Cold Opening – The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer
I am pretty sure that Obama has not been constantly bragging about the bin Laden kill, at least not to this degree nor in this manner.  And that was why this sketch was so funny: because it was not true.  Actually, it was based on a certain nugget of truth: Obama is a smooth talker, and those verbal skills could mean he has a knack for standup comedy bubbling underneath the surface.  Fred’s delivery of the “kill bin Laden” catchphrase sounded similar to Kenan’s refrain of “Beeeef Jelly” as David “Beef Jelly” Winfield.” B+

Ed Helms’ Monologue
This is something you just about never see: a monologue that is focused around an essentially original idea.  A childhood love of baton twirling is in no way a major aspect of Ed Helms’ public persona, nor is it the opposite of his persona either.  But it proved to be a funny, well-thought out, well-executed idea.  The success of this monologue resided in the details: the influence of “Rascal T. Peppercorn,” Ed’s revelation of his knack for comedy coming from his brother and his brother’s friends’ laughing while simultaneously beating him, and that outfit. B+

A Message from the Corn Syrup Producers of America
Again, this was to be too smug to be over the top, or maybe it just wasn’t funny enough to overcome that dissonance.  But I did laugh a few times. Original Grade: B-

What Up With That?
Despite WUWT?’s settling into formula, I was grinning from ear to ear in anticipation of what might happen from the moment they showed the set during the commercial break until the end of the sketch.  After all, it has been five months since the last WUWT?, which is an eternity in SNL recurring sketch terms.  Most important, this rendition addressed head-on the biggest pitfall that recent WUWT? sketches have faced by having Paul Simon call Diondre out on the fact that Lindsey Buckingham never gets to talk.  Then it addressed other issues we didn’t even know we were worried about: the backup players were finally named and given a chance to speak, and Diondre finally started talking with the second guest (albeit just to tell him that time was up).  And not only did the real Lindsey Buckingham show up, he also ripped out an awesome solo.  And thus we had the best WUWT? of the season. A-

TV Funhouse: The Ambiguously Gay Duo
Robert Smigel returns with the first TV Funhouse in three years … to reprise the Ambiguously Gay Duo?  My disappointment at the lack of timeliness was abated when everyone became un-animated and I realized this particular TV Funhouse must have been in the works for a decent amount of time.  None of the double entendres weren’t particularly noteworthy, but they were reliably chuckle-inducing, while the live-action portion wasn’t particularly hilarious, but the production values were their own reward. B+

Paul Simon performs “Rewrite”
That’s not how you play a guitar!  Kids, remember, you have to strum if you want music to actually play while you are on stage (unless your backing band is there to fill in the gaps).  “Rewrite” is an appropriate title.  This sounded like a riff on some of Paul’s most recognizable work. B+

Weekend Update
-The Jokes: Clever enough to get by. B-
-The Segments: -Secondhand News: That Fergie connection did make the Secondhand News sound strangely accurate. B+
-Will Smith: Once again, Jay Pharaoh does a great Will Smith impression but can’t figure out good material to go along with it. B
-Garth and Kat: “Thank you, Grammy!”  As far as characters who keep presenting the same problems go, Garth and Kat are much worse than Diondre Cole.  So how can we accept that Seth keeps giving them another chance?  Oh well, at least Grammy likes them. B+

Song Memories
None of these stories measured up to the most outrageous of past Song Memories sketches.  Of course, there was the one story with the obligatory current event tie-in.  Andy took Will’s spot, which didn’t really make a difference either way.  The Human Centipede conclusion was acceptable. B

One-Take Tony
One-Take Tony turns out to be a phony baloney.  That is a one-joke concept, but a one-joke concept that can give you a decent amount of mileage. B

Paul Simon performs “So Beautiful or So What”
It rolled right along.  It is the sort of song that necessarily must be listened to many times before I realize just how good it is.  For now, it’s pretty good. B

Ann Margret Tries to Throw Away a Wad of Paper into a Trashcan
(Update: It turns out I actually am somewhat familiar with Ann-Margret: see addendum.)
I have heard of Ann-Margret, but I guess I’ve never really known who she is (other than that pre-drug problems Lindsay Lohan has often been compared to her), and I’m guessing a good portion of SNL‘s audience doesn’t really know who she is either.  But I’ve never considered the accusation that SNL is out of touch with its supposed target audience to be a sufficiently valid criticism.  So, judged on its own merits, this sketch was strange, and short, and one-note.  But also more amusing than annoying. B

A Message from Ted Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Gary Johnson, John Huntsman, or John Thune
Demonstrating his political chops that he honed on The Daily Show, Ed Helms shows how he is an ideal choice for capturing the tone of voice, manner, and talking points of a boring, middle-aged white politician. B

Overall
From the cold opening to the first sketch after Update, every sketch was a recurring sketch (and all the Update correspondents were recurring characters).   One would think that would be a recipe for staleness, but this was actually one of the freshest episodes in a while, thanks especially to the Obama-centric cold open, What Up With That?, and the Ambiguously Gay Duo all trying out new tactics.  There was a sense that a great deal of planning went into a significant portion of this episode, with that sense being stronger with this episode than any other in recent memory, making for easily one of the best episodes of the season.