They say you can’t go home again, but Jimmy Fallon did exactly that last night, returning to his roots to host “Saturday Night Live” for the third time since leaving his role as cast member in 2004. Instead of poking fun at his disastrous pre-election interview with Donald Trump on “The Tonight Show,” which some might have presumed he would self-deprecatingly mock himself for, Fallon opted for silence and easy jokes, playing an adorably quiet Jared Kushner in an “America’s Next Top Model” spoof that pitted him against Steve Bannon (represented again as the grim reaper) for the role of Trump’s top advisor in the cold open. Alec Baldwin was on hand to give us more of his brilliant Trump impression, and Melissa McCarthy wasn’t far behind, returning as White House press secretary Sean “Spicey” Spicer in a bunny suit, lampooning the inept press secretary’s horrific Hitler gaffe this week by trying to correct the offensive comments, with hilarious results. “Everybody just eat as much candy as you want,” McCarthy’s Spicer finally urged, “because it’s probably our last Easter on Earth.”
Fallon’s trademark boyishness and puppy-dog enthusiasm yielded the typical mixed results. His best effort was the double duty he pulled as John Travolta in “Celebrity Family Feud: Time Travel Edition!,” where celebrity contestants from the 1970s (Cecily Strong plays a fantastic Liza Minnelli) battled stars of today. Fallon plays Travolta from the “Saturday Night Fever” era, complete with a thick Brooklyn accent and a shaggy haircut, as well as the current Travolta from “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” running back and forth between the two teams. He was most comfortable when reunited with Rachel Dratch as Pat and Denise, the two affectionate Boston sweethearts who couldn’t keep their hands off each other now touring Harvard with a wicked smaht teenage daughter. The jokes were familiar but dependable and comforting like an old cozy sweater.
Other bright spots included a digital short that skewered a middle-school production of “Legally Blonde: The Musical,” where the cast of young girls humblebragged behind the scenes about the talent and hard work going into the show. Their perspective is undercut by tragically funny footage of the live performance, showing severely less talented and surefooted performers — they’re barely audible and couldn’t dance if they were on fire — until their unwarranted bravado ultimately leaves them bloodied. And excellent musical guest Harry Styles shows some comedic promise in a few bit parts, cracking the door open for his own eventual SNL hosting gig. It’s the guests (both surprise and expected) that had the buzziest moments from last night, but Jimmy Fallon just seemed happy to be safe at home.