CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

Jeffrey Malone watches every new episode of Saturday Night Live and then organizes the sketches into the following categories: “Love It” (potentially Best of the Season-worthy), “Keep It” (perfectly adequate), or “Leave It” (in need of a rewrite, to say the least). Then he concludes with assessments of the host and musical guest.

Love It

Terry Fink – One successful formula for a hilarious Update guest segment is a character who has a habit or personality quirk that justifies a bunch of wacky dialogue. And we have an excellent new example from Alex Moffat as film critic Terry Fink, who makes sure to be tripping on plenty of LSD whenever he sees a new flick (or just its poster in the subway or the middle of Times Square). Thanks to him, I now know about Dumbo‘s “touching jihadi message.”

Colorectal Exam – It’s always impressive when a comedy sketch can pack a bunch of twists and turns into a handful, or even less than a handful, of minutes. What starts out as a patient inappropriately asking out his doctor (who turns out to be his nurse, and also somehow they manage to make it not inappropriate) turns into a struggle with a concerningly long-fingernailed doctor. And then it all wraps us a surprise Undercover Boss parody that somehow tracks perfectly logically. All of that satisfies, and there’s even room for a joke about being the best doctor “in all of Arizona, excluding Phoenix.”

The Game of Thrones Prequels, Sequels, and Spin-Offs go in a few directions that I might actually watch, particularly GOT:SVU, what with Mariska Hargitay and Ice-T showing up…The Frank Sinatra Impersonator who’s really a Michael Jackson impersonator who can’t be that anymore is a delightful product of insufficient Wikipedia research…Earthwar 3 presents a hilarious vision of agonizingly petty video game NPCs…It’s been a little while since we’ve seen Kenan’s Charles Barkley, but he’s making time again to stop by the Update desk, not so much to bemoan the Final Four loss of his beloved Auburn Tigers, but more to reveal that he majored in “Blackjack” in college…There are some things you don’t know you need in life until you see them, and one of those things is Kit Harington doing a burlesque dance at a Bachelorette Party…Kate McKinnon and Sara Bareilles give it their super-passionate all for A Day in the Life of Theresa May.

Keep It

Graphics Department – I appreciate that the fantasy fighters played by Kit, Kyle, and Beck aren’t made of fun of by their co-workers for their nerdiness. Instead, they are quite reasonably chewed out for their disruptive behavior. And all that strife over an employee-of-the-month prize for a free ice cream cone. Hey, I get it, man, I love ice cream more than anyone I know. And it certainly makes for one of the most unique SNL premises in quite some time.

The Biden 2020 cold open could use a more unique point of view, but it’s always a treat to see Jason Sudeikis’ slightly nutzoid impression…The Nephew Pageant is quite a revelation, especially the reveal that uncles can also be nephews…Michael and Colin appear to be in a comfortable rhythm this week, and the biggest laugh comes from Colin pleading, “Guys, just eat the chicken.”

Leave It

There is a surprising amount of life in this episode, and it is quite possibly the best of the season, but the Monologue is still a black hole. At least a Q&A session is better than nothing, which is what too many recent SNL monologues have been.

Kit Harington

CREDIT: Will Heath/NBC

On a scale of hosts I didn’t have much hope for, Kit Harington is now right up near the top. There are a lot of Game of Thrones cast members who are arguably worthy of an SNL hosting gig, and considering how much fans love Jon Snow, it’s no surprise that he got the call. But before this episode, I would have said that about ten of his co-stars would have been better picks. But it turns out that he is much more adept at live comedy than I would ever have expected, about as much as Eli Manning was back in 2012.

Sara Bareilles

On a scale of middle-of-the-road pop musical guests, Sara Bareilles keeps herself at the top of the heap with a powerful voice and marvelous pitch control. Her songs are hardly groundbreaking, but they’re pleasant enough, and she seems to have such a lovely personality. That is all to say, she wins me over with so much aplomb when she’s on the stage.

And now for some letter grades:

Biden 2020 – B-
Kit Harington’s Monologue – C
Nephew Pageant – B
Game of Thrones Prequels, Sequels, and Spin-Offs – B+
Frank Sinatra Impersonator – B+
Earthwar 3 – B+
Sara Bareilles performs “Fire” – B+
Weekend Update
The Jokes – B
Terry Fink (BEST OF THE NIGHT) – A-
Charles Barkley – B+
Bachelorette Party – B+
A Day in the Life of Theresa May – B+
Graphics Department – B
Sara Bareilles performs “Saint Honesty” – B+
Colorectal Exam – B+

I’ll be back next week to let you know what I’m loving, keeping, and leaving from host Emma Stone and musical guest BTS!