Killing All the Right People
is the 26th episode of the sitcom Designing Women
. Originally airing on October 5
, as the fourth episode of the second season, it featured Tony Goldwyn
as Kendall Dobbs, a young man dying from AIDS.
Kendall and AIDS
Kendall Dobbs was an interior decorator like the main characters of Designing Women
. He worked for a decorating firm called Jackerts. He had been out of touch with the women of Sugarbaker & Associates for quite some time, but Julia
and Mary Jo
had nice things to say about Kendall.
In the character's first on-camera appearance on the show, Kendall was bringing a cord for some electronic equipment to his friend, Anthony Bouvier, Sugarbaker's delivery man, who was working on a communications class assignment. Anthony had just left, but Charlene, Julia, Mary Jo and Suzanne were happy to see Kendall again, and after greeting each other, 24-year-old Kendall tells them he has a special project for them. He then stuns the women by asking them to design his funeral because he is dying from AIDS.
They have a discussion and the women, even Suzanne, normally not at all sympathetic towards gays, agree to Kendall's request.
Kendall was in the process of taking care of his own funeral arrangements. His parents couldn't deal with their son being gay, much less dying from AIDS, so they cut him off. Kendall stated that the funeral home he had chosen took on many AIDS cases, and Sugarbaker & Associates would be sending the others off in style, as the room's design would be kept for future funerals. His plan was to make the AIDS funeral room look a lot like the French Quarter, since he was originally from New Orleans, Louisiana.
Mary Jo's PTA nomination
The same day, Mary Jo happens to be at a PTA
where they are discussing a resolution to the school board
about distributing birth control
to students on request. The first time Mary Jo stands up to comment at the PTA
, she already knows about Kendall and is for the school providing condoms
but is not sure how to express the motivation behind her opinion. Being the only one who voiced a pro
-birth control stance, she is nominated to represent the side of the issue in favor of the resolution during a debate to take place one week later. Her opponent will be Caroline Jackson, a parent who is staunchly against birth control being funded with tax dollars and provided at the school.
Within a few days, one of Julia's longstanding clients, Imogene Salinger (played by actress/writer Camilla Carr), overhears the plans about the funeral and starts to be hateful in her comments towards Kendall, stating, "As far as I'm concerned, this disease has one thing going for it: it's killing all the right people". This upsets everybody but the hateful comments really sets Julia (whose nickname is "The Terminator") off and in a very strong and heated confrontation, she tells Imogene to leave.
- Julia: "Imogene, I'm terribly sorry, I'm going to have to ask you to move your car."
- Imogene: "Why?"
- Julia: "Because you're leaving!"
- Imogene: "What are you talking about?"
- Julia: "I'm talking about the only thing worse than all these people who have never had any morals before AIDS are all you holier-than-thou types who think you're exempt from getting it!"
- Imogene: "Well, for your information, I am exempt! I haven't lived like these people! And I don't care what you say, Julia Sugarbaker! I believe this is God's punishment for what they've done!"
- Suzanne: "Oh, yeah? Then how come lesbians get it less?"
- Imogene: "That is not for me to say! I just know that these people are getting what they deserve!"
- Julia: "Imogene, get serious! Who do you think you're talking to?! I've known you for 27 years, and all I can say is, if God was giving out sexually transmitted diseases to people as a punishment for sinning, then you would be at the free clinic all the time! And so would the rest of us!"
Suzanne and her mother's friend, Bernice Clifton, also offer their support, echoing Julia's indignation. After insulting Bernice, who deftly insults her right back, Imogene storms out of the store, never to return yelling at Julia "Well, you needn't look forward to anymore of my business in this lifetime!!". As Imogene leaves, Julia points out that her son is excelling in school. Earlier in the episode, she had lied to Imogene to make her happy, saying that he was struggling in chemistry class.
- Julia (shouting outside): "Wonderful, I'll close up your account! And another thing, my son has an A in chemistry! In fact, he's making all A's! In everything! Including P.E.!"
After the argument, she slams the door furiously.
By the day of the final debate, Mary Jo has read many books about birth control and talked with the other women of Sugarbaker's about it. She comes informed, but allows her sentences to be cut off by the opposing parent, Caroline, repeatedly. She finally becomes passionate about her views when Kendall walks into the PTA room with Anthony
. Kendall watches tearfully as Mary Jo builds up to her closing statement.
- Mary Jo: "I think that it really shouldn't matter what your personal views are about birth control, because, you see, we're not—we're not just talking about preventing births anymore, we're talking about preventing deaths. 25,000 Americans have died and we're still debating. For me, this debate is over. More important than what any civic leader or PTA or board of education thinks about teenagers having sex or any immoral act that my daughter or your son might engage in is the bottom line that I don't think they should have to die for it."
Mary Jo receives a roomful of applause at the end of her argument, with the exception of Caroline, who is clearly smarting from being defeated by Mary Jo's passionate speech.
The camera then cuts to Kendall and pauses on his face.
The last shot of the episode shows Kendall's funeral. A closed coffin
is shown, and the room is designed as Kendall requested. In New Orleans jazz
style, the band plays "Just a Closer Walk with Thee", which was one of his wishes. All the employees of Sugarbaker's, including Bernice, are in attendance, singing along with the other mourners, all of whom are men.
Killing All the Right People
was written by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason
, the creator of Designing Women
, whose mother died after contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion. Although there was a screening test available which could have been used to identify unsafe blood, not all blood banks utilized it, allowing infected blood to be unknowingly spread through transfusions. During her mother's illness, Bloodworth-Thomason witnessed firsthand the public's prejudice toward people with AIDS, particularly against gay men who were battling the disease.
In the episode, the characters address preventing ignorance about AIDS by reading about it and talking with a doctor. It's stated that you can't get AIDS from simply touching someone and that not just gays get it—the disease can affect anyone. Kendall Dobbs corrects a statement by Imogene by telling her no one knows how AIDS got started—homosexuals were just one of the first groups it showed up in. The innocence of those who are infected is also touched upon when Mary Jo mentions to the PTA that Kendall was infected before he even knew what AIDS was or how to prevent it.
Killing All the Right People
was nominated for two Emmy Awards
- Linda Bloodworth-Thomason for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series
- Roger Bondelli for Outstanding Editing for a Series - Multi-Camera Production