The Last of Us Episode 6: Joel Reunites With Tommy and Tests His Bond With Ellie

The series swaps the source material's gameplay-style action for more character building, exploring the meaning of family, and Joel dealing with a new emotional wrinkle.

by | February 20, 2023 | Comments

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The Last of Us’ fourth and fifth episodes,“Please Hold to My Hand” and “Endure and Survive,” corresponded pretty closely with the game’s “Pittsburgh” and “The Suburbs” chapters. Save for the addition of Kathleen’s (Melanie Lynskey) intertwined arc, they didn’t stray far from Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) original PlayStation path.

Episode 6, however, not only squeezes two full game chapters into its 60-ish minutes, but also kicks things off with an entirely new scene to cleanse our emotional palettes after last week’s gut-wrenching conclusion. So how does the episode, dubbed “Kin,” cram so much into an hour? And how closely does it follow the game’s version of events? Let’s saddle-up for Wyoming and find out.

Spoiler alert: The following contains details about The Last of Us season 1, episode 6, “Kin.” Stop here if you have not watched the episode.


The Last of Us: Elaine Miles

(Photo by HBO)

Following a brief, brutal replay of Henry’s (Lamar Johnson) final act, the story jumps ahead three months – the game is more vague, fast-forwarding to “Fall.” Joel and Ellie have invaded the home of an older couple, entertainingly played by Graham Greene and Elaine Miles. The pair have clearly “seen some sh-t,” and are completely unfazed by Joel holding them at gunpoint, demanding directions west.

When Joel and Ellie ask the couple if they know Tommy or if they’ve heard of the Fireflies, the woman hilariously responds to the latter with, “We get those in the summer.” When Ellie explains the Fireflies are actually people, the woman doesn’t miss a beat and deadpans, “There are firefly people?” She and her husband then enjoy a good laugh. Joel means the couple no harm, and ultimately holsters his weapon before continuing to press them on the best way west. The old man’s ominous advice: “Go east.”


The Last of Us: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

The game doesn’t include this scene – which provides some welcome levity, while nicely expanding upon the universe – but rather picks up with Joel and Ellie arriving at a dam in Jackson, Wyoming. This chapter of the game is titled “Tommy’s Dam,” as it’s the location where Joel’s finally reunited with his little brother. Players spend plenty of time in this area, solving environmental puzzles and defending the dam from bad guys.

In the episode, however, Joel and Ellie next set up camp, where they do some additional bonding and Ellie confesses she tried to cure Sam (Keivonn Woodard) with her immune blood. It’s an extra moment that nicely highlights their evolving relationship, but also reminds us Joel’s hard exterior is yet to be entirely cracked. When discussing what they’ll do after their shared adventure, Joel bristles a bit when Ellie casually refers to them as “We.”

The Last of Us: Gabriel Luna, Pedro Pascal

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

They eventually make it to the dam, but barely give it a passing glance. Instead, they’re soon surrounded by a posse of pistol-packing cowboys, who escort them to their gated community of Jackson. The flourishing town, which is powered by the dam, is where Joel and Tommy (Gabriel Luna) are reunited. In the game’s respective chapter, the settings are essentially flipped. Jackson is heavily referenced, but just glimpsed from a distance, following the extended time spent at the dam.

But fans who braved The Last of Us Part II will feel right at home in the quaint, snow-covered community. The 2020 sequel, which finds Joel and Ellie settled in Jackson, spends a good deal of time there. The Tipsy Bison tavern, featured heavily in the episode, is pulled right from the game. Additionally, the girl Ellie scolds for staring at her looks a bit like Dina, her future girlfriend from Part II. That’s just nerdy speculation, of course, but it’d make for an awesome Easter egg if it pans out in season 2.


The Last of Us: Bella Ramsey, Gabriel Luna, Pedro Pascal, Rutina Wesley

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

While the series swaps the dam for the town, the interactions and story beats in both settings are largely the same. But the show continues to offer extra character-building moments and interactions to flesh things out. The role of Maria (Rutina Wesley,) especially, is given a lot more love. The backstory on her pre-apocalypse life – having been a district attorney and losing a son to the pandemic – is all new. As is her pregnancy and private conversations with Ellie.

Much of Joel and Tommy’s initial argument in the bar is also original to the show, while the scene where the kids are watching “The Goodbye Girl” is both brand new and a call-out to the source material. In the game, when Tommy, Joel, and Ellie briefly view Jackson’s townscape from afar, Tommy fondly posits, “The kids’ll be watching movies tonight.”

Joel and Tommy’s conversation about who’ll escort Ellie to the university is similar, but the series significantly tweaks it to lend it more emotional weight and make Joel’s motivations more sympathetic. At this point in the game, while he’s unquestionably grown closer to Ellie, his mind hasn’t gotten the memo from his heart about his evolved feelings. She’s still essentially cargo to him, and he wants to leave her with Tommy and move on with his life. Them going separate ways is the next logical step.

The Last of Us: Bella Ramsey

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

He intends to hand-off Ellie in the show as well, but for different reasons. He’s old, scared, and experiencing debilitating panic attacks, which is also a fresh, critical wrinkle. Ironically, his motivation for leaving her behind cements just how much he cares for her. He’s terrified he’ll fail her and, worse, get her killed. In the game he claims she’ll be safer with Tommy, but it comes off like a hollow, self-serving justification. In the series, however, he truly believes it, as evidenced by his tearful pleas to his brother.

His next conversation with Ellie on the other hand, is nearly identical. In both versions, she’s sitting by a window peeping someone’s diary when Joel enters. The exchanges about Sarah, as well as Joel’s harsh comment about Ellie not being his daughter, are pretty much pulled line-for-line from the source material. Ellie saying she’d be more scared without him, and Joel ultimately storming off, insisting they part ways, will also be familiar to fans of the game.

Of course, both versions ultimately see Joel having a change of heart, and Ellie happily hopping on the back of his horse to continue their journey to find the Fireflies. This moment also offers a fan-pleasing nod: Tommy sees his brother off with an “Adios, big brother,” but in the game, it’s Joel who bids his sibling goodbye with an “Adios, little brother.”


The Last of Us: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

While most of the episode takes place in Jackson, it squeezes the game’s corresponding chapter – aptly dubbed “The University” – into its final 10 or so minutes. The two versions of this stretch share plenty of similarities, including the pair’s funny conversation about football rules and their brush with former lab monkeys. Joel and Ellie’s respective singer and astronaut aspirations are also from the game, though the latter is alluded to much earlier in the episode.

Joel also teaches Ellie to shoot a rifle in the game, but the scene’s context and placement is much different. It unfolds out of necessity, with Ellie having to cover Joel, but the show leverages it as yet another opportunity to display their strengthening bond — and score an easy laugh when Ellie playfully calls Joel a “d-ck.”

Established fans will appreciate the episode’s reference to the fictional University of Eastern Colorado’s football team – “Go, Big Horns” – but they’ll also notice the show excises the game’s clip-emptying action, significantly scaling back the pair’s time at the college. That is, except for the final, pivotal battle, leading into this week’s cliffhanger. The melee with the attackers plays out much differently here, but the end result is exactly the same: Joel’s abdomen meets the ugly end of a very sharp object.

The remaining moments also track with the game’s, as a terrified Ellie desperately attempts to wake an unconscious, bleeding-out Joel. Of course, after a brief fade-to-black, players can pick up the story to learn Joel’s fate. Viewers, on the other hand, are at the mercy of weekly episode drops and must wait to find out if Ellie is able to scare-up a box of Band-Aids.

In the meantime, episode 7’s preview promises backstory on Ellie, including a close friendship that was previously challenged by the Fireflies.

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