It was a huge week for special counsel Robert Mueller, so unsurprisingly he appeared on Saturday Night Live, for the third time, in the form of Robert De Niro.
This time, it was Eric Trump he was visiting, a man who the show has decided doesn’t know anything. Except of course, that he wasn’t supposed to be talking to Mueller. But he didn’t quite know why — after all, it’s just “Robert Mueller, your dad’s friend from work.”
The sketch opened with a scene-setting shot of a Christmasy Trump Tower, just a few blocks away from where it was really being shot, before transitioning to a scene of Donald Trump Jr. (played by Mikey Day) checking in on his brother Eric (Alex Moffat) in his race car bed, a portrait of a pouting Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) hanging overhead.
“Eric, what are you doing awake? It’s past your bedtime,” Don Jr. said. Eric was feeling anxious about the boogeyman — something many in Trump’s orbit might be worried about this week. He was also concerned that his big brother was going to get indicted, though “indicted” was on the long list of words he doesn’t know.
“Have you been watching the news again?” Don Jr. said. “You can’t watch that stuff, bud. It’s too grown-up.” Eric was frightened by a noise coming from his closet, but Don Jr. reassured him that it was “just the cheap steel dad uses to build his towers,” opening the closet, without looking, to reveal De Niro, who used his “I’m watching you” gesture — popularized in Meet the Parents, the movie from which this recurring cameo springs — to silently warn the terrified Eric.
“Eric… nobody likes a fibber,” Don Jr. said, before exiting the room to take a call from his lawyer: “How bad is it? … But can I flip on him?”
While the “Eric Trump is an idiot” gag is always worth a few laughs, it’s not really clear what Mueller was doing in Eric’s room, or if anyone had shown De Niro his lines in advance. De Niro’s Mueller appeared suddenly at Eric’s bedside, but rather than looking at Moffat, he was straining his eyes to read cue cards on the other side of the stage.
“I’m not allowed to talk to you,” Eric said, as De Niro peered past him.
“That’s fine, Eric,” said De Niro. “It was pretty clear early on that you don’t know anything. I wish I could say the same for some of your dad’s friends.” (As Eric knows them, “Mr. Pillowfort” and “Mr Papa John’s Pizza.”)
One assumes De Niro’s Mueller was there to try to get information from the more naive Trump brother, but that never happened. At some point, a cue card appears to have been skipped, because De Niro’s line “that depends on how much you want to visit your family” comes from nowhere.
The messy sketch ended on a reassuring message for those unhappy with the Trump presidency. “Mr Mueller, people say you’re the worst thing that ever happened to my dad,” said Moffat’s Eric.
“No Eric,” De Niro’s Mueller said. “Getting elected president was the worst thing that ever happened to your dad.”
Lines like this can often feel more like liberal catnip than anything else, but in this case, it might just be true.