OK, apologies up front everyone: I’m on the road for family obligations this weekend. So instead of writing up tonight’s “Saturday Night Live” in my man cave, I’m doing this from the nation’s capital. Live from Washington D.C.: it’s Ryan McGee! I have the show in my hotel room, but without the beauty of DVR, I may miss a little more than usual in tonight’s recap. I ask that you are patient with me this week as Emma Stone and Coldplay both return to Studio 8-H. Coldplay is here to promote their new record “Mylo Xyloto,” while Stone doesn’t have anything she’s here to push, other than maybe the DVD release of “Crazy, Stupid, Love”. That’s fine, since she was a game host last year. Biggest question of the night: how will “SNL” handle this week’s Oscars’ debacle? Will they go after Brett Ratner and former “SNL” alum Eddie Murphy in a meaningful way, or just relegate their pot shots to “Weekend Update” jokes?
 
Only one way to find out. Onto the recap!
 
CNBC Republican Debate: Wow, waaaaay too much time here spent on Perry’s mental gaffe at this debate last week. It’s not until everyone starts contributing to the insanity that this sketch show any life. Herman Cain even volunteers to bring up the names of other women he has harassed rather than watch Perry self-destruct. Romney gets a great line in: “I wanna be President. But not like this,” before trying to literally put Perry out to pasture. But why bring up all of those other presidential candidates if the only thing they do is grin like an idiot? There were plenty of ways to capitalize on Perry’s gaffe without trying to re-stage the debate. This was the easiest way, but also the laziest. [Grade: C+]
 
Monologue: Rather than let Stone drive the monologue, “SNL” sends Andy Samberg to drop in (literally) and audition for the role of Spider-Man. Many a joke is made at the expense of Andrew Garfield’s last name, which prompts Garfield himself to come onstage. “He’s BRITISH?” Samberg cries. Not much for Stone to do in this besides stare at Samberg trying to flip while strapped into a flying harness. Um...this show won’t be this weak for the next 80 minutes, right? [Grade: C]
 
Secret Word: OK, well, it’s going to be this weak for at least the next few minutes. I don’t wish harm upon any of God’s creatures, but this sketch needs to die in a fire. Stone plays Charlene, the recent winner of Miss America despite her penchant for double entendres and creepy ventriloquism. Stone making out with the dummy was the only redeeming feature of this sketch. Read that sentence again. I know, right? Wiig once again plays Mindy Grayson, the single worst character in her entire arsenal. It’s a character that could be sent into Gitmo to break terrorists’ wills. It’s a bad character, is what I’m saying. She will always say the secret word. And I will always long for the day at which point I’m freed from “Secret Word.” [Grade: D]
 
WXPD News: OK, this is more like it. Herb Welch just makes me laugh, even if this wasn’t the strongest iteration of this sketch. The initial rhythms of the sketch are the same as all others, but once Stone’s co-op resident blocked his mic punch, things picked up nicely. The highlight? Bill Hader and Wiig engaging in a game of “I Dare You Not to Break” as Welch uses his microphone in creative ways to determine her building manager’s gender. Nothing revelatory here, but compared to what’s come before, this was a breath of fresh air. [Grade: B]
 
Here Comes That Rain: I don’t know if that’s the name of this song. Don’t care. Because when I randomly go onto Hulu in the near future to check out digital shorts, I know for a fact I won’t call this one up. This was ostensibly a song, but really more of an excuse for Samberg to recite ridiculous things over a beat while wearing a mullet. What was the point of this? That some guy who looks like Michael Bolton on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour can’t film a video in the rain? That his assistant has an abnormally large butt? I’m at a loss. I don’t need to know the point if I’m too busy laughing. But I do need to know when I’m staring slack-jawed at the screen [Grade: C-]
 
Coldplay comes onstage to sing “Paradise,” and my first thought? “This looks like the dorm room of an art student with a lot of black lights.” As for the song: it’s got an anthemic chorus that works, but there’s a long road to get to the good stuff. The audio mix onstage does a good job of delivering the ambient nature of the record, but when Coldplay goes this bombastic with its production, the underlying melodies and emotions often get lost. Their last album did a great job of tempering those impulses, but “Paradise” feels like a track left off “X&Y” more so than a logical extension of “Vida La Vida.” [Grade: B-]
 
Weekend Update: The Devil comes on to comment on the Penn State scandal. Turns out he doesn’t actually know why he’s there, assuming it’s a recruiting scandal. But naturally, even the Devil is offended by what was revealed. “I’m the Prince of Darkness, but I’m not a monster!” In terms of handling this scandal, Jason Sudeikis’ Devil was probably the best way to do it. Having a “Really???” wouldn’t have had the same impact. Later on, Garth and Kat come on to promote a Thanksgiving-themed album. Of course, the CD they give to Seth Meyers is actually a slice of bologna, which is fitting for a duo that always makes up their songs on the spot. This time, they have a back-up singer to help them: Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who does a surprisingly good job keeping with Wiig and Fred Armisen. Garth and Kat aren’t my bag, since it emphasizes the performer over the performance, but I imagine plenty of people regard this pair as their own person Stefon. [Grade: B, almost entirely based on Sudeikis]
 
Les Jeunes de Paris: I’ve been forgiven for all of my sins, apparently! The last version of this sketch was one of my favorites of the 2010-2011 season. This one didn’t live up to that gold standard, but it’s such an unusual sketch in the “SNL” toolbox that I always rejoice when it comes on. More than anything, this feels like the type of sketch that could potentially help make this batch of performers stand out from other iterations of the cast. I doubt it will ever reach the iconic status of something like “The Coneheads,” but it terms of producing sketch material that makes the cast stand out, “Les Jeunes” is as close as it gets right now for Taran Killam and other featured/underused players on the show right now. [Grade: A-]
 
Bridal Shower: Hmmm. I’m conflicted. I’m all about sketches that almost exclusively feature female players. But other than Stone, who KILLED in this sketch, the rest of this fell kinda flat. It’s like the writers had an idea for a really good character, but didn’t have the supporting material around it to make it sing. But after weeks in which guest hosts have been relegated to supporting players in sketches, it wass great to see Stone get this character instead of Wiig, Vanessa Bayer, or others. Had the other women in the sketch been written at the level of Stone’s naïve yet insanely foul coworker, this could have been something special. As it stands, it just seems like a slightly missed opportunity. [Grade: B]
 
We’re back in the art school dorm, with Coldplay performing “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall.” I dig how the band’s drummer pulls a Mumford and Sons for a bit, playing acoustic guitar and the bass drum simultaneously. Each member of the band is a multiple-instrument threat, which is fun to see in concert as they trade off roles in order to perform the next song. I especially love the guitars in this track, which sound like bagpipes. Normally, bagpipes have me looking for the nearest cliff off which to jump, but it works for me in this song. Yes, liking Coldplay makes me uncool. But there you have it. [Grade: B+]
 
Someone Like You: Remember that famous sequence in “Magnolia,” when everyone listened to Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up” in different parts of Los Angeles? OK, substitute that song for Adele’s “Someone Like You,” make it funny instead of dramatic, and you have this sketch. This was a great example of taking a simple idea and unspooling it in increasingly bizarre variations. I love the idea that Adele’s songs make everyone from all walks of life melt into a puddle upon aural contact, whether they have just lost out on a promotion, just seen the series finale of “Friday Night Lights,” just happen to be washing windows nearby a computer playing the song, or just happen to be Coldplay…that Adele will get ya. [Grade: A-]
 
“We’re Gonna Make Technology Hump”: OK, this isn’t really funny in the slightest, but look at that model work, am I right? That’s about all I got. Holy 12:55 am sketch, Batman. I get that this is the slot to try out some weird stuff, but how this got past the pitch stage into actual completed form that aired on television blows my mind. Given how strong the second half of the show has been, it’s a bit of a bummer to end on such a sour note. [Grade: D+]
 
Best Sketch of The Night: “Les Jeunes de Paris”, narrowing edging out “Someone Like You”
Worst Sketch of the Night: “Secret Word.” Yes, I’d rather watch a GPS device hump a curling iron than watch that.
MVP of the Night: My internet connection, for not going out at any point during this recap for unknown reasons and thus forcing me to flee into the Washington night looking for a 24-hour Starbucks.
Biggest Surprise of the Night: It’s almost a surprise of the year so far, and it’s that the post-“Update” segments of “SNL” have been by and large stronger than those before “Update.” Just like the recent episode starring Anna Faris, tonight’s episode increased in quality by leaps and bounds once out of the first hour. I have no idea if this has to do with how things play in dress, the complicated order in which sketches how to be laid out in order to successfully produce a 90-minute life show. But giving the post-monologue slot to “Secret Word” while burying “Someone Like You” seems to indicate something maybe be rotten in the state of Studio 8-H.
 
What did you think of Emma Stone’s return to “SNL”? Did you enjoy the second half more than the first, or am I being too hard on the early material? Does “Les Jeunes” have you dancing for joy or reaching for the remote? Sound off below!