‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 6: Recap And Ending, Explained: Why Did Joel Want Tommy To Protect Ellie? Is Joel Alive?

Growing up, did you have a person in your life that you looked up to and thought was invincible? Or maybe there was a favorite superhero who, no matter the might of the villains or the monstrosity of the obstacles, would invariably come out the other side victorious. When you’re unreservedly invested in the world of a show, you’re practically envisioning yourself as a part of their world, however inconsequential the part you play in it may be. And when you’ve instinctively agreed to be a part of a world gone haywire like that of “The Last of Us,” you need to rely on the unyielding valor of an indestructible hero to protect you just as they’re protecting the characters they’ve taken under their wing. For us, that hero is Joel, a man who we know does not flinch at the harrowing sight of terror.


What “The Last of Us” Episode 6 of the wretched tale brings for us is the dreary acceptance of our hero’s human vulnerability. Time and trauma alike have taken a hefty toll on our mighty protector’s resilience. HBO’s apocalypse fiction seems to be set on instigating more emotional wreckage with its baroque human study than with the fiendish dread of Cordyceps.

Spoilers Ahead


White Christmas

A stinging reminiscence of Sam and Henry’s wicked deaths starts off “Kin,” as though almost foretelling the dire path we are about to walk down. Joel and Ellie have found themselves in the snowy terrain of prickly solitude. That is, until they locate a home adorned with dead rabbits and break in. A man walks in to the anxious sight of his wife sitting in a chair and Joel pointing a gun at her. The unwelcome presence of a raggedy stranger is undoubtedly alarming but knowing that his wife has trusted Joel enough to rustle up some soup for him does take the fear down a notch. Giving a cold shoulder to Joel’s “what I say, goes” as usual, Ellie comes out of hiding. When asked about Tommy, the couple seemed to have never heard of him. And that isn’t all that surprising, considering they’ve never even heard of the Fireflies. What they do know, and what they paint a pretty dreadful picture of, is the danger that lurks beyond the river that Joel and Ellie intend to cross. Who the threat may be coming from is unknown. But bodies, some human, some infected, never stop bloodying up the banks of the river of death. When asked for directions on the map, the man gives Joel his sage advice to go east instead. But Joel can’t change his mind when he has come this far. Not when his brother may just be on the other side of the river. Walking out of the cottage, Joel clutches a post with one hand and his chest with the other. Those of us familiar with the stifling onset of a panic attack can sympathize with Joel as he is going through one.

A Rancher And An Astronaut

On foot heading to the bank of the river, Ellie regrets not stealing more than one dead rabbit from the little cottage. Joel is stealthy enough to hunt as many rabbits as they may need, but Ellie would rather learn how to hunt than rely on Joel for food. When night falls, the two find a cave fit for repose. Taping up his worn-out boots, Joel ponders what awaits beyond the river and if he even has the strength to face it. He shares his flask with an eager Ellie, who is still too young to get used to the burn of whiskey. Ellie’s mind wanders off at the morose thought of just how rickety the possibility of a useful vaccine is. She chooses to lean toward happier thoughts and asks Joel about his plans in a world where Cordyceps has been eradicated. A farm is what Joel sees in his fictitious future. And he will herd sheep, for at least the fuzzy animals will be more obedient and less chattering than Ellie.


Ellie looks up at the moon and speaks of her fascination with astronauts ever since she read about them at the military school library. Being guarded by the watchful ocean on one side and the draconian wall on the other, the sky and the moon were all that Ellie could look up to. Sally Ride happens to be the favorite astronaut of the little girl who absolutely needs a little bit of humor along with everything that fascinates her. Thoughts of hope can only linger for so long, as Ellie is soon reminded of how her blood couldn’t stop Sam from turning. But Joel is more hopeful than she is. According to him, Marlene wouldn’t concentrate all her efforts on Ellie if she didn’t really believe that Ellie could fix the world. Joel opts to guard Ellie for the first and second watches so as to let her catch up on some sleep. But he wakes up in the morning to see that Ellie has taken charge of the rifle and has allowed him to rest instead.

Who Do Joel And Ellie Run Into On Their Way?

Walking over the icy silence of the landscape, Ellie tries in vain to brush up on her whistling skills. She would really like to learn to hunt, but Joel believes that she wouldn’t be all that good at gutting the animals. How readily Ellie exclaims “Dam!” as they walk up to one really makes me think that she has been holding on to this one for quite a bit and waiting for the right opportunity to say it. As the two get closer to the bank and begin jinxing their good luck, a wild-west-style group of cowboys surrounds the two with their rifles at the ready. Joel is instructed to bequeath his gun as they get their sniffer dog ready to test the two for infection. They are faced with the danger of being mauled to death if the dog detects any trace of the fungus on them.


Being sniffed out by the panting dog, Joel isn’t necessarily worried for himself. It is when the dog gets to Ellie and communicates the urgency of the situation with a low growl that Joel’s heart stops in fear. He freezes under the acute stress of the moment and is unable to move a limb. The sound of a giggly Ellie makes Joel turn back to see that the dog and the girl have taken to one another. Ascertaining their health status, the group asks Joel for the reason for his trip. Learning that he is looking for his brother, a woman comes forward and asks him his name. There’s an awed glimmer of recognition in her eyes when she hears his name for the first time. Joel and Ellie are then guided to the elaborate, dreamlike compound of Jackson. 

What Do Joel And Ellie Find In Jackson?

Having the heavy gate open to a compound that looks like paradise when compared to the bleakness of the world outside, Ellie and Joel enter the haven of Jackson. In the calamitous collapse of mankind, the community of Jackson has found a way to not just converge the absolute necessities for survival but also compose a life gleaming with the traces of happiness that were taken for granted in the world before Cordyceps. Within seconds of riding into the compound, Joel is over the moon to find Tommy. Years of aching estrangement have only made their long-awaited embrace even sweeter. Joel is elated to see that Tommy doesn’t need saving. Ellie and Joel practically inhale the meal that they’ve been served in a gorgeous space adorned with fairy lights. Joel is still quite suspicious of the people that he has heard an earful about. Maria reassures Joel that the only people they kill are the ones who pose a risk to everything they’ve built. When Joel asks Maria to excuse the brothers for a private chat, Tommy holds on to Maria’s hand and conveys the news of their marriage to Joel. Chirpy Ellie is happy to congratulate the couple she has just met. But she is happier to make Joel show the same courtesy, fully expecting the lukewarm grunt that is to follow.


After their meal, Tommy and Maria show Joel and Ellie around the place that seems to come off as nothing short of magic to the two people who have only been subjected to hopelessness out in the world. Mirroring the version of Jackson in the second game, the compound Joel and Ellie traipse around has schools, shrines for all faiths, a laundromat, livestock, and even the luxury of a makeshift movie theater. They have been keeping their refuge safe from the dangers of the outside by being quiet, keeping to themselves, and staying off the radio—something that Tommy and Joel exchange an apologetic and a scornful look about, respectively. Ellie chuckles while pointing out the herds of sheep to Joel. She is even more thrilled to see a beautiful foal named Shimmer. Joel and Ellie are hosted in the house overlooking those of Tommy and Maria. Back from a hot shower that seems to have washed off the stench of the horror that lurks outside the boundaries of Jackson, Ellie comes to find a Divacup on her bed and a leaflet delineating how she is supposed to use it.

Why Does Joel Want Tommy To Protect Ellie?

While sharing a drink in the privacy of the bar, Tommy asks after Tess, and Joel chooses to keep the truth to himself. Knowing how Joel is, Tommy can’t get himself to believe that Joel is taking care of Ellie just out of the goodness of his heart. But Joel is still not ready to confide the truth about Ellie to his brother. Tommy could never get accustomed to Joel’s beastly ways of survival. He may not heavy-handedly condemn Joel for the same, but Tommy parted ways with his brutal brother because he couldn’t live a life of killing innocents just to get by. The group that later built-up Jackson had found Tommy and accepted him as their brethren when he had nothing else in his life. Now that Joel is here asking him to leave it all behind and help him get Ellie to the Fireflies base at the University of Eastern Colorado, Tommy is steady in his decision to not disrupt the life that he has found. But that isn’t the only thing that’s holding Tommy back from offering his help to Joel. Tommy is about to be a father. It’s a piece of news that reopens the wound that never really healed within Joel. He wants to be happy for his brother. But he can never be expected to get over the flooding grief of losing Sarah. Seeing a girl that resembles his deceased daughter in the Jackson crowd, Joel is overcome with another suffocating panic attack.


Ellie reluctantly accepts an eggplant jacket that she isn’t too fond of from Maria. After protesting with a whiny refusal, Ellie also gives into Maria’s demand of being allowed to give her hair “just a trim.” Maria has seen Ellie looking around her room, only to have her eyes stuck on the memorial, which displays the birth and death anniversaries of Kevin and Sarah. Being in the dark about Joel’s past, Ellie mistakes both the dead kids for being Maria’s and offers her condolences. Maria is quick to correct her, as she doesn’t know that Ellie is unaware of Joel’s grim past. Learning of the loss that Joel bears in his heart, some pieces of the puzzle that is Joel start to come together in Ellie’s mind. Maria, who was once a district attorney, recognizes the cunning lawyer-like conduct in Ellie as she rethinks what she should be disclosing to Maria before actually going forward with saying it out loud.

Admittedly puppeteered by motherly instincts, Maria advises Ellie against completely trusting Joel. But the killing machine that Maria has heard about isn’t the same Joel that Ellie has come to know. Unlike Maria, Ellie trusts the person to whom she is closest. Ellie’s evening is made all the more delightful by what may just be her first time watching a film on a big screen. Learning to keep the dreary thoughts of tomorrow at bay is how Ellie has been able to keep the light within her alive. And that is precisely what she does as she immerses herself in the charming 1970s rom-com, “The Goodbye Girl.”


Sulking in the shadows of a lonesome hideout, Joel continues to try and patch up the shoes that have seen better days. That is until Tommy comes in and hands over a pair of functional boots to Joel. Trepid Joel asks Tommy just how dangerous the trip to the Fireflies’ camp will be. Only knowing a Joel who would be able to take on the world, Tommy believes that it will be easy as pie for his brother. Scared out of his mind and insecure about his own vacillating capabilities, Joel chooses to tell the truth about Ellie’s immunity to Tommy. He mournfully walks Tommy through the devastated timeline of finding Ellie and Tess’ miserable deaths. The time that 14-year-old Ellie had to take a gun in her hand and save Joel from a man he would’ve eviscerated just 5 years back weighs heavy on Joel’s conscience.

The man that we’ve seen matching himself against clickers and living enemies alike is falling apart in tears as the severe concern for Ellie’s safety proves to be too intense for him to bear. He presses Tommy, a man he deems much more strapping than himself, to safely deliver Ellie to the Fireflies and ensure that his child is born in a better world. Ellie is glued to a journal she has found. As she reads of the simpler troubles that people had the privilege of worrying about in simpler times, Joel enters the room to give her the wretched news. Ellie wants no part of Joel’s conviction that she will be better off being escorted by Tommy. In his disintegrating state of mind, Joel is disturbingly dismissive of Ellie’s feelings. He puts his foot down as he announces his decision of washing his hands off Ellie and leaves the little girl submerged in pain. 


‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 6: Ending Explained – What Tragedy Takes Place In Eastern Colorado? Is Joel Dead Or Alive?

When the morning arrives, gloomy Ellie joins Tommy to commence their journey. They stop by the stable to get horses for the road, but Joel is already there about to steal a horse that he could’ve easily just asked Tommy for. Having the night to think has clearly allowed Joel the time to contemplate his actions and do right by Ellie. When given the choice between going with Tommy or Joel, Ellie stomps her foot with a “let’s go” and asserts her decision. Bidding goodbye to Joel and Ellie, Tommy reassures them that the gate to Jackson will always be open for the two. A good cry is probably what Joel needed to rid his mind of the suffocating thoughts, as now we find him in a much more sunny spirit while teaching Ellie the proper ways to aim a rifle.

On their intended path, Joel speaks of the two kinds of people that existed in the pre-apocalyptic world—the ones who wanted to have everything and the ones who didn’t want anyone to have anything. When asked which side Joel belonged to, he says that he catered to neither. He was a contractor, and people loved contractors. Try as he might to have his guard up against Ellie; only a father figure would needlessly go over the rules of football with a little girl. Their carefree chatter leads them to the drab sight of a dilapidated building that was once the spirited University of Colorado. Ellie can’t wrap her head around the sort of thoughts the students of the university used to be consumed in. Joel tells her that they mostly concerned themselves with thinking about what they wanted to do with their futures. His sheep ranch dream is quickly replaced by a dream he mentions to have had before his life chose to take a different turn. Joel wanted to be a singer, and now, as his earnest offering to the Savior of the World, he promises to sing for Ellie someday.


On their way through the deserted campus, the only signs of life they see are a group of monkeys that must’ve escaped from the labs where they used to be experimented on. Seeing a Firefly Logo on the Biomedical Sciences wing of the university, the duo heads to the building, only to find that the Fireflies have left. Seeing the laboratory equipment lying around, Ellie deduces that there are doctors around. Seeing the packing list, Joel confirms that they have moved on from the base camp. Startled by a noise that catches their attention, Joel and Ellie carefully make their way up to the floor above. But it turns out to be a non-threatening intrusion as they see the two monkeys playing around with the rubble. What they also find upstairs is a map with several threads of pins coming to an end on Salt Lake City, suggesting that this is where the Fireflies are headed. 

A group of malevolent raiders has caught sight of Joel and Ellie’s horse. Recognizing the danger in their surroundings, the two swiftly make their way out of the backdoor and attempt to flee without being noticed. Before he can mount the horse, Joel is jumped by an armed man. Proving his own insecurity of getting too old and feeble wrong, Joel barehandedly strangles the man to death. Ellie makes haste to get away from the raiders, but her efforts come to a crashing halt when she sees that Joel has been stabbed in the stomach. He pulls out the weapon, and the two get on the horse. The devastated duo rides out of the campus while Ellie shoots at the raiders running after them. Even though they managed to get away from immediate danger, Joel isn’t doing as well as he had hoped. He has turned pale from losing too much blood and can’t even remain steady on the horse. Seeing Joel fall from the horse, desperate Ellie cries out for help. For a moment, it seems as though both of their worst fears stand a chance of coming true. Joel has been unable to provide safe passage for Ellie. And Ellie is faced with the gut-wrenching possibility of losing the only person in the world she felt safe with. It would be safe to bet that this isn’t the end of the road for Joel. But as the acoustic rendition of Depeche Mode’s “Never Let Me Down Again” leads us to the end credits, we are too scared to imagine the kind of horror that these two are yet to endure.


See more: ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 6: Video Game Differences And Similarities, Explained

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Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjeehttps://muckrack.com/lopamudra-mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.

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