The Last of Us episode 9 recap: Joel's betrayal

Ellie (Bella Ramsey) sitting on the back of a pick-up truck in The LAst Of Us episode 9.
Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us (Image credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO)

NOTE: this article contains spoilers for The Last of Us episode 9.

In the season finale of The Last Of Us, Joel (Pedro Pascal) finally completes his mission and hands Ellie (Bella Ramsey) over to the Fireflies after she survived her ordeal with David (Scott Shepherd) and his cult of followers in episode 8. Is this really the end for Joel and Ellie?

Here's what went down in The Last Of Us episode 9. 

Ellie's origins 

Anna (Ashley Johnson) heavily pregnant in a yellow dress and overcoat in The Last Of Us

Anna is revealed to be Ellie's mother. (Image credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO)

The season finale opens with a heavily pregnant woman called Anna (played by Ellie's original voice and performance capture actress, Ashley Johnson) being chased by an infected through the woods. She scrambles into a cabin and barricades a door with a chair just as her contractions begin.

Anna kills the infected with her switchblade but realizes she's both given birth and been bitten in the struggle, so she hurriedly cuts the umbilical cord (with the switchblade we've seen Ellie carry). When a group of Fireflies, led by Marlene (Merle Dandridge) come across her, Anna tells Marlene she cut the cord before she'd been bitten to reassure her that Ellie isn't infected. 

Anna begs Marlene to take care of Ellie and then kill her before she turns. Marlene agrees to take the baby, and reluctantly acquiesces to Anna's other request shortly thereafter.

Salt Lake City

Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) looking out over the city in The Last of Us episode 9

Joel and Ellie find some time for another heart to heart in Salt Lake City.  (Image credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Having survived the winter, Joel and Ellie are nearing Salt Lake City, where the Firefly map they found in episode 6 pointed to. Joel's doing a lot of the talking this time around, as something's clearly eating away at Ellie. When they enter the city, they do their usual scouting, heading up a skyscraper for a clearer view.

On their way up, they come face-to-face with a giraffe eating some foliage. The pair take a quiet moment feeding the animal before it leaves, and then climb up to the rooftop. There, Joel tells Ellie there's always a risk to everything and she shouldn’t feel like she has to meet the Fireflies, offering just to take her back to Tommy's settlement. 

Ellie says there’s no way they've gone through everything only to turn back at the final hurdle. But once they'd done what they set out to do, she’d go wherever he wants.

Back at street level, they move through an abandoned medical camp. Joel reveals he'd been treated in one of these camps when he attempted to take his own life after losing Sarah. Ellie supposes he's telling her this to reassure her that "time heals all wounds." He retorts "it wasn't time that did it," hinting at how close they've grown. 

Their moment of peace doesn't last long, though, as a stun grenade is thrown at their feet. Ellie is seized and Joel is knocked unconscious by a mystery assailant.

Prepping for surgery 

Merle Dandridge as Marlene in The Last Of Us

Marlene greets Joel as he wakes up from the attack. (Image credit: Courtesy of HBO)

Joel wakes up in a hospital bed, with Marlene standing opposite him. She apologizes, saying their patrol didn't know who he was. She thanks him for getting Ellie back to them.

He asks where she is, leading Marlene to reveal the Fireflies plan. A doctor thinks Ellie's form of cordyceps is producing a chemical messenger of some sort that tricks regular cordyceps into ignoring her. He plans to extract the infection from so they can replicate those same chemicals and develop a cure that can be given to everyone. 

Joel knows this will end in tragedy, as cordyceps grow in the brain. He demands the Fireflies find someone else, but Marlene tells him there's no other way. She orders two of her soldiers to escort him outside with his belongings and Ellie's knife as a memento and tells them to shoot him if he doesn't cooperate. 

'Rescuing' Ellie

A bloodied Joel (Pedro Pascal) from The Last Of Us episode 9

Joel becomes a one-man army as he cuts down the Fireflies to get Ellie back. (Image credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Joel can't just leave though. In a stairway, he whips around and grabs the gun from one of his escorts and uses it to kill the two men after demanding to know where Ellie's being kept.

He then works his way through the hospital, killing any Fireflies he comes across as he makes his way to the pediatric surgery department to get Ellie back.

Armed with a pistol, he walks into the room just as Ellie is sedated. Joel orders the doctor to release her, but he picks up a scalpel and says he won't let Joel take her, so Joel shoots him. He then barks at the nurses to release Ellie. He picks her up in his arms and walks to the nearest elevator and takes it down to the car park to steal a Firefly truck and get away.

In the parking lot, Marlene confronts Joel. He argues it's not for the Fireflies to choose what happens to Ellie. Marlene argues it's not his call either. She thinks Joel knows Ellie would have chosen to "do the right thing" and gone through with the operation. She assures him it's not too late and lowers her weapon.

 Heading home 

We then cut to Joel leaving the hospital in a truck, with Ellie waking up in her hospital gown in the back seat. In a flashback, we see that he shot Marlene. When Ellie asks what’s going on, Joel lies to her. 

He tells her there were "dozens" of people like her, but the doctors couldn't get anything to work and so they'd stopped looking for a cure. He also says the Fireflies were only running some tests on her.

When Ellie asks what happened at the hospital, he tells her raiders attacked the building and they barely made it out alive. When she asks about Marlene, he says nothing, just that he's taking them home. Ellie rolls away from him. 

In another flashback, Marlene begs for her life, but Joel kills her, believing she would only send the Fireflies after Ellie.

The truck gets them all the way to Wyoming but breaks down, so Joel and Ellie make the hike back to Tommy's compound on foot. Near the end of the walk, Ellie stops, remembering all the people she's lost: Riley, Tess and so on.

He tries to reassure her, saying she has to move forward and find something new to fight for, but she interrupts and asks him to swear that everything he said about the Fireflies was true. He swears he's not lying. Ellie nods and then the credits roll on season 1.

The first full season of The Last Of Us is now available to stream on HBO Max and on Sky TV and NOW in the UK. A second season is in development.  

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Martin Shore
Staff Writer at

Martin was a Staff Writer with, where he produced a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. Now he works for our sister site Tom's Guide in the same role.

Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.