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Recap / South Park S9 E12 "Trapped in the Closet"

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Original air date: 11/16/2005

A frugal Stan takes a free personality test and subsequently spends his bike savings on a thetan test that reveals him to be the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard.

"Trapped in the Closet" is one of the series' most famous and controversial episodes, setting off a chain of events that affected not only the show's future but also popular culture as a whole.


  • And Your Reward Is Infancy: The Scientologists are convinced until the very end that Stan is the reincarnation of L. Ron Hubbard.
  • Berserk Button: People locking themselves in closets seems to be one for R. Kelly since it makes him so mad that he'll take a gun out and threaten to shoot people.
  • Black Comedy Rape: Implied with how R. Kelly shuffles off with a traumatized look on his face when he, Tom Cruise, and John Travolta finally come out of the closet.
  • Church of Happyology: How Scientology is portrayed in this episode. Most notably, when Stan is chosen as the prophet, he suggests that people shouldn't have to pay to join the religion, and they quickly shut him down, outright admitting that Scientology is a scam, and letting people in for free completely defeats the whole purpose of it.
  • Coax Them Out of the Closet: Parodied in a literal sense. The creators were not allowed to directly call Tom Cruise gay, so they instead made a subplot where Cruise gets upset that Stan didn't like his acting and locks himself in Stan's closet. This leads to a Running Gag where everybody tries to get Cruise (and later, John Travolta and R. Kelly — for the obvious reference) out of the closet, which is clearly meant to resemble a different situation.
    Tom Cruise: ...I'm not, I'm not in the closet.
    Nicole Kidman: Yes you are, Tom. And you need to just end this and come out. I'm not gonna think any differently of you. Katie's not gonna think any differently of you. You don't need to be in that closet anymore, Tom.
  • Credits Gag: The episode ends with Stan daring Scientology to sue him, and every name in the credits is replaced with John or Jane Smith.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: A Running Gag involves Tom Cruise, Jon Travolta, and R. Kelly locking themselves in Stan's closet and stubbornly refusing to come out of it.
    Sharon: What's going on?
    Randy: Tom Cruise won't come out of the closet.
    Sharon: What?
  • Flat "What": The Scientology leader does this when Stan suggests Scientologists shouldn't need to pay to receive the Church's teachings.
  • Here We Go Again!: The second time R. Kelly pulls out his gun, the reporter on the scene says "oh Jesus, here we go with the gun again."
  • Hilarity Sues: The episode ends with the church threatening to sue Stan, who is not intimidated by their threat and even goads them to do it.
    • Taken to meta levels when, directly afterwards, every name in the credits has been replaced with "JOHN SMITH" and "JANE SMITH".
  • Implausible Deniability: Talking from the closet, Tom Cruise denies that he's in there.
  • Mood Whiplash: R. Kelly's screen time consists of him calmly summing up the situation going on in the Marsh house on the news, before angrily pulling out his gun and demanding to know what's going on.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: The entire "THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGY ACTUALLY BELIEVES" disclaimer was added because it was so out-there that it sounds exactly like something South Park would make up (along the lines of the Catholic Church venerating the Queen Spider in "Red Hot Catholic Love").
  • Rule of Three: After Tom Cruise refuses to leave the closet, they get John Travolta to try and convince him to leave, only to end up joining Tom in the closet, and when that fails, they use R. Kelly, who then also ends up in the closet and refuses to come out.
  • Scam Religion: How Scientology is portrayed. The head of the Church even admits to it when Stan tries to remove the paywall to the religion, reprimanding him for falling for it.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: As soon as he's freed from Stan's closet, R. Kelly shuffles away in the background (suggesting something happened in the closet) while Cruise berates and threatens to sue Stan.
  • Shout-Out: All of R. Kelly's dialogue is sung in a similar fashion to the actual song the episode takes its title from.
  • Shown Their Work: The depiction of Scientology in this episode is remarkably accurate. This perhaps isn't too noteworthy today, but in 2005 much of its beliefs and doctrine was a closely guarded secret, and information about it was very difficult to find outside of the organisation.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Any time R. Kelly PULLS OUT HIS GUN!
  • Take That!: This episode does not shy away from making fun of Scientology or Tom Cruise and John Travolta's alleged homosexuality.
  • Trigger-Happy: R. Kelly threatens to shoot someone every time he's on screen.
    Reporter: Oh, Jesus! Here we go with the gun again!


Video Example(s):


South Park - R.Kelly

In South Park, R. Kelly is portrayed as constantly drawing out his gun and threatening to shot people, if Tom Cruise & later John Travolta, don't come out of the closet.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / TriggerHappy

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