What Happened on The Last of Us? Here’s Our Recap of Episode 6.

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The following story contains spoilers for The Last of Us Episode 6.

Episode 6 of HBO’s The Last of Us, titled “Kin,” marks the explicit shift that’s already been slowly happening over the last few weeks. For 20 years, after the death of his daughter, Joel (Pedro Pascal) has been unwilling to let anyone in; even his relationship with Tess (Anna Torv), while a close and intimate one, had a coldness to it. But thanks to Joel’s relationship to Tess, he felt obligated to bring Ellie (Bella Ramsey) along for the trip with him out west, in his journey to track down his brother, Tommy (Gabriel Luna) in Wyoming.

But along the way, something shifted: Joel let Ellie in. Little by little, her questions, her caring nature, her foul mouth, all of it permeated into his heart. He didn’t plan on it, but now he cares about her. To the point where when he finally finds Tommy in Wyoming in “Kin”—and living in a commune with a new wife and a child on the way, Tommy is doing great—he actually feels closer and more at home with Ellie than with his own long lost family member

Much of “Kin” is spent re-establishing the relationship that Joel and Tommy have lost over the years. Joel knows the pain of loss all too well, and acknowledges that the level of caring he’s allowed in is not safe at his age; he doesn’t trust himself to properly care for Ellie, and he doesn’t want to deal with the emotional aftermath of what it will feel like if he’s not up to the task.

Perhaps more than plot movement, this week’s episode is about meeting our characters where they are. Between Joel, Ellie, and even Tommy, these are three main characters who have changed immensely over the course of the time in which we’ve now known them. And all three of these characters acknowledging those changes and looking forward at how it will affect their futures also plays an enormous impact.

Below, we look at the three biggest moments of Episode 6,”Kin”

Three Months Later

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“Kin” picks up three months after the traumatizing incident that ended with Joel and Ellie’s new friends, Henry and Sam, both dead. (If you didn’t see, it’s worth reading how actors Lamar Johnson and Keivonn Woodard dealt with that heavy episode.)

Joel and Ellie have spent those three months continuing west, and are now within striking distance of Tommy, in Wyoming, but just cannot figure out where. They hold up an old and harmless Native American couple—who are hilarious, as the husband expresses complete shock (“Holy!”) at Ellie’s foul mouth and the wife has truly no idea who or what the fireflies even are—in their home.

They can’t tell Joel much about where to find his brother, but they warn that if they head toward the river, there’s a decent chance they’ll never come back. We’ve heard throughout the entire show (and in just about every bit of zombie and post apocalyptic media ever) that the infected aren’t the most dangerous things out there, but the malicious people. This, we presume, could be another case.

Brotherly Reunion and a New Lives

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But it’s not! While Joel and Ellie wind up in the crosshairs of a group of frightening outlaw-esque people on horseback near the river, when Tommy’s name is mentioned, they’re brought in to what appears to be an almost Deadwood-esque settlement town, being built from the ground up. As Joel and Ellie are brought in, Joel catches Tommy’s—now slightly older with a mustache on his face—attention, and the two share an absolutely epic hug and reunion. While Joel has told stories of Joel and Tommy’s post-outbreak past, this was presumably the first scene between Pascal and Luna since their initial 2003-set, Episode 1 interactions, and it really plays like a couple guys who have longed for and deeply missed each other’s company.

The majority of the episode is spent in the commune as Joel and Tommy ultimately wind up comparing how their lives have gone; where Joel has largely refused to let anyone and refused to move on, Tommy is looking forward. They find out quickly that Maria, the woman who was on horseback and recognized Joel, is now Tommy’s wife. We also find out that Maria is expecting a child; they’re comfortable enough with this new version of a broken world to bring life into it. Joel questions if their way of all-hands-on-deck life is essentially communism, and while Tommy isn’t so hot to use that word, Maria embraces it. It’s a commune, so yes, it’s communist.

It’s interesting throughout the episode to see the kind of subtext around Joel and Ellie’s relationship, and how it ultimately reaches a boiling point. When Joel first hugs Tommy, Ellie doesn’t have an excited look on her face; Ramsey does great work expressing with just a look the passing feeling that Ellie feels like the only person she now has in this world may soon fill the same void with someone else. Joel, ever-reluctant to show any kind of emotion, also lies when telling Tommy about Tess (who he does not initially reveal has died) and Ellie (about whom he makes up an entirely different motivation).

Eventually, the two pairs split off, as Ellie and Maria get acquainted (she’s a former assistant distract attorney who’s lost a son, and it’s here that Ellie first learns about Joel’s loss of Sarah).

Ultimately, after Joel and Tommy have a fight about moving on/not moving on in life and differing viewpoints of their own past, Joel also comes clean. He tells Tommy everything about Ellie—how she’s immune to the infection, how she’s saved his life, how he has come to care so much for her, and how he worries that his age and declining health make him the wrong person to help her. He mentions that at a certain point he was “afraid,” for Ellie, bringing to mind a line that Bill tells Frank in Episode 3: “I was never afraid until I met you.” Caring about things can be scary, and that seems to be a key factor of The Last of Us‘ story. Pascal is fantastic in these moments, and it would be a shock if this episode is not his Emmy submission next year.

Joel plans to leave Ellie with Tommy. Tommy is healthier, Joel decides, and would be the better person to get her to the Fireflies science lab where they can, hopefully, use her blood to begin developing a vaccine. Ellie gets wind of this and won’t have it, and the two have their first major blow up, both acknowledging that they deeply care for another; Ellie and Joel have both lost everyone else in their life, and while neither seem to want it to happen again, Joel’s stubbornness and lack of confidence seem to be constantly pushing toward it.

Joel says that in the morning, the two will go their separate ways.

The Only Choice

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After a night of more solid brooding, Joel hasn’t left; Ellie sees him by the horse and immediately gives him shit for it. Joel tells Ellie he thinks she deserves a choice for who she’s going to stick with, and, no offense to Tommy, but before Joel even finishes the sentence Ellie has made her decision. Tommy tells the duo that they’ll always have a home in his commune, and they hit the road again, looking for the Fireflies’ science lab.

On the road again, the Joel and Ellie relationship really is shining through. Long gone is the days of “we don’t ask about each others’ pasts.” Joel is telling Ellie all about his past as a contractor (“Everybody loved contractors!” he says) and explaining the rules of football. He even lets slip that he wanted to be a singer as a kid, which, well, we’re going to have to circle back to that one eventually.

But we weren’t going to get out of this episode so easily. Joel and Ellie can’t find the scientists, surmising from their empty lab that they’ve moved elsewhere… only for some dirtbags outside to get there on their way out. Joel and Ellie try to escape, but not before some guy stabs Joel right in the gut.

Ellie tries to help him and gets him up on the horse, but it’s not long on the road before Joel passes out, and the episode comes to a close. Video game players know what’s coming, but it’s going to be a long week for those of us coming to the story with fresh eyes.

Headshot of Evan Romano

Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.

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