Cold Opening – Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s Prison Cell
As I see it, the humor in a sketch like this isn’t so much the dissonance of a convict displaying the knowledge of a sophisticated topic like the world economy.  It is more about the fact that when a topic like the economy is discussed, it is usually rather dry, so it is funny when it is expressed with some attitude, or some form of personality.  That is essentially what Kenan does with Jean K. Jean.  In this sketch he did it less shticky, with a dash of Lorenzo McIntosh thrown in. B

Justin Timberlake’s Monologue
Justin does all the things he says he is not going to do.  I am so pretend-confused. B-

If I remember correctly, when Will Forte was the upstaged spokesman in the (Fill in the Blank)-ville sketches, he and Justin’s mascot character always got along by the end.  So it was a change of pace that Kristen’s spokeswoman remained at odds with him.  As always, the musical selections were generally energetic and inspired.  Pulling J-Kwon’s “Tipsy” out of the vault?  Hoo boy, gotta love that. B

It is a plus when Herb Welch ramps up the ethnic and sexual slurs, which came in bunches in this rendition.  I am a sucker for latent, nonsensical prejudices, archaic racial terms, and the like, so those moments were particularly enjoyable.  Otherwise, though, this sketch was a little listless.  Herb whacking people with his mic will never get old, but there was a rote sense of just going through the motions. B

Digital Short: Three-Way (The Golden Rule)
With this third appearance of the sexy, nineties R&B-style digital short guys, Andy and JT seemed to be attempting to include every possible outfit that a cheesy nineties R&B group would have ever worn.  Ultimately, this felt like merely a minor hit from their career, as it was nowhere near as daring as “Dick in a Box” or “Mother Lover”: a girl like GaGa’s character was obviously worthy of three-way inclusion, and these characters are comfortable enough with their own sexuality and each other such that an accidental act of homosexuality wouldn’t be that big a deal. B

Lady GaGa performs “The Edge of Glory”/”Judas”
Well, GaGa goes at it the piano again, but I’m not sure “The Edge of Glory” is anything more than your standard inspirational anthem.  Luckily, she switched to “Judas,” with a beat and a refrain we can definitely get behind. B

Weekend Update
-The Jokes: Is this what Seth was hired as Update anchor for?  To tell jokes with blunt delivery and then immediately drain his face of all emotion?  The Protestant sex joke, however, did show cleverness and a cultural awareness, which are necessary qualities of a fake news anchor. C+
-The Segments: -Really!?!: Yeah, Ah-nuld screwed up, but he apparently didn’t provide Seth with particularly strong material.  Really!?! works best when they go at least a little silly, so the conflation of Ah-nuld’s movies with his personal life was the strongest element of this rendition. B-
-Get in the Cage: So apparently now the two classic elements of a Nic Cage movie are: one, the actors were fed, and two, it’s basically a shot-for-shot recreation of his life.  I’m surprised that Bangkok Dangerous didn’t garner a mention. B
And Stefon showed up at the end.

What’s That Name – Celebrity Edition
This rendition of What’s That Name worked better than the inaugural attempt from the Paul Rudd episode, as it was nice to have a balance between a contestant who didn’t know anybody and one who knew everyone.  And GaGa was just about the perfect person to use as the one who knew everybody, as apparently she pays attention to all of her little monsters.  And Fred was a solid choice as a non-stereotypical GaGa fan. B+

Merryville Brothers Love Tunnel Ride
This wasn’t as freaky as the last Merryville Ride sketch.  The threat of losing your date to animatronics doesn’t sound as bad as the threat of losing your head to animatronics, especially when the fellow who lost the girl ends up receiving attention from the other animatronic.  Thus, the sense we ended up with here was plain old silly as opposed to wild as all get out. B

Secret Word
Just your standard Secret Word sketch.  That is the sort of description you end up with when you have an abbreviated version of a recurring sketch that appears this late in the show. B

Lady GaGa performs “Born This Way”
GaGa switches the formula on us that she established with her first appearance last season: this time, the medley came first, and the individual song second.  But the other part of the formula remained the same, as the better performance still came second.  “Born This Way” is not her most impressive work lyrically, but it does have a frenetic beat that lends itself well to strong choreography for a fun live performance. B+

The Barry Gibb Talk Show
This was just as inane as all the other Barry Gibb Talk Show sketches.  Its comedy was also lazier, but it did have enough personality to elicit something of a reaction. C+

And I thought last week had a preponderance of recurring sketches.  In this episode, (with the exception of the cold open) every single sketch was a recurring sketch.  JT revisited (Fill in the Blank)-ville, the Digital Short R&B guys, and the Barry Gibb Talk Show, and he brought his own spin to Herb Welch, What’s That Name, the Merryville Brothers, and Secret Word.  While he was just as reliable as he always is with his performances, I must say I was disappointed with him.  I naturally expect something new, fresh, and exciting from him.  This isn’t entirely his fault.  Since he is such a familiar face at SNL, he inevitably brings a lot of baggage whenever he hosts, as he is naturally expected to reprise so much.  But there should have been room for something new in there.
As for Lady GaGa, I was happy to see her actually display some personality.  Whenever she performs, and in her music videos, there is always plenty going on, but it is not always clear that there is an actual person underneath all that shock.  And when talking in public, she often sticks to safe, bland, inspirational bons mot.  But in her multiple sketch appearances, she made it clear that there is indeed a person who is aware of the world beyond her own artistry.

The Season 36 recap is coming soon!