R. Kelly’s never-ending R&B opera is a microcosm for his career: What began in earnest has since morphed into a string of insane jokes. Yet, even with a child-pornography trial coming up next month, the seemingly dim crooner is obviously laughing with us. As if rhyming Bridget with midget in Chapters 8 and 9 weren’t proof enough, he kicks off this latest round of episodes with a recap featuring his white-suited self in triplicate singing “Oh shit” in harmony. What follows includes outlandish plot twists (a lesbian affair out of nowhere, surprise Beretta waving) and cartoonish characters (spaghetti-eating mobster, community pimp). Save a church-based scene that goes gospel and a chorus of cell-phone conversations, the backing track doesn’t budge from its awesomely bad, computer-generated slow funk.
Now that the Trapped format is so familiar, the boldness of Kelly’s hackery is less thrilling. But his profane dialogue is still full of uproarious zingers (“You must be crazier than a fish with titties,” is a standout line), and the plot is thickening. (See ifc.com/static/sections/kelly/trapped.html for the meta-meta-deconstructed version, in which an interviewer asks Kelly to analyze a story that includes a narrator who tells us what’s happening during the self-explanatory dialogue.) Could it be that, while we snorted through the first 12 chapters, we were actually being sucked in? When Kelly breaks in to move the action along, the smirk behind his furrowed brow suggests that this may have been the case.