I’ll say this much for bloaters, AKA the hulking, horrifying creatures at the most advanced stage of fungal infection in The Last of Us: They have impeccable timing.
Because if that big ol’ shiitake and all its friends hadn’t shown up toward the end of this week’s episode, Joel and Ellie would’ve been goners, thanks to Kathleen’s unflinching quest for revenge. There’s a lesson here, somewhere: The infected enemy of my vengeance-fueled enemy is my friend? Eh, I’ll keep workshopping it.
In related news, we officially meet Sam and Henry during the episode. And because we fall in love with them pretty quickly, of COURSE they are both dead by the time the credits roll. Everyone, please join me in shaking our fists to the heavens and yelling, “Druckmann!”
Read on for the highlights of Episode 5, which was released early so it won’t have to compete with the Super Bowl. (And then make sure to check out our deep dive on the show’s newest nightmare.)
HOW WE GOT HERE | The start of the episode rewinds a bit, to when Kathleen and her group have just assumed control of the Kansas City quarantine zone. Crowds roam the streets chanting, “Freedom!” FEDRA officers are hanged. “The city belongs to the people. Collaborators, surrender now,” a man announces via a bullhorn as a truck dragging a corpse slowly rolls through the chaos.
The kid and young man we saw briefly at the end of the previous episode are hiding. They are Sam and Henry, respectively, the brothers Kathleen is turning over the entire city to find. In fact, at that exact moment, she’s interrogating a cell full of accused informers in order to figure out the brothers’ whereabouts; one says they’re with Edelstein, who turns out to be the doctor Kathleen killed in Episode 4. She orders Perry and his team to go door-to-door to find them, then instructs her second-in-command to skip a trial and just kill all of the collaborators. “When you’re done, burn the bodies,” she says. “It’s faster.”
Henry and Sam are with Edelstein, holed up in a building in the city, but they’re low on food and out of ammunition. Sam, who is deaf, is scared. Henry hands him a bag of crayons and, as a distraction, asks him to beautify their living quarters. So the boy starts drawing a Super Sam hero character on the walls.
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS | Ten days later, it’s been 24 hours since Edelstein left to try to find food; Henry knows that the doctor likely has been killed, and doesn’t sugarcoat the possibility when Sam asks. Henry adds that they’re going to have to leave, too, because they’re very hungry. The little boy is understandably FREAKED OUT, so Henry has him close his eyes, then uses orange paint to draw a mask on Sam so he’s Super Sam. Henry shows him his reflection in a knife, and it’s a sweet moment in a hellscape.
They’re about to leave when they witness the ambush that happened to Joel and Ellie in the previous episode; the laundromat is directly across the street from where Sam and Henry are crouched. Henry gets a good look at Joel’s face and signs to his brother that they have a new plan.
Cut to where we last left Angry Dad and Wonder Kid: With Ellie yelling for Joel, who’s sleeping with his good ear muffled by the pillow, to wake the heck up. Sam and Henry have got them cornered. Henry and Joel don’t get off to the best start. (“That’s just the way he sounds! He has an a–hole voice!” Ellie intervenes, trying to deescalate the situation. Ha!) Henry signs to Sam that he’s going to trust their new acquaintances, and a tentative peace is reached.
‘ENDURE AND SURVIVE’ | Joel and Ellie share their food. She immediately takes to the brothers, but Joel is — shocker — far more guarded. He gives them some context for everything they’ve experienced. The Kansas City arm of FEDRA was a terrible group of people that tortured residents of the QZ, hence it being overthrown. But Henry quickly confesses that he collaborated with FEDRA, which angers Joel. Henry has a plan: He’ll help Joel and Ellie get out of the city if Joel will be the armed heavy he needs; despite all that posturing with the gun, he’s never actually shot anyone.
Joel agrees, then Henry lays out his plan for leaving. FEDRA drove all the infected underground 15 years ago, but the FEDRA guard Henry worked with confessed that they cleared the maintenance tunnels three years before. And indeed, when the four of them get down there, there’s no evidence of any ‘shroomheads. There is evidence — in the form of a young children’s classroom — of a community that survived, and maybe even flourished a little?, underground after Outbreak Day.
Ellie and Sam bond over a comic-book series they both love; he teaches her the ASL for “endure and survive,” a phrase central to the comic. While everyone waits for it to get dark outside — the better for cover when they pop outside later — the younger set plays soccer. “If you were collaborating to take care of him, I shouldn’t have said what I said,” a chagrined Joel grits out. Then Henry admits that he HAS killed someone (“a great man”), the leader of the resistance movement in KC, in order to get a leukemia drug for Sam, who needed it dearly at the time. The man was Kathleen’s brother.
Elsewhere in the city, Terry finds Kathleen brooding in her childhood bedroom. She talks about how her brother, Michael, would be horrified by what she’s done, and how the last time she saw him, in jail, he told her to forgive. But she doesn’t see justice in forgiveness, and Terry is on the same page. Michael was a great guy but didn’t effect change, Terry notes. However, “You did. We’re with you.” She exhales, saying, “Good.”
BLOATER? I BARELY KNOW ‘ER! | Sam, Henry, Joel and Ellie make it out of the tunnels and Henry is gloating that his plan worked when a sniper starts taking shots at them from a nearby house. Joel sneaks around the back, goes inside and stops the old man. Then Joel realizes that the sniper has been in radio communication with Kathleen’s team, which is just about to arrive.
“RUN!” Joel yells from the window, and the trio on the ground do while he tries to cover them from his perch in the house. He manages to pick off the lead car, which crashes into a nearby house and creates a huge fire. During the ruckus, Ellie falls; Henry picks her up and helps her to a hiding place, and Joel takes note of his altruistic action.
Kathleen is IRKED. She stands in the road and commands Henry to come out; he yells back from his hiding place that he will if she lets Ellie and Sam go. She says nope, the monologues about how kids die all the time. “You think the whole world revolves around him? That he’s worth… everything?” she mocks, and my, that was a little on the nose.
When she yells “this is what happens when you f—k with fate!” it’s clear we’re through the looking glass here, and Henry tells Ellie to take Sam and run as he steps out from their hiding spot with his hands raised. Kathleen is just about to shoot him dead when everyone’s attention is pulled to the truck that drove into the house a few minutes before. The vehicle slowly slides into a sinkhole… releasing a TIDAL WAVE OF INFECTED, including the aforementioned bloater. Man, that thing is big and really tough to kill.
The scene goes from a standoff to an every-man-for-himself. Ellie gets separated from Sam, and Joel does his best to cover her from the house. She winds up inside a car and has precisely a nanosecond to breathe before a clicker who apparently was a circus performer in its previous life climbs in and contorts its body over the seats until it’s up in her face. She manages to get away in time, notices that Sam and Henry are under a car and under attack, and with Joel covering her once more, uses her knife to singlehandedly dispatch two infected. I LOVE THIS GIRL. When the bloater emerges from the hole, Perry tells Kathleen to run and take cover. He empties his gun into the hulking creature, which barely slows down as it approaches and then easily rips his head from his body.
Ellie, Sam and Henry get free of the melee but happen to run right past Kathleen, who yells for them to stop… and then gets jumped by an infected, who rips into her like she’s a downed piñata. Joel meets them, and all four make it away safely and hole up in a motel to rest.
NO! SAMMMMM! | Joel offers for the brothers to come to Wyoming, and Henry readily agrees, planning to tell Sam in the morning. “New day, new start,” he says in a way that is far too optimistic for anything that might happen on this show. (And, as we see, that bears out!)
In the adjoining bedroom, Sam and Ellie have a conversation via his wipeboard. He asks if she’s scared, and she says she’s scared all the time, especially of “ending up alone.” When she turns the question on him, he writes, “If you turn into a monster is it still you inside?” Then he pulls up his pant leg to show her that he got bit during the fight. OH NO.
She quickly writes, “My blood is medicine” and pulls out her knife to slice her palm and press it to his wound. He asks her to stay awake with him, and she promises that she will, then hugs him as he tries not to cry.
‘WHAT DID I DO?’ | Of course, everyone is exhausted, and Ellie does fall asleep. When she wakes the next morning, Sam is sitting on the bed with his back to her. He turns around, and we see that he’s fully infected. He attacks her.
The noise wakes Henry and Joel, who are sleeping on the floor in the living room. As Sam and Ellie tumble into the room, Sam on top of her and snarling, Joel reaches for the gun but Henry grabs it first. Then, in an anguished, momentary decision, Henry shoots and kills his little brother.
Joel seems genuinely affected and worried for Ellie, maybe for the first time openly? (He did ask about her after the car crashed, but this felt more… distressed?) He goes as far as to move toward her but Henry stops him, freaking out and repeating “What did I do?” Joel tries to get the young man to hand over the gun, but Henry puts it to his temple and pulls the trigger, spraying blood everywhere. Ellie, dazed and still kneeling on the ground, starts crying.
Joel buries Henry and Sam outside the motel. Ellie writes “I’m sorry” on Sam’s wipeboard and leaves it on top of the dirt covering his body. Then she asks Joel which way is west, and after he tells her, starts walking in that direction and beckoning for him to follow.
Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!