Michael Tillman) provided some eclectic musical moments where he sang about Taylor Swift and Oculus Rift in the same song, and lyric, and broached things ecclesiastical in his second song.

Eclectic also describes the “Chuckie the Chocolate Man”  skit where Bayer and Bobby Moynihan had difficulty keeping straight faces while Michael Beck played a sort of post meltdown postal worker type banned from the office.

His character brought in a gun, before the sketch began, and threatened all his co-workers. It was an odd bit of business where “Chuckie” appears to be overly influenced by Pee Wee Herman and Willy Wonka.

The episode ended on a somewhat lame note with Octavia sporting glasses with “lizard eyes” as the president of “Spencer Gifts” who fires all her employees bar one and then goes on vacation.

Despite the one rather humdrum sketch, this particular episode burned with an old intensity seldom seen on SNL these days. Michaels crew managed to hit new heights with the collective scorn bestowed on the new cabinet.

New player Melissa Villaseñor proved once again that she is a dab hand at impressions, although guest host Octavia did a superb job with her Oprah Winfrey and Alex Moffat did an impressive job with his “Hugh Grant.” The segment, which was about a rip off of Zoo-topia, really showcased Melissa rather than Spencer but it was a funny sketch regardless.

The pre-recorded “TBD” republican trailer was amusing but the joke wore off about mid-way through the segment.

Despite the high quality of the Trump skewering that went on in this episode, it was neophyte Octavia Spencer who impressed mightily with her first guest hosting gig.  She was allowed to do her monologue alone; without the requisite add-ons of SNL players who usually accompany the “noobie” host.

Spencer was funny, on point and did so well that she will surely be invited back. We leave you with her monologue:

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