The Andy Samberg-hosted episode of Saturday Night Live was technically the Season 39 finale, but from the looks of things it was more of a reunion for some of the show's best alums. In fact, only a handful of the current cast members got some screen time during the episode on Saturday night while they made way for SNL vets like host Andy Samberg, as well as surprise guests like Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, Kristen Wiig, Seth Meyers, Fred Armisen, and Martin Short. And just in case the current cast wasn't overshadowed enough, there were also appearances from Paul Rudd, Tatiana Maslany, Pharrell, 2 Chainz, Lil Jon, and Justin Timberlake (sort of).
Not that we're complaining, mind you. Because for a season that's been very rocky, the finale at least helped them all go out on an energetic and entertaining note. (Speaking of notes, musical guest St. Vincent and her wonderful brand of brilliant weirdness was everything we were hoping for and more.) While none of the sketches were bona fide classics and the lack of new cast members felt worrisome for what's ahead in Season 40, it was pretty impossible not to crack a smile at the two new Digital Shorts and witness the camaraderie that still clearly exists between the former SNL cast members.
The cold open for the episode was about -- no surprise here -- the instantly-infamous elevator scrap between Solange and Jay-Z. Contrary to rumors (or just the Internet's wishful thinking) Solange did not make a cameo on SNL. Instead, she was played by excellent newcomer Sasheer Zamata, while Jay Pharoah rolled out his Jay-Z impression once again. While plenty of the sketch was just jokes that have been cracked all week on the Internet (including what the audio on the tape sounded like, and in the case of SNL, it Solange was helping Jay-Z get a spider off him), the real kicker was when Maya Rudolph showed up as Beyoncé and said "surf bort." Incredible. (It was all much better than the latest installment of the "Waking Up With Kimye" sketch later in the evening, which despite Pharoah and Nasim Pedrad's efforts never works.)
The cameo-palooza really kicked in to high gear during the opening monologue when Andy was joined by his old pals Bill Hader and Seth Meyers for a battle of the impressions. (Justin Timberlake also popped up in the monologue from afar, sending Andy a picture to show his "support.") As it turned out, Andy needed to do 23 impressions to catch up to Bill's record and did so (with the help of Seth) by coming up with voices for the likes of Jay Baruchel, Zooey Deschanel, Beetlejuice, and Alf's dad, among others. But, Bill would not allow his title to be taken and one-upped him with a spot-on impression of Casey Kasem and, fittingly, Andy Samberg. Bill was rewarded for his efforts with some flowers courtesy of Martin Short. (Thankfully, one of Andy's all-time great impressions -- Nicolas Cage -- made an appearance later during Weekend Update.)
Of course, none of that even came close to the full-on guest cameo orgy that was the latest Vogelcheck family sketch. The Vogelchecks, as you'll recall, are the creepy, far-too-sexual family that kiss each other way too much. While the sketch often wears out its welcome, the gang was all there this time: Andy Samberg, Kristen Wiig, Fred Armisen, Maya Rudolph, and Paul Rudd all inappropriately smooched while Taran Killam looked on in horror. Sure, the sketch is gross and uncomfortable, but it's really hard to be upset when all of these people are on your TV together again. Especially when some of them break mid-sketch.
In addition to bringing back Nicolas Cage and the Vogelchecks, Andy Samberg gave fans not one, but two new Digital Shorts. While the first Digital Short, a riff on the popular DJ phenomenon, wasn't as head exploding-ly great as it could have been (oh hey there, Lil' Jon), the second one more than made up for it. The latest number from Samberg's group the Lonely Island (this time featuring Pharrell!) was not only an awesomely silly ode to hugging, but it had a cameo from Tatiana Maslany. Instant coolness cred.
(Speaking of great jams...Samberg's Blizzard Man is kind of great, right? We're with 2 Chainz on this one.)
Unfortunately, the star-studded episode wasn't all high notes. There were sketches whose weak concepts made them duds from the get-go ("The Confident Hunchback of Notre Dame," "Legolas from The Hobbit Tries to Order Taco Bell") and others that just fell flat, like a group of oddball kids at a summer camp in 1990. It would have been great if this sketch had succeeded, especially considering it had three of the show's best current cast members -- Aidy Bryant, Kyle Mooney, and Kate McKinnon -- at the helm, too. Unfortunately for them (and the rest of the current cast), Saturday night's episode was all about Andy and his old friends. Heck, even the last sketch of the night ("Bvlgari") featured Andy and Kristen stealing the show from Vanessa Bayer and Cecily Strong.
Overall, this was an amazing SNL class reunion of sorts, even if the freshman got overshadowed.