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'Saturday Night Live' Recap: Austin Butler Hosts and Cecily Strong Exits

The Dec. 17 'SNL' episode was not only the last episode of 2022, but it was also the last one for cast member Cecily Strong.

Danielle Turchiano
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Austin Butler and Cecily Strong on 'SNL'

NBC

Elvis star Austin Butler hosted the last Saturday Night Live episode of 2022 with Lizzo serving as the musical guest, but the biggest headline is that it was the surprise final episode of longtime cast member Cecily Strong.

Although there had been rumors that she might exit at the end of Season 47 in May 2022 and she had to sit out the first few episodes of Season 48 due to her theater schedule, she was heavily featured once she did make her return to Studio 8H, including playing politician Kari Lake. The show sent Strong off on the Dec. 17 episode with one last visit from her recurring character Cathy Anne at the "Weekend Update" desk. 

Since Strong was in character, when Michael Che asked her where she was going, her reply was prison because all of the crimes she confessed at the desk over the years "finally caught up" to her.

But even as she played Cathy Anne, she was able to nod to her work as herself, saying she'd be all right in prison because she has "friends on the inside," showing a graphic of former cast members Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon, who both left after last season, and reminding Colin Jost she once sat alongside that desk as his co-host. 

And at the end, her words spoke her truth, regardless of the wig she was wearing and voice she was adopting: "I had a lot of fun here and I felt really lucky that I got to have so many of the best moments of my life in this place with these people that I love so much."

Strong also played Kimberly Guilfoyle one more time in the cold open sketch that saw James Austin Johnson as Donald Trump, hawking NFT trading cards. And if you think that's the perfect parody of Trump's business style, well, much of it was actually just ripped directly from the real Trump's business this week.

And she nabbed the very last sketch of the episode, during which Kenan Thompson substituted "RadioShack" for SNL but still talked about her contributions to the show, noting she was leaving after working there for "eight incredible years," said 's character. She corrected him, saying she actually worked there for 11 years. "I know, and eight of them were incredible," he replied.

"Honestly, I don't think that RadioShack could have survived this long without Cecily," he continued more seriously. "Every time she came to work she had a new character or a new accent or a new impression that would just blow you away. She'd have a power and a joy to her performance that made you remember why you loved working at RadioShack in the first place."

Butler gave her a musical send off singing "Blue Christmas," which she and then Thompson and then the rest of the cast joined in on. But she signed off, there were a lot of sketches to perform, many of which followed up on the previous week's holiday theme, as this was the last episode of the year which is the quote-unquote official holiday episode.

Butler kicked things off with a monologue that paid tribute to his late mother, who he said he used to watch SNL with and who he credits with getting him started in acting because he was shy as a child, but he would do anything to make her laugh.

"And tonight, just know that anytime you see me doing a silly voice or making a funny face, that's for you, Mom," he said to close his monologue.

And Lizzo performed "Break Up Twice" from her 2022 album Special as her first number of the episode, but she brought the house down with "Someday at Christmas."

Read on for the most memorable sketches of the episode. 


A Christmas epiphany

The week's pre-shot, cinematic sketch sees Butler playing a man who eschewed family but once glimpse at one through a window at the holidays makes him rethinking and regretting that decision. Luckily, he has an angel (or something like that), played by Mikey Day, on his side. But before he can reunite with the woman he dumped but now wishes he made a family with, he succeeds in freaking out the family on the other side of that window, as they watch him peering in and assume he's a pervert. As they try to go about their meal as if everything is usual, the parents (played by Andrew Dismukes and Heidi Gardner) fight over how to handle him and expose problems in their own relationship. Perhaps Butler's character would be wise to remember the grass isn't always greener.


Jewish Elvis

Strong, Ego Nwodim, and Butler played women living in a retirement home called Oasis, seated in its theater with Strong's character's granddaughter (played by Chloe Fineman) and ready to see Jewish Elvis perform for Hanukkah. Hollywood has a history of casting non-Jewish actors to play Jewish characters, but this time they went authentic with Sarah Sherman playing the role, while the big-screen Elvis (aka Butler) donned a gray wig, glasses, and a cardigan and exclaimed, "I'm so horny I could freakin' explode" at seeing Jewish Elvis step on stage. The show was, as Fineman's character put it, "a little bit of singing, but it's mostly complaining." 


White elephant

This sketch paired Butler and Strong for some tense gift giving, or rather, gift exchanging as a game of white elephant got heated when he selected an ashtray that he was psyched to get because he needed a "catchall" to keep by the door. After telling the group that he would cherish it forever, Strong's character decided to steal it from him. He just wanted to steal it back, but since he couldn't he called her a "wicked woman" and then proceeded to explain why you shouldn't be able to take a gift from someone if is perfect for them. He used Nwodim's character as an example, saying he wouldn't take the scented candle she pulled from the table minutes earlier because "I know her house stinks." His attitude got a little worse before he finally agreed to open a new present, which had a tag with his name on it and featured the ashtray in jet black, his favorite color. No one wanted to take credit for leaving it, which led him to think it meant Santa left it. And sure enough, the sketch then cut to Day as Santa, decreeing that if someone gets the perfect present at a white elephant gift exchange you should let them keep it because "it costs you nothing to be nice." The sketch was short, but it certainly left a lot to wonder about the SNL writers' room's own gift exchange!


Jennifer Coolidge is impressed by Christmas stuff

Fineman broke out her impression of Jennifer Coolidge to react to such common holiday items as a stocking, lights, carols, and eggnog. The verdict on the latter? "Kinda weird. Tastes like I'm drinking Santa's [bleep]," she said. But don't worry, it wasn't all about Christmas: She also blew out the candles on a menorah, saying, "Oh, I forgot to make a wish."


Please Don't Destroy: Plirts

The Please Don't Destroy guys decided plastic shirts were the way of the future because they would be spill and stain proof, and they wanted Butler to invest in the venture. They had Lizzo, surprisingly, on their side, as well as several other SNL cast members who were also wearing plastic pants (plants), plastic hats (plats), and more. But unfortunately, the items had downsides, including internal temperatures of 110-degrees, being unsafe for pregnant women to wear, and making hair fall out (thus far that seemed to be a problem contained to the plats, but who knows). Butler was serious about how dangerous these things were, noting they did not belong in the office or on the street. But, he was taken with the idea, noting they belonged on the runway. And sure enough, he became their spokesmodel.


Saturday Night Live airs at 11:30 p.m. ET / 8:30 p.m. PT Saturday on NBC.