Jimmy Fallon should be feeling pretty good this morning. His hosting of Saturday Night Live didn’t just produce the best episode of this season (the positive reviews started flooding social media as soon as 15 minutes into the live East Coast broadcast), but one of the best SNL episodes in several seasons. He had a lot of help: There was a cavalcade of alumni gracing the stage, including Tina Fey, Tracy Morgan, Amy Poehler, Horatio Sanz, and Chris Kattan. But this was Fallon’s night, and he handled it like a pro. No longer the skinny, hyperactive, prone-to-laughing kid brother of the cast, Lorne Michael’s favorite son returned a sort of conquering hero. Many doubted his abilities to handle a platform like Late Night when he inherited it in 2009, but Fallon quickly proved himself to be a tireless innovator in the dusty realm of post-primetime talk shows. Now, 557 episodes of Late Night later, we got to enjoy both Fallons: The rising star, and the showbiz veteran. Let’s relive the magic!

The cold open, thank god, involved no politics. Rather, it was the first of several callbacks to Fallon-era SNL skits: The Boston Teens returned for the first time since 2004. Pat “Sully” Sullivan and his Number One Girl, Denise “Zazu” McDonough (Rachel Dratch, a welcome sight) were back, a little older but no more wiser, trying to sneak into college kegger.

Jimmy’s monologue followed, and he came out in a white sweater with black horizontal stripes and flat-front pants. Pretty casual, Jimmy! (Too casual?) Then someone tossed him an acoustic guitar and he launched into a rendition of Darlene Love (and then U2′s) “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” as he wandered around backstage. It was totally fun–and educational, as we now know that Vanessa Bayer is a Jew!–but unfortunately you can’t watch everyone dancing around in their Christmas sweaters, because it’s not online. Darn music-licensing rights! But fret not, because an even better musical sketch was right around the corner.

How many of you thought that Capital One ad starring Jimmy was a parody ad? Hands up! That’s right, all of you. First, it was in the parody ad slot, directly after the monologue. Secondly, IT STARRED JIMMY FALLON. Anyway, it was just a boring ad for a bank or whatever it is Capital One does. I’m pretty sure they were what Occupy Wall Street was protesting, so let’s move on.

Okay, awesome sketch alert:

Musical guest Michael Bublé played straight man to a parade of celebrity impressions, including Fallon’s Sting, Kristen Wiig did the Taylor Swift “WHAAAA?” Face, Fallon pulled out a silent Bieber impression (that thumping-heart dance move was hilarious), Fallon AGAIN did a spot-on Russell Brand doing tired drug jokes, Fred Armisen gave us a spastic Thom Yorke… it went on and on. This one’s a corker.

I’m not sure how you feel about Kristen Wiig’s Kathie Lee Gifford, but I can’t get enough of it. Literally, I could just watch it for hours and hours: Bad joke, swig of wine, muggy pose, fake laughter, rinse, repeat. I don’t even want to think about a post-Wiig SNL. The 1920′s Holiday Party Sketch is another good example. Her character–an actress who pretends to be reluctant to sing–was accompanied by Fallon’s character, a man who’s similarly fake, and humble about his ability to dance:

“Jimmy Mirror” let Fallon parody himself, as he sat in front of Andy Samberg, doing his impression of Fallon. It was very funny and very goofy. “So sick! So sick.” Also: Yet another opportunity for Jimmy to roll out a few more impressions: Jerry Seinfeld and Kermit the Frog. And while we learned in this sketch that Justin Timberlake was a no-show, I was actually okay with it. The show revived “The Barry Gibb Talk Show” in last season’s finale. Let this be Jimmy’s night!

The four-headed joke-off on Weekend Update starred three beloved SNL alumni and Seth Meyers, and featured a lot of jokes about a toy drive at a strip club. Enjoy!

Here’s a sketch in which Beethoven introduced his band, soul-review-style. It was visually amusing and fun.

I’m going to skip the “War Horse” sketch, which was amusingly surreal but which hinged a little too much on having some knowledge of the play War Horse for my tastes, and end with the final sketch of the night, “Tebow.” What was striking to me about this sketch was how not “last sketch of the night” it was. It was really a first-quarter SNL sketch in every way. It was topical, funny, not particularly experimental or strange. And people are still talking about it today. When you consider all that, and then think that this was the last sketch of the show–well, what you’re looking at is a pretty damn good show. Cheers to the whole SNL team, and to Jimmy Fallon on an infectiously fun end to the year.

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