CREDIT: Rosalind O’Connor/NBC

It’s the last new Saturday Night Live of 2019, and I got a good night’s sleep and woke up refreshed to watch it recorded on my DVR. I finished writing in my dream journal while still in bed and added a very yellow banana to my cereal. I bet Eddie Murphy was also feeling refreshed, as it’s been 35 years since he last hosted (and 35+ years since he left the cast). Hopefully Lizzo was also feeling refreshed, or at least excited, as this is her first time as music guest. Incidentally, I believe that “Liz. OH!” is what you say when you realize that it’s been 35 years since Eddie Murphy last hosted.

Shall we start off with a Democratic Debate cold opening (Grade: 2.5/5 Classic Billionaire Switcheroos)? If we must. Here’s an idea: why don’t the candidates interact with each other more, instead of just taking turns spouting out stump speech bons mots? For Eddie Murphy’s Monologue (Grade: 3/5 Comedian Descendants), did he gift us with some classic stand-up comedy? No, he just welcomed some of his fellow black comedian friends on stage. Good vibes more than good laughs. Here’s another question: was Eddie going to revisit some of his most beloved recurring characters? You know it, babe! First up, it’s Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood (Grade: 4/5 Squatter’s Rights) taking on the business of gentrification. The great appeal about Mr. Robinson, as intact as ever, is that even though you know exactly what the punchline is going to be, the thrill of the moment arrives when Eddie goes right ahead and delivers it with such glee.

I watch more SNL parodies of baking competition shows than I do actual baking competition shows, so the Holiday Baking Championship (Grade: 3.5/5 Bad Choices) would seem to not be for me, but then a chocolate cake starts talking “some evil backwards devil talk,” and suddenly I’m like, “Ohhh, yeah.” Home for the Holidays (Grade: You Okay, Guys?) is the latest in a burgeoning SNL pre-filmed genre about the dark side lurking underneath the smiles of family gatherings, and I got to ask, who on the cast and writing staff is working through some deep-seated issues? Hopefully, crafting these sketches is proving to be valuable therapy. If you’re going to do a bit about The Masked Singer (Grade: 3/5 Tines a Mady) with Buckwheat, maybe wait a few minutes before he takes his mask off. So as a Masked Singer parody, it’s not much, but as an addition to Buckwheat’s repertoire, it’s charming.

For Lizzo’s first number, she performs her big hit “Truth Hurts” (Grade: 3.5/5 DNA Tests), and I’m getting the feeling that she decided to add some holiday vibes to her regular songs, at least based on some festive-sounding guitar riffs. It’s a big ol’ Weekend Update, as there are a lot of people who want to stop by the desk and talk. And you know what? I’m happy to hear ’em. First up, it’s Gumby, dammit (Grade: 4/5 Claymation Schmucks), which is kind of the perfect recurring character to show up after a 35-year absence and complain about everything. Next up is Pete Davidson (Grade: Hey-oh!), and it seems like he and Colin are great friends in real life, but I’m not sure it’s the best idea for them to be airing so much of their pillow talk on national television. Wrapping up it is Cecily Strong’s impression of Fox News opinion-shouter Jeanine Pirro (Grade: 3/5 Winter Tickles), and it’s a good ol’ classic Weekend Update vomit-fest. I have a confession to make: I skipped ahead a slight bit, because I wanted to wrap up my Update comments with my reaction to Colin and Michael swapping jokes (Grade: 5/5 Christmas Presents), which is just the gift that keeps on giving and giving. I didn’t know there were any higher heights left to climb in this routine, but then Colin goes and fires the cue card guy.

Velvet Jones is a man blissfully out of time with the cultural moment on Black Jeopardy (Grade: 4/5 Instagram Hos), and I’m shaking my big ol’ greasy ass from all the laughter and sort-of-progressive open-mindedness.

The holiday vibes for Lizzo’s tunes continue with a snow-accompanied performance of “Good as Hell” (Grade: 3.5/5 Hair Tosses), and I gotta say, I hope the Christmasness extended to lowering the temperature on stage, as it had to be hot in that tuxedo-esque getup she was sporting. For the final new SNL sketch of 2019, North Pole News (Grade: 4.5/5 “Santa Knew” Hashtags) is reporting on a polar bear attacking some elves, and it appears that everybody was in a “save the best for last” mood. It’s pretty clear that the formula for comedy gold is “Eddie Murphy Freaking Out = Non-stop Laughter.” I mean, this is something we’ve known for a while, but it’s important to be reminded.

SNL will be taking a break for a little more than a month, returning on January 25, 2020 with host Adam Driver and Halsey. Interestingly enough, both of these people also appeared last season, although not in the same episode.