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Kate McKinnon tears up on 'SNL,' sparks rumors she won't return for next season

The season 46 finale of the iconic sketch comedy show aired last night with host Anya Taylor Joy and musical guest Lil Nas X.
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/ Source: TODAY

Season 46 of “Saturday Night Live" came to an emotional end last night.

In lieu of a formal sketch, the cold open saw the “SNL” cast reflecting on the past year of writing, rehearsing and performing during the pandemic in front of the show's first full audience in over a year. The cast highlighted some of the bizarre moments and the past season's controversies, including Elon Musk as host and country star Morgan Wallen getting “booked on the show, then unbooked, then rebooked and then canceled,” as Alex Moffat and Mikey Day joked.

Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson during the "What I Remember" cold open on May 22, 2021.
Aidy Bryant, Kate McKinnon, Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson during the "What I Remember" cold open on May 22, 2021.Will Heath / NBC

The cold open also had a few lines that left some members of the cast quite teary, especially Kate McKinnon and Cecily Strong, who delivered their portion of the intro alongside fellow longtime "SNL" stars Aidy Bryant and Kenan Thompson.

“This was the year,” McKinnon started before interrupting herself briefly as she teared up more. “We realized we’re more than just a cast, we’re a family," she finished.

Strong later added, “Thank you for staying with us through an election, an insurrection and an objection that there was an insurrection."

McKinnon then quipped: "As someone who played Rudy Giuliani and experienced the year through his eyes, I can tell you, it was one wild ride, baby!"

At the end, the rest of the cast joined McKinnon, Strong, Bryant and Thompson on the show's main stage to deliver the iconic line for the last time this season, "Live from New York, it's Saturday night!"

McKinnon's emotional delivery in the cold open sparked rumors that she may not be returning for the next season of the show. Also last night, cast member Pete Davidson prompted similar speculation when he got unusually earnest during "Weekend Update," saying, "It has been an honor to grow up in front of you guys." Fans also thought Strong might be leaving after the 46th season because she reprised her famous impression of Judge Jeanine Pirro and sang "My Way."

TODAY has reached out to spokespeople at "SNL" for comment.

McKinnon, who started with "SNL" in 2012, has been mulling over leaving for a couple of years now, according to Deadline. Earlier this year, she hinted that it might be time for her exit in an interview with Variety. Asked how long she'd stay with the show after the 46th season, she said, "Umm, gosh, it’s April. It’s early, and I really love working there, and I really love everyone who works there, so we will see.”

Chris Rock, who hosted the first episode of this past season last September, also made a guest appearance during the cold opening.

“Here’s how messed up the world was when I hosted: I wanted Kanye West to be the musical guest and he couldn’t do it because he was running for president!” Rock joked.

Last night's finale was hosted by Anya Taylor-Joy and featured musical guest Lil Nas X.