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kells bells

The Many Mysteries of the New Trapped in the Closet

Voltaire said, “Judge a man by his questions, not by his answers.” It was a helpful quote to bear in mind while watching Trapped in the Closet: Chapters 23-33, which aired back-to-back on IFC Friday night, mostly because the show was all questions and no answers. Absolutely no loose ends are tied up in this installment of R. Kelly’s melodically repetitive opera. It was just more loose ends. It was like watching a really poorly made rug, where the guy who made it spent the whole time looking at the camera and making a face like, “I can’t believe this rug I just made!” So instead, judge me by this question: what did I just watch?

If you haven’t seen chapters 1-22, this list won’t make much sense to you. Then again, if you have seen chapters 1-22, you’re probably in the same boat. But to sum up what happened as best I can in this unrecappable situation: Um, everyone had sex with everyone. Also, there is a church. And there are some old people who are goofy. And some gay people. Many people are R. Kelly. It starts with secrecy and ends with a rumor, and the rumor is: Everyone has AIDS! It’s just like Rent!

Here are the questions I had going into this, and I think they were pretty reasonable. But apparently not.

Who will the new characters be?

This at least if quantifiable, if not sensical. There are at least four: a blind Asian hipster prostitute, the therapist (more on that later), some henchmen, and the most dramatic new introduction: Beeno. Beeno is a gangster played by R. Kelly whose name is incredibly appropriate because his facial hair looks like a fart: It’s light brown and wispy and goes to a point. He has a grill that turns all his teeth into fangs and has two scars on his neck that immediately make you think vampire but it turns out Joey the Italian gave them to him. I’m still not ruling out vampire.

Who does Rufus choose: Chuck or Cathy?

Rufus and Cathy go to this new marriage counselor named Dr. William T. Perry (also played by Kelly. Is the name a hat-tip to Tyler Perry, who Kelly clearly thinks is a genius?) Perry’s advice to the couple is baffling. He talks Cathy into giving Rufus another chance, even though Rufus says in therapy that he’s still in love with Chuck. Girl. Your husband is gay.

And while we’re on the subject, why did both Rufus and Tina turn un-gay in this installment? It is perplexing that R. Kelly is so obsessed with gay stuff while simultaneously so unhip about it.

Does Will Oldham, a.k.a. Bonnie Prince Billie a.k.a. “What Are You Doing in Trapped In The Closet Anyway, Will Oldham,” reprise his role as the cop?

Nope. But maybe in future episodes he’ll play Larry, the host of the live talk show about Trapped’s ensemble that was alluded to at the end of #33? (Oh, who am I kidding: It’s definitely gonna be R. Kelly again.) You see, the final “cliffhanger” of this whole thing is that they’re all on a TV show now. Yes, R. Kelly decided that this story was so interesting that it warranted its own TV show inside of itself. I’d call it a plot twist but I don’t know what a plot is anymore.

Does everyone have AIDS?

The last chapter of Trapped before this round was dedicated to a series of frantic phone calls about “the package,” which some Googling revealed to be HIV/AIDS. Kind of a heavy plot point to throw into the same world where a little person shits his pants and then faints, but there you go. Anyway, Chuck has it, and is in the hospital. Because Chuck slept with Rufus who slept with Cathy who slept with Sylvester who slept with Gwendolyn who slept with James (albeit with a condom) who slept with Bridget who slept with Big Man who slept with one of Pimp Lucius’s prostitutes, they could all be infected! Suspense! 

The AIDS reveal was the only real cliffhanger Kells successfully pulled off in chapters 1-22 so I was really hoping for a pay-off here. And I had reason to hope; Chapter 23, like 22 before it, shows our characters all receiving mysterious phone calls – could it be about the package?! Well, no, no it’s not. In fact, even though episode 23 ends with the question “Where are you, Chuck?” we don’t see him at all, and no one else talks about AIDS the whole time except when the reality TV crew asks Rufus, “Does Chuck have AIDS? Is that what ‘the package’ is?” But that’s it! No one gets tested. No one talks about it. Maybe it will be the topic of the upcoming premiere of The Larry Show?

If I ignored Voltaire and judged Trapped in the Closet chapters 23-33 based on how well R. Kelly answered these questions, I’d be really disappointed. Trapped is packed with “cliffhangers” and “plot twists” meant to be so shocking that even the narrator does a take to the camera to say the occasional “Whoa.” And you know something is baffling when even an omniscient narrator can’t see it coming. But these turns are usually inconsequential revelations like, “Surprise! These two characters know each other!” Or, “Surprise! Rufus is still in love with his gay lover!” Uh, why wouldn’t he be? Dude is cute, from what I remember.

And why does R. Kelly leave it up to us to remember the characters who have all vanished? In the words of the narrator, where are you, Chuck? And where are you Gwen and Bridget? The opening preview chapter hyped them hard but they were nowhere to be found. Are they all dead from AIDS?! Stop saving these things for sweeps week of The Larry Show!

Kelly doesn’t answer any of these pressing questions, but he does answer some other questions that no one in their right mind would ask. Questions like: Kells, would you ever dress up like an old man whose bald spot looks like a yarmulke, and wear the worst fat suit ever made, and threaten to show your dick to an old lady? Answer: Yes!

Photo: Parrish Lewis/IFC