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Miley Cyrus on 'Saturday Night Live,' damage contained

Guest host Miley Cyrus, left, and Kenan Thompson

Guest host Miley Cyrus, left, and Kenan Thompson in a scene from the late-night comedy series "Saturday Night Live" in Manhattan. (Oct. 5, 2013) (Credit: AP)

Miley Cyrus' "Saturday Night Live" outing was mostly notable for what it was not -- no twerking, no Sinead O'Connor jabs, no harm, and no foul. She did what she came to do -- perform. And perform well she did. This hosting gig will go down as a savvy career move, as opposed to further evidence that childhood stardom leads inevitably to whatever Lindsay Lohan has become.

Meanwhile, there was damage to be controlled, even if the recent VMA performance and "Wrecking Ball" video were part of The Plan -- the visceral if clownishly degrading demolition of any remnant of Hannah Montana. "She's been murdered," joked Cyrus in her monologue. And how.

But Cyrus badly needed a course correction, because it's one thing to become a pop culture sensation who out-Madonnas Madonna, and another to become a laughingstock or proof of what O'Connor warned against.

As such, Cyrus expertly handled every skit, every character handed to her -- from the send-up of herself in the cold open to the send-up of Michele Bachmann in probably the only bit that will have a life beyond the weekend.

"SNL" was about adjusting her new image, and selling a fourth studio album -- "Bangerz" -- and her performance of two cuts from that couldn't have been farther from those already seared -- or scarred -- onto the cultural consciousness. "Wrecking Ball" was almost a quiet dirge.

But her performance of the (now infamous) club pop anthem "We Can't Stop" indicated that Cyrus (and handlers) had overplayed their hand -- foam or otherwise -- at the VMAs. It was understated, underplayed and underwhelming, a stripped down bluesy/folksy version that had no heat, or severed fingers oozing pink blood, or elongated tongues. Just a song quietly sung along to the accompaniment of acoustic guitars.

Maybe Miley has realized that Sinead O'Connor is on to something.

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