Welcome to the first installment of Billboard.com's "Trapped in the Closet" recaps, in which we reflect upon each new entry of R. Kelly's fantasia of sex, lies and singing. By now, the whole world has soaked in every last drop of Robert's first 22 episodes of "Trapped" (released from 2005 to 2007), gorging upon the melodic sufferings of Sylvester, Rufus, Rosie The Nosey Neighbor, Twan, Roxanne, and of course, Pimp Lucius. But then: five years of unanswered questions. Will these beloved characters ever find happiness on the crazy streets of Chi-town? What will Bridget and Big Man's love child look like? And what in God's name is "The Package"?
Kellz left fans of R&B and humanity craving more, and now, graciously, he has provided it. Chapter 23 was released online on Wednesday (Oct. 17), and as "Trapped in the Closet" is slated to continue on IFC beginning Nov. 23, R. Kelly has confirmed that 20 more chapters have been filmed. And that's not all: "'Trapped in the Closet' is forever," the genius recently told TIME. "I've got like a hundred chapters to come." A hundred chapters! Forever! We no longer have to hope that, centuries and civilizations from now, our ancestors are deprived of carefully constructed hip-hoperas. Our future looks brighter by the second.
But let's focus on the here and now: Chapter 23.
We open on a wide shot of Chicago's skyline, as night bleeds into day and all the troubles of the "Closet's" lost souls momentarily brighten. Kellz, as the Narrator, welcomes us into his humble abode, which is colored by bottles of liquor, allusions to previous episodes (check out Joey's face on that "Chicago Mob War Erupts" poster, and that Dixie's cocktail glass) and a gun (obviously). The Narrator confirms that the next few chapters of the story are going to be "so crazy," which is shocking to no one, but is also comforting.
Sylvester and Gwen are chilling in bed -- keep moving, folks, no drama to see here. But suddenly, the phone rings. Who's calling? And how did they get that number?
And then… the phone calls keep coming. Rufus and Cathy get their sunny day of shopping spoiled all too quickly.
Bridget seems to be a little more receptive to the mysterious call -- "Am I gonna be famous?" she asks, as if she is not already famous within R. Kelly fan clubs. Meanwhile, Twan is outside the liquor store, shouting obscenities into the phone before asking how much he's "getting paid." Oh Twan.
The calls keep rolling in to various minor characters; Michael K. Williams, reprising his role as James, even picks up the phone. But then Robert closes the book on Chapter 23 by asking what we've all been thinking: "…But there was no luck/When it came to getting in touch… with Chuck."
"Where are you Chuck?"
"Trapped" fans will recall that Chuck's last appearance was way back in Chapter 18, when he tearfully admitted to his lover, Rufus, that he was in a hospital. So much has happened since that sad day: the mysterious Package was introduced, and Sylvester has established an uneasy agreement with Joey. As Chapter 22 ended with a tangled web of Kellz questions, the viewer is now saddled with even fewer answers. Who could be placing these calls? Has everyone simply forgotten about the Package (or could that be the box sitting on the dresser next to the Narrator, as Chapter 23 fades to black)? And where in the name of "Twelve Play" is Chuck?
In a little over a month, Chapter 24 will undoubtedly breathe new life into Robert Kelly's magnificent saga. Stay tuned, and stay "Trapped."