SNL #36.22 RECAP: Season finale with host Justin Timberlake, musical guest Lady Gaga

Justin Timberlake has become an undeniably reliably strong host for Saturday Night Live, so much so that some would like to coax him into becoming a full-time member of the cast. Timberlake himself has even teased as much when answering questions from the entertainment tabloid media. But having him on once a year to host (and occasionally pop in for a surprise cameo here and there) plays much better, reminding us how well JT works with the cast, without overstaying his welcome.

So penciling him in as host for the 36th season finale was a no-brainer. As was booking Lady Gaga as the musical guest. Not only does she have a new album to promote this week, but the first time she performed on SNL, she fared admirably well in both her musical slots as well as multiple sketches.

Ready to go out big and go home? Let's recap!

We open with the big news of the week in the world. No. Not Arnold Schwarzenegger. We're talking about the IMF head, Dominique Strauss-Khan, accused of sexually assaulting his hotel maid before skipping out of NYC and America.


Taran Killam gets the "honor" of playing out how the IMF honcho spent his first minutes in Rikers Island prison, with Jay Pharoah and Kenan Thompson playing his cellmates. Before you say, hey, they cast the only black cast members as the bad guys, while Paul Brittain plays a prison guard, just hear them out. Get it? I'm not sure how, geographically, Portugal could be the dingleberry off of Spain, though. Oh, prison jokes.


For his monologue, Justin Timberlake is not going to sing tonight because Lady Gaga is here. The only way he can explain that, however, is to sing.

No fake ad. First ad instead goes to JT's new movie, which he did not plug in the monologue. Interesting, right? What if I were to tell you it's the same movie that Ashton Kutcher made this year that you didn't see because friends can have sex with Oscar winners and still be friends, until they cannot. Now you understand why this movie was not plugged.


Our first sketch after the first ad break immediately goes back to one of JT's SNL wheelhouses, which is the singing/rapping store mascot on the street who adapts pop songs to his sales pitches. This time, he's asking people to break it on down to Liquorville. Much to the dismay of Kristen Wiig's tea shop. Even when she offers to go tea-bagging. And here she is, Lady Gaga, with an assist as the wine lady to JT's beer bottle. And for those of you who'd like to believe there was a nip slip or a wardrobe malfunction — thereby making Justin Timberlake responsible for a "wardrobe malfunction" "curse" — let me remind you that an areola slip isn't the same thing. Or was there an extra grape showing after all? Now you're just going to have to watch it again, aren't you.

A YouTube/Google Chrome ad for Lady Gaga followed.


One last chance in the season finale to get their favorite characters on the show, and that's good news for Bill Hader's Herb Welch, the elderly NYC local TV news reporter who's so old, he might as well be dead. Until then, he's going to be hard of hearing and hard on his subject's heads. Jason Sudeikis gets a co-anchor in Nasim Pedrad this time around. "Celebrating 70 years with the network." Most cities have a Herb Welch, don't they? JT plays a teacher at an evacuated school, while Fred Armisen plays the principal. It's fun. It's simple.

The SNL Digital Short, already leaked beforehand online that it'd be bringing back Timberlake and Andy Samberg to mark their third music video as Color Me Badd reject singers. Well, that's not what they're called. You know them as the "Dick in a Box" duo. This time, Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg got involved in a "3-Way" with Lady Gaga.

For those counting, that means Gaga has appeared in two sketches before her first song. Nice work, Gaga!


As for her first song, Lady Gaga went with a medley of "The Edge of Glory" and "Judas." The approved video kicks in only for "Judas," though.


On Weekend Update, Seth Meyers got in another jab at Donald Trump, who couldn't even win his own time slot, let alone the GOP presidential nomination.


But Meyers reserved a special "Really!?!" segment for Ahnold and his affair with his housekeeper that resulted in a "love child."


SNL has developed a new way to plug movies via Weekend Update, allowing celebs to make cameos to promote their new blockbusters as long as they subject themselves to an interview with Nicolas Cage, as played by Samberg. Mostly to ask why Nicolas Cage was not in that movie. This week: Bradley Cooper, from The Hangover Part II.


And since there was one breakout star character on SNL's Weekend Update, we had to get one more dose of Stefon (Hader) before the summer break. I'm not sure if Seth Meyers is trying to say goodbye (since he didn't really), although he did thank everyone for watching and walked offscreen with Stefon, so there's that. Read your tea leaves, nerds.


OK. Second half. Hader hosts a game show, "What's That Name?" The premise of this sketch, which worked great the first time, has contestants getting some answers correct, but fumbling on some really awkward answers in front of people whom they really should know by name. Justin Timberlake and Lady Gaga play themselves. That's three sketches for Gaga, who looked extra sexy and kept everything in its proper place this time. Oh, look. Abby Elliott! Is there an inside joke in here because people might not remember Abby's name since she hasn't done much this season? Just for you nerds. Nerds. Armisen plays one of Gaga's "Little Monsters." It all becomes one big joke on JT, who plays it cool even when he's not supposed to be playing it cool. Now this is meta, as Killam walks out as one of JT's bandmates from NSync. Hahaha, Chris Kirkpatrick.


Hey, they brought back the creepy amusement park ride sketch! Sudeikis and Pedrad are on the ride. Timberlake, Killam and Hader play the evil live-action bots. The Merryville Brother robots are evil, indeed. Bobby Moynihan plays the ride's tech guy who keeps trying to tell them everything's under control. An appearance by Brittain. Pedrad's way too OK with this. But everyone gets a happy ending this time.


You didn't think we'd go all episode without one of Kristen Wiig's recurring characters, did you? We get another dose of "Secret Word," which is "Password" but not "Password," with Wiig as celebrity Broadway actress Mindy, who only does game shows now. Timberlake plays a magician. Hader hosts all of the game shows, doesn't he? The celebrity partners are played by Elliott and Moynihan. Just as in past instances, Wiig's character cannot keep the secret word a secret. Mostly a lot of vamping on her part, as well as Timberlake's. If you like that, then you liked this.


For her second musical performance, Lady Gaga emerged from an egg of some sort for "Born This Way."


Not much time left. But plenty of time to get Jimmy Fallon, who's working in the building, to reunite with Timberlake for another episode of The Barry Gibb Talk Show. Their guests: Elliott as Rachel Maddow, Thompson as commentator Roland S. Martin and Armisen as FED Chairman Ben Bernanke. Fallon gets in the only Rapture joke of the evening? And did anyone else really get a word in, really? I guess that is the format, and yet.

Good night, everybody, and have a great summer! Nobody said goodbye publicly during the show. And yet. I wouldn't be surprised if we see more changes before the 37th season begins in the fall. At least they got the full credits they deserved at the end. Sometimes they mistimed the ending so badly they barely had a chance to say goodnight at 1 a.m.

Alrighty SNL fans. You know I'll keep in touch this summer as the new season starts to take shape, and if I have any thoughts or scoops, I'll be sure to pass them along!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →