Though Cecily Strong‘s exit from Saturday Night Live has been in the cards for a while, most were surprised by the announcement just hours before tonight’s broadcast that this would be her last episode. She got a proper sendoff, though, with two sketches referencing her departure.
The first was the return of Cathy Ann, a mess of a woman constantly trying to light her cigarette, on Weekend Update. She’s headed to prison for, among other things, “drug use, trespassing, destruction of property, (crack), impersonating a police horse, (meeeeeth and crack).” Prison, here, was a thinly-veiled metaphor for leaving the show; she shared a picture of two of her friends on the inside — Aidy Bryant and Kate McKinnon, who both left the show earlier this year.
Horrifying stories of her sex tape with Michael Che and her plea bargain (turns out, life without parole is a pretty good deal, all things considered) soon gave way to Strong partially dropping the character to talk about what a great time she had doing SNL. It was a touching segment. (Press PLAY above to watch the sketch.)
But Strong’s second farewell was one of the more affecting on-screen goodbyes the show has ever done. In the style of some of her best work — like her clown character talking about abortion — an intentionally thin premise of a Radio Shack holiday party overlaid Kenan Thompson (with one of the all-time great bad sketch names, Mr. Frank Lasagna) saying some very real and moving things about Strong’s time on SNL.
It ended with host Austin Butler singing “Blue Christmas” as Casual Elvis that grew into a full cast rendition. Strong broke a little as she kept from crying during the performance, and it was a beautiful adieu for one of the show’s mainstays.
Fun fact: With this episode, Strong sets the record for most episodes by a female cast member, exceeding the previous record holder — Kate McKinnon — by one. Now that’s a Strong finish.
Watch Strong’s final SNL sketches above, then grade the episode.
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