The narrative surrounding ‘SNL’ for the last year and a half is that it’s a show that’s “rebuilding.” And yes, last season, that was true. But it’s weird: That narrative is still lingering even though, for people paying attention (I tend to pay attention), this 40th season has been very, very good. Last year, ‘SNL’ relied way too much on in-the-moment pop culture references (never a good sign). This season—including what we saw again during Saturday night’s Amy Adams-hosted episode—was all about great writing and great execution. It wasn’t quite as consistent as last week’s Martin Freeman-hosted show, but ‘SNL,’ right now, has a lot of momentum headed into its winter break. (When it returns with Kevin Hart, I really hope we see a sequel to ‘Z-Shirt.’ Please make this happen, Tim Robinson.)

(On a personal note, this is my last ‘SNL’ Scorecard at ScreenCrush. So, yes, thank you to everyone who reads this and to the brave editors who get up on Sunday morning to make sure this gets up on time. ‘SNL’ Scorecard will continue in 2015, just somewhere else. If you have any more questions, I’m not hard to find.)

Sketch of the Night

‘Singing Sisters’ (Strong, McKinnon, Adams, Mooney, Moynihan, Killam) This is one of my favorite sketches of the season. It hits my sweet spot of: Strong, McKinnon and Adams all saying weird things; the new hit comedy team of Moynihan and Mooney speaking in old-timey talk; and an actual ending that’s really, really odd. (Does this sketch need a “spoiler alert” warning? I think it might!) Even though it’s nothing like Forte and Sudeikis’ infamous “Potato Chip” sketch, it felt like the “Potato Chip” sketch in that, while watching, I had no idea what was going on but I found myself very happy.

Score: 9.5

The Good

‘Cold Open: Sam Smith/Dr. Evil’ (Myers, Killam) At first, I was sad that Taran Killam’s Sam Smith impression was just a fake out—it was pretty good! You know, with everything going on in what might just be one of the most depressing time periods in recent memory, seeing Dr. Evil again is strangely comforting. I have no idea why that’s the case; it just is. Also, it’s nice that Mike Myers seems to finally have a sense of humor about ‘The Love Guru.’ (As a society, we’re still not quite ready to admit that John Oliver is in that movie.)

Score: 8.0

‘Tenderfields’ (Killam, Adams, McKinnon, Mooney, Thompson) I could not take my eyes off of Kate McKinnon's dancing. Sure, everyone was dancing, but McKinnon was in her own world and on a different dance-level. In the past, I, like a lot of others, have been guilty of saying something along the lines of, “Oh, ‘SNL’ is missing its Eddie Murphy, Phil Hartman, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader type star.” First, this cast is so strong right now, does it really need one? Second, it’s time to put Taran Killam on that list.

(Not online for song rights issues)

Score: 7.5

‘Weekend Update’ (Jost, Che, Moynihan, Thompson, Armisen, Wiig) Michael Che no longer looks nervous. During his pretty great Kim Jong-un monologue, Che mentioned that he gets heat on the Internet. I don’t think that’s particularly true. I think he certainly got heat for one specific incident and, no matter how much he plays it off, it seemed to affect his performance over the next few weeks. Whatever, he’s shaken all of that off and is finally developing his own ‘Update’ style. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Colin Jost and Leslie Jones work really well together and should maybe be the ‘Update’ team. I want to amend that. I’m really starting to like Che on ‘Update,’ but Leslie Jones breaks Jost out of his bad habit of emulating Seth Meyers. So, the solution seems to be trying to get Jost to just be Jost—which we saw with Che’s “This is what Jost calls music” line. The more they play up that Jost is a “nerd,” the better Jost becomes. Also, Jost had a really great moment with his “wine” punchline during the Bill Cosby joke, the audience’s awkward silence, followed by applause was fun to watch.

Garth and Kat is one of my favorite ‘SNL’ segments because it’s one of the very rare moments in which there’s true improv on the show. This was a good use of Moynihan as Kim Jong-un. And, hey, at this point, anything we get out of Kenan Thompson is a treat. Assuming he leaves after this season, his departure will leave a much bigger hole than I think a lot of people realize.

Score: 7.2

‘Office Christmas Party’ (Pharoah, Davidson, Ensemble) Huh. Jay Pharoah and Pete Davidson as a comedy duo? I never thought of that before, but I kind of like it! Sure, this has a Lonely Island feel to it, but who cares? I had heard “through the grapevine” that Jay Pharoah devoted himself to writing more material the last couple of seasons in an effort to get more airtime. As someone who came from standup as opposed to sketch comedy, that’s not the easiest of transitions, but it’s really paid off for Pharoah. And I hope we see Pharoah and Davidson work together more often. This was good!

Score: 7.0

‘Asian American Doll’ (Bayer) In my Twitter feed , I did see a few eyebrows raised as this aired in a “So, where’s the Asian American cast member?” This is a valid point. This is also a very funny sketch.

Score: 7.0

‘Christmas Serial’ (Strong, Adams, Mooney, Pharoah, Bryant) ‘Serial’ became the most popular podcast of the year, but the problem with making a spoof of a podcast is that it’s still a podcast. In other words: It’s not like a television show where a person may have stumbled across it by accident and therefore may have a basic working knowledge of what’s going on in a parody. With a podcast—even the most popular podcast—a person still needs to go really out of his or her way to find it. So, I bet there were a lot of people who had no idea what was going on here. But, if you do listen to ‘Serial,’ this was dead on in every way (Cecily Strong’s Sarah Koenig was brilliant) to the point that it wasn’t really that funny. But I’m not saying it has to be laugh-out-loud funny. (Though, I didn’t love the sort of hokey Christmas theme; it kind of felt like they really wanted to do ‘Serial’ and couldn’t think of a way to do it—no matter how entrenched it became in popular culture, ‘Serial’ is still a story of a gruesome murder.)

Score: 6.5

‘Cat Rescue Commercial’ (McKinnon, Adams) Honestly, and I swear I’m serious, I’d watch a weekly half hour show that featured Kate McKinnon and a bunch of cats.

Score: 6.2

The Bad

‘Amy Adams Monologue’ (Adams, Wiig, Ensemble) Confession: Until Amy Adams mentioned that this was the second time that Kristen Wiig had been part of Adams’ monologue, I had completely forgotten that Adams hosted back in 2008. Even though it wasn’t that long ago, both the show (Only Kenan Thompson remains) and Adams (in 2008 she was promoting ‘Enchanted’) seem like completely different entities, so I’m not exactly sure why we needed a callback that was presented as, “Oh, as you obviously remember.” This was fine, but it feels like it toed the line between just a Kristen Wiig cameo and the all-out madness of Jimmy Fallon’s Christmas monologue from 2011. I was really hoping for the all-out madness.

Score: 5.8

‘A Very Cuban Christmas’ (Strong, Killam, Moynihan, Mooney, Adams, Davidson, McKinnon, Thompson, Armisen, Pharoah) This felt like about five sketches all at once and I’m not exactly sure what it was trying to say other than “Hey: Cuba!” Though everyone looked like they were having fun.

Score: 4.5

The Ugly

‘Girlfriends Talk Show with Amy Adams and One Direction’ (Strong, Bryant, Adams, One Direction) This was an excuse for One Direction to walk out on stage, let everyone say “hi,” then let all of the One Direction fans in the studio audience scream. Look, I completely get it and I get why it probably needed to happen, but here we are.

Score: 2.5

Average Score for this Show: 6.52

· Martin Freeman 6.89
· Woody Harrelson 6.75
· Bill Hader 6.73
· Amy Adams 6.52
· Chris Pratt 5.99
· Jim Carrey 5.94
· Cameron Diaz 5.92
· James Franco 5.89
· Sarah Silverman 5.86
· Chris Rock 5.38

Mike Ryan is senior editor for ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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