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SNL tackles #FreeBritney, the Ted Cruz Cancun saga, and Andrew Cuomo’s scandals in its new cold open

Aidy Bryant plays a cornrowed, drink-toting Ted Cruz in a “Cancun Family Vacation 2021” T-shirt.

This week, Saturday Night Live’s cold open took aim at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz for his trip to Cancun, Mexico, while millions of Cruz’s constituents were without power or water in freezing conditions after a winter storm struck Texas.

A shamefaced Cruz, played by Aidy Bryant, joined Chloe Fineman’s Britney Spears on a talk show called Oops, You Did It Again to apologize for the trip, which spiraled into a full-fledged scandal after the senator was photographed at the airport on Wednesday.

“I’m not tan,” a cornrowed, drink-toting Bryant tells Fineman as she takes a seat onstage with a suitcase in tow. “I just cried myself red over my fellow Texans. And that’s why I drink in their honor.”

The show also spoofed Cruz’s attempt to explain the trip Thursday by releasing a statement blaming his daughters, who he said “asked to take a trip with friends.” (Texts from Cruz’s wife, Heidi, obtained by the New York Times, cast some doubt on that story.)

“Let me ask you this,” Bryant says in the skit. “Would a coward have the cojones to blame his actions on his young daughters?”

Fineman’s Spears, understandably, doesn’t take that explanation well: “As someone who was often blamed for other people’s problems at a young age, maybe leave your daughters out of it because it could really mess with their heads,” Fineman says.

Spears has been in the spotlight this month after the release of the Framing Britney Spears documentary, which examines Spears’s personal struggles, her conservatorship, and the #FreeBritney movement.

Those struggles are referenced throughout the skit: The fictional talk show is sponsored by the Notes app, a reference to the apology posted by Spears’s former partner Justin Timberlake earlier this month, and at another point, Fineman stares intently at the screen while a #FreeBritney hashtag flashes on screen for a single frame.

“Are you looking to post a lame apology 20 years late?” Fineman asks in the ad. “Go through the motions with the Notes app.”

Joining Bryant, the next guest on a talk show apology tour is Pete Davidson’s scandal-plagued New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo has recently come under fire for miscounting Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes and threatening to “destroy” a New York assemblyman, among other things, and it takes some prompting from Fineman before a reticent Davidson mutters an apology.

After another question by Fineman, Davidson’s Cuomo then quickly launches into an attack on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has called for a Justice Department investigation into Cuomo’s pandemic response.

“What did that bird bitch say about me?” Davidson rages. “I will bury him in the tallest grave this city has ever seen. I will hire a hobo to Rick Moranis him so hard he’ll think he’s back in universal pre-K.” (Moranis was punched by someone walking past him on the sidewalk in New York last year.)

Bryant also attempts to sympathize with Davidson, only to be shot down.

“Do not associate yourself with me,” Davidson tells Bryant. “We are not the same. I am a man, you are a clown. And if you mess with me, I will send you to a clown hospital. And when you die, I will not count your body.”

“Nor should you, thank you,” Bryant responds.

The show’s last guest is an indignant Cecily Strong as former The Mandalorian actor Gina Carano, who prompts Fineman to “explain what I did wrong.”

Carano was fired from the show earlier this month for transphobic and anti-Semitic social media posts, including one that compared the experience of “being conservative at this moment in time to being a Jewish person during the Holocaust,” writes Vox’s Emily VanDerWerff.

“Look, I never would have made that Nazi comparison if I had known everyone was going to be such a Nazi about it,” Strong says.

After one last attempt by Bryant’s Cruz to find someone to sympathize with — Strong shoots Cruz down as “a pile of soup ... if you compare yourself with me, I will blast you to the farthest deserts of Tatooine” — Fineman offers a prayer to close the talk show.

“I pray that all of you be sane and well,” she says, “and to be with people who make you feel loved. ... And live from New York, it’s Saturday night!”

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