“Saturday Night Live” is back, and it wasted no time before diving back into politics. After mostly avoiding the Trump administration in its midseason finale and then taking a few weeks off the air, the show clearly has a lot to say — much of which came out in the first cold open of 2019.
Airing just as the partial government shutdown ended its 29th day, the cold open took the form of “Deal or No Deal: Government Shutdown Edition” hosted by Steve Harvey (Kenan Thompson). The contestant, naturally, is Alec Baldwin’s Donald Trump, who is playing to perhaps end the shutdown, if only he can get a good enough deal. In place of the suitcase girls are senators and members of Congress.
The show is sponsored by green beef (“It shouldn’t be green, but ain’t nobody at the FDA to inspect it”) and Old Lady in an Inner Tube Way Out in the Ocean (“The Coast Guard will be back soon. Hang in there, Beth.")
Baldwin’s Trump, playing for “Habitat for Hannity” (to help Fox News’s Sean Hannity purchase “a second beach house”), hoped for the same deal the actual Trump proposed on Saturday: “deportation protections for some immigrants in exchange for $5.7 billion in border wall funding, a proposal immediately rejected by Democrats and derided by conservatives as amnesty,” as The Washington Post reported. In SNL’s world, he would also “release the kids from cages, so they can be free range.”
“Let’s see the members of Congress who are willing to offer new deals, so this nonsense can go away,” the show’s Harvey says, before the camera pans to seven politicians and one fake Cardi B holding suitcases.
SNL’s Trump begins with five, prompting the show’s Harvey to say “you wanna open suitcase number five?” But Baldwin’s Trump quickly corrects him, saying, “No, I’m saying a lot of these women are fives.”
“On the day of the Women’s March,” the show’s Harvey says.
Trump ends up choosing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) (Kate McKinnon), who opens her suitcase after saying she feels “normal, not drunk on my own power or anything.” Inside the case is her offer: “$1 billion + you say ‘Nancy’s my mommy.'” Needless to say, the show’s Trump passes because “It’s not $5 billion, and I need $5 billion because that’s the first random number I said. No deal!"
Next, the show’s Trump chooses “that older Jewish woman on case four,” who turns out to be Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) (Alex Moffat). Schumer first offers “whatever you want” before the show’s Pelosi reminds him that “we’re not doing that anymore, remember, we’re not caving in.” So then, he offers “$15 + pastrami on rye,” but Baldwin’s Trump chooses no deal, even though “every time you choose no deal, half a million federal employees work another day without getting paid.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (Beck Bennett) simply hides behind his suitcase like a turtle dipping its head back into its shell. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) (Leslie Jones) doesn’t open her case but reminds SNL’s Trump that she can subpoena his tax returns whenever she wants. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) (Melissa Villaseñor) just announces that Trump and the GOP are scared of her because “I’m under 100, and I know how to use Instagram.”
Finally, the show’s Harvey pushes things along by asking three people to open their suitcases. First, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) (Chris Redd) opens his to reveal a placard reading “Cory Booker 2020.” Then Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) (Mikey Day) pops his case open to reveal “whites.” Finally, Cardi B (Ego Nwodim) says, “I know this ain’t my business but shmoney."
In the end, though, SNL’s Trump decides to finally make a deal — with a Clemson football player portrayed by Pete Davidson. The offer? A crave case from White Castle, which is 30 hamburger sliders (or, as the show put it in a spoof of Trump’s misspelled tweet, “hamberders”). It’s just too bad Trump’s actual fast food feast didn’t end the shutdown.
“I guess that makes as much sense as anything else that’s going on these days,” the show’s Harvey says to close the sketch, signaling SNL’s return to the near impossible task of attempting to mine the blatant absurdity of our current political climate for some sort of satirical insight — and reminding us how difficult that is.