Saturday Night Live recap: Pedro Pascal charms in solid show, joined by surprise guest Sarah Paulson

Party hearty! It's Saturday, and it's 11:30, it's time to party with tonight's Saturday Night Live recap! I'm your excellent host, SNL in Review. Tonight's episode features a particularly well-timed host, Pedro Pascal, who stars in TV's most buzzed about show The Last of Us, and - oh yeah - will return in The Mandalorian in a few short weeks. Back in the day, SNL hosts were constantly appearing just as their high profile film projects were hitting their stride. In today's landscape, TV and streaming leads the zeitgeist above all, so here we are. Still, hats off on the coordination.

I am joined today by former SNL cast member, Jeff Richards, whose Deep Fake podcast recently spoofed Jordan Peterson. He is a fan of Pascal's range, saying: "Pascal is obviously a big TV star with multiple shows on - but he's also been grinding out small bit roles in the industry since his NYPD Blue days. He goes back to doing Buffy in the 90s and the Law & Order circuit. So seeing this culmination, him hosting SNL a quarter century later, is pretty cool." He notes: "Last of Us makes you laugh, makes you cry -- it's fun for the whole family. Fun game too."

Alright, let's dive in.

Cold Open

Chloe Fineman is Katy Tur on MSNBC. The long national nightmare is over: "We got the ballon." She mocks the conservative response, before welcoming a General (Kenan Thompson) to applause. Oh boy, lots of easy jokes about the Seattle Space Needle and deflating. He notes the Chinese doesn't need to spy via balloon; they have TikTok.

Bowen Yang plays the balloon, floating in the water. "Congrats… I am Joe's Osama!" Turns out he loves Yellowstone AKA Succession but outside. Add this to Yang's growing repertoire playing iconic inanimate objects, a la the Iceberg from Titanic. This is current and somewhat fun, I guess.


Pascal appears onstage in a defiantly purple shirt. He shouts out The Mandalorian and discusses how he gets recognized in public now, tasked to call confused six-year-olds and questioned about whether Baby Yoda is mean in real life.

Alan Sepinwall has written about how little time Pascal actually spends on set of The Mandalorian, due to the fact his character spends most of his time behind a mask. (And stunts.) That makes me wonder: is it possible Pascal spent more time rehearsing this week's episode at 8H then he did actually shooting The Mandalorian? Jeff Richards is clearly a big fan of the Star Wars franchise: "I love the bartender because he/she looks ready to hook it up with the heavy pour. And who doesn't love baby Yoda — that little dude knows how to party."

Pascal discusses fleeing Chile as an infant; his cousins still give out his phone number.

Very lowkey monologue.

The Big Hollywood Quiz

Jack Dell Mar (Yang) introduces a show that is all about the history of Hollywood, featuring various movie experts. Questions about All About Eve and MASH follow, easy stuff. Then he brings up Netflix — the contestants are stumped. No one knows anything about modern pop culture, it's all so disposable. No one is seeing current movies, and even popular streaming shows aren't well-known to the experts.

So much content. "Where did all the big popular movies go?" whimpers Pascal's contestant, Robert. He can't name three movies from the past five years.

HBO Mario Kart trailer

The Last of Us is a hit. Next up? Another video game adaptation, a serious dystopian take on Mario. Pascal is really funny as a reimagined Mario. Yoshi is complex… and bisexual.

This is good, I suggest watching it, folks — with the caveat that SNL continues to lean into easy product spoofs. But this works, given the nostalgia around the game, the overly grim tropes HBO taps for their shows… and the fact there's a ridiculous new Super Mario film coming soon starring Chris Pratt.

Waking up

"Who is everybody?" wonders Pascal, waking up from a coma. Charlie was hit by a Party City bus in Arkansas. His wife and friends are with him, but something is different. "Let's put a pin in that," he mumbles with a goofy tongued accent. He has an "LA mushmouth" voice, and has a completely different personality. The old Charlie was a man's man. Slowly though, his family comes around to this new man before them. Meh, skip.

Fancam assembly

The school's favorite teacher, Mr. Ben, is discussing the school's technology policy. Do not access inappropriate content online, do not bully on social media. But the biggest role? Stop making fancam tributes to him! His foot is always on their necks! They love him down. Lots of Gen Z terminology. "Eat up no crumbs left." These TikTok videos dedicated to him are soundtracked by SZA's "Big Boy" – it's cuffing season! And so on.

Mr. Ben is distraught over the attention.

Lots of Bowen Yang so far this episode! The audience eats this up — they even go nuts when Ms. Jenny (Sarah Paulson) shows up. Random cameo, but the two first met back in 1993 during his first year at NYU, and they've been close ever since. They go back. Turns out these students are traumatized by COVID-19, making them permanently online.

Wing Pit commercial

So many wings overwhelm a room of eager football fans. So many options like the chicken carnage platter. Solid commercial parody, but not really worth the click.

Coldplay "The Astronaut (Live)"

A sweet love song about astrology. Chris Martin dances with a one-eyed monster, and an assemblage of aliens. Smooth camera work here, folks. I believe this song was a collaboration with BTS' oldest member Jin who put out a version of "The Astronaut" last fall before completing his military service. Jeff Richards quips: "Was it really ALL yellow? And if so, don't you think you should see a doctor? This is one of those bands I think people think other people like. In 2023, it blows me away they're still performing SNL."

Weekend Update

More jokes about the balloon. George Santos smackdowns also continue. Thursday was Groundhog Day. Here to talk about it is Michael Longfellow as Punxsutawney Phil, the depressed, chastened central figure in Punxsutawney's annual winter celebration. "Time is an illusion!" he says, taking a hit. "We live in a simulation!" Not sure this entirely works – but Longfellow's confident, deadpan style sells it.

British rappers Millie Founds and Shirty (James Austin Johnson, Devon Walker) are here to discuss the new era of the monarchy. Indeed, they rap. Good character work from JAJ here, and funny spoof of British rap. Instead of gun noises, they make tiny knife sounds: "Shshs." "I'm allergic to dairy." I like this. A few curious throwbacks in this Update — Jost saying jokes seemingly written by Che. Arby's.

Overprotective Mom

Marcello Hernandez brings his girlfriend Brittany (Fineman) home to meet his mother, played by Pascal. Brittany brought some vegan sliders, which Pascal immediately discards, offended. "She doesn't like money," scoffs mom, hearing about Brittany's fine art major. Mom is hostile, especially after finding out she got her son on ADD medication. Her mood only changed when Fineman offers to say grace. Hernandez continues to land decent sketches reflecting his sensibility. I am always a fan of slice-of-life sketches like this too.

Italian waiters

Pascal welcomes a table of women at his restaurant. They are all bellissima except Sarah Sherman is "smart." It goes on like this – complimenting the group, singling out poor Sherman, even giving her a tub of chili to eat and removing the lightbulb above her seat. They team up against one of the women to garner higher tips from the others.Easy to recall Il Cantore Restaurant/Bellissimo sketch on SNL from the 90s here. It's almost like an inversion of that – this time, they are repulsed by the main woman. (Some Pepper Boy throwback vibes too, which is cool I guess. Watch those instead though.)

Coldplay - second performance

A medley bleeds into "Fix You" – they performed this back in 2005 when Lindsay Lohan hosted the show. (Matter of fact, Lohan should host again!) Charming performance. This is Coldplay's seventh time performing on 8H. They first came on the show way back in 2001!

Lisa from Temecula

A birthday toast to Shana (Punkie Johnson)! Her baby sister Lisa (Ego Nwodim) is in town to celebrate. Paul (Pascal) wants "that butt" as Lisa orders an extra extra extra well done steak. (This is the way I like it too Lisa! Heh.) It's "bussin" - the meat is cooked so well she has to saw at it, shaking the entire table wildly. "Cook my meat!" Bowen Yang and Pascal crack up a lot. Not quite a modern Debbie Downer classic, but Ego is so funny here. Watch!

Final thoughts

What did you think? Did you miss Kyle Mooney's Baby Yoda? Vote here or sound off in the comments!

— Thank you to Jeff Richards! Back in his SNL days, Richards did a variety of political impressions, from Howard Dean to Al Franken. Today he says: "The one I've noticed since I started doing Jordan Peterson is the way it splits people. Liberals and progressives love seeing someone like that be the butt of the joke, even if it isn't about his politics, while his online fan base instinctively reacts to it, even if it's not mean spirited. It reminds me why SNL does political impressions. It always gets eyeballs." Check out Jeff's podcast.

— Pretty solid episode! I had fun, even if some familiar callbacks.

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