Uh-oh. Boner alert!

Cold Opening – A Message from the Vice President
Finally! A political sketch this season that is, well, decent. Hey, when all else fails, just turn to Biden. He can deliver the crazy, no problem. The Chilean miners served as a fruitful comparison. B

Jon Hamm’s Monologue
I wasn’t sure if the joke was that Hamm’s ad campaign ideas weren’t as good as he thought they were or if it was just the process he went through to come up with them. Anyway, the success of this monologue depended on delivery, which was superb when Kenan shouted, “Refrigerators!” and Andy snuck in with, “9-volt batteries.” B

Digital Short – Ronnie and Clyde
When I was thinking about what sketches might appear in this episode, I thought that Rihanna should appear in a digital short. Then I remembered that she was in Shy Ronnie last year, so I thought, “How about a Shy Ronnie sequel?” This is the first time in a while that I correctly predicted a sketch like that. Anyway, one of the main reasons the Shy Ronnie shorts work so well is the matter-of-fact delivery of Rihanna’s reactions to Ronnie’s shortcomings. The fact that something can be matter-of-fact when sung in a thick Barbadian accent is amusing enough on its own. A-

Variety Vault: Vincent Price’s Halloween Special
The Vincent Price specials are reliable. Hamm’s JFK wasn’t so hot, though (and that’s a pretty easy impression). No big deal. Everything else was in place. On a related note, I recently saw Rifftrax Live: House on Haunted Hill. B

Back to the Future Screen Tests, Part 1
It took SNL 13 years to revisit the winning fake audition concept that they pulled off so well with Star Wars? Well, at least they finally got to it. Sam Kinison – a perfect role for Bobby – was the highlight of the first round. Jennifer Tilly was around in the eighties? B+

This sketch could have been awful if K-Wiig had just made faces at the camera. But instead, she pulled off such classic lines as “I will show my bush” and “I might tinkle in a sink.” Hamm’s impassioned defense was unnecessary. B+

Back to the Future Screen Tests, Part 2
When the Alan Alda impression began off-camera, I thought, “Who is that? That’s perfect.” Bill deserves some sort of award. Cosby was the high point – Kenan could barely contain himself. Abby’s Joan Cusack actually sounded like Lea Thompson as well. Prince was a nice touch; we haven’t seen him in a while. I thought they could have had time for a third round, considering that Vanessa, Paul, Nasim, and Jason didn’t appear (Seth doesn’t appear in sketches), and Bill and Taran had two roles each. A-

Rihanna performs “What’s My Name”
Rihanna demonstrates the illustration of fun in the form of a musical performance. And why not? She went dark on her last album, so now is the perfect time to lighten up. Chris Brown is far enough back in her rearview mirror. B+

Weekend Update
-The Jokes: The Sarah Palin “that’s not how you run for president, that’s how you offer to babysit bit” was a genuine laugher. B
-The Segments: -James Carville: The Tea Party as wacky friends’ parents concept made sense, and I bought that Hader’s Carville would come up with it. B
-Garth and Kat sing Halloween songs: Garth and Kat go through basically the same routine each time, and it’s usually worse each time since the cracking up renders them more unintelligible than they would be anyway. Thankfully, they mixed it up a bit by coming up with an unending song title and then failing miserably to repeat it. B+

I Didn’t Ask for That
Bobby and Hamm were just about as good as anyone could be in playing devastated in reaction to their embarrassing moments being revealed, especially impressive considering the threadbare premise. K-Wiig was okay, too. (I can imagine that Will Forte would have been great in this.) B

Highway Cops
Hamm and Sudeikis brought to this random sketch some chemistry that came out of nowhere. And there was just a whole lot going on that didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the rest of the sketch (see Kenan the chief’s talks with the photo of his dead wife), making this one longer than expected. B+

Darlique & Barney
Why does SNL insist on these lounge act sketches? I feared that this would be awful, and then it was, not just good, but great. Credit goes to Hamm and K-Wiig for getting the unique rhythm down pat, and also to the writing (surprise, surprise) for the unique funny moments (like the Kit-Kat lyric). B+

Rihanna performs “Only Girl (in the World)”
Rihanna and her backup singers sounded a little out of sync on the first chorus, but then they got it together, and it would have been unforgivable if they hadn’t, as this is a marvelous song. B+

American America: Dog in Purse
This felt like something Spade had been bugging everyone at SNL about, and then this week a few folks were thinking, “We’ve got a few minutes – remember that dumb cartoon dog thing Spade keeps bugging us about? I guess we can bury it this week.” D+

K-Wiig appeared a lot. And she was often partnered with Hamm. They played husband and wife twice (or did they?). I guess Hamm insisted on playing opposite her as much as possible. Thankfully, it was K-Wiig at her best and not the (infrequently seen) annoying K-Wiig that so many people complain about. Anyway, this was easily the best episode of the year so far (no surprise considering that we had Hamm). The Back to the Future screen tests bit is now in competition with the Miley Cyrus Show for sketch of the year. With Kanye, Kings of Leon, and now Rihanna in the can, and Arcade Fire and Florence + the Machine to look forward to, this looks like quite possibly the best year ever in music for SNL. Might I suggest Daft Punk for the Jeff Bridges show in December?