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‘The Last Of Us’ Weekly Survival Odds: The One With The Cult

Each week, we’ll recap the biggest moments of HBO’s The Last of Us before placing bets on the odds of survival for our favorite characters – like the sick, twisted, soulless monsters we are.

The penultimate episode of The Last of Us has a bit of everything. Cults. Cannibalism. Fake religion. That thing where Pedro Pascal mutters the words “baby girl” and the knees of men and women everywhere go weak.

We’re not sure how this narrative diversion contributes to the season at large other than to prove that people are far more dangerous than fungi — which, duh — and that Bella Ramsey deserves some kind of award recognition for the things she’s doing on this show, specifically in this episode. But we’re not complaining, not when it means we get to watch bad men die and hideously designed resort lodges burn.

You’re In A Cult. Call Your Dad.

We’ve examined many facets of human behavior over the first season of this show, from romantic love to the familial kind, the driving nature of vengeance, the duplicity of men, and the natural survival instincts some are born with … and born without. So really, it was only a matter of time before the allure of cults, with their methods of psychological torture and their complex societal hierarchies, had The Last of Us in a chokehold. And it kind of makes sense that a cult modeled after the tenants of Christianity would survive the fungal outbreak only to set up camp in a frozen tundra where no food can grow and no animals roam. Suffering is the highest form of worship, after all.

Still, when the show opens on a mysterious leader we later learned is named David, spouting off passages from the Book of Revelations, we get the feeling this isn’t the post-apocalyptic promised land these disciples were promised. They’re starving, freezing, mourning the death of a recently murdered villager, and desperately planning how to survive on just a couple of weeks left of their rations.

This is not what Drake was talking about when he sang “God’s Plan.”

Now, we’ve seen enough survival movies to know that whatever meat they’re currently living off of is not, in fact, “venison,” but we put the potential cannibalism on the back burner because a deer spotting has David and his men on the hunt. It’s around this time that Ellie, who’s running out of food and out of ideas for how to heal Joel, goes in search of her own game. She’s been hand-feeding her partner bits of jerky for the past few days and while yes, that happens to be a fantasy for many Pedro Pascal groupies on the internet, we never wanted to see it in this context.

Ellie’s an actual survivor, not a middle-aged man playing at being one, which is why she shoots down the deer that David and his group stumble upon. They’re ready to snag it for themselves until she holds them at gunpoint, eventually agreeing to a trade of medicine for half the animal’s hide. While one of David’s henchmen makes the long trek back to town, the pair sit by the fire trading stories to pass the time. David sports some big “Youth Pastor Energy” early on, admitting he used to be a teacher before receiving a higher calling when the world went to sh*t. Since everyone’s brains were infected with fungi, we assume he’s not actually ordained, just self-taught and super righteous about it.

Ellie feigns interest because, well, what else is she gonna do? She needs medicine for Joel and a way to leave this weird interaction without being followed home. If you’re a woman who’s ever been on a blind date, you can probably relate.

Eventually, David’s buddy shows back up, but not before David reveals it was Joel who killed his man – the one everyone was crying over earlier – and it was “God’s plan” that he find Ellie.

Why are Christians like this?

Is This A White Lotus?

David and his group return with the whole deer in tow (which, greedy much?) and instead of receiving a warm welcome and a hot meal, he must quell the fears of his flock. Turns out, everyone now knows about Ellie and he promises them he’ll seek justice by tracking down and killing Joel. When the girl whose father was killed challenges him, he backhands her and then comforts her in quick succession, proving he’s got this whole emotional manipulation thing down pat. If that wasn’t enough of a red flag, David’s dinner portion is obnoxiously bigger than everyone else’s.

Ellie races back to give Joel the penicillin she traded for but the town doctor didn’t give instructions for how to administer it so we’re left pulling our hair out, screaming, “That’s not how it works,” as she injects a full syringe straight into Joel’s stomach wound. Unfortunately, we don’t get to spend enough downtime with the pair to see if her unique method of antibiotic delivery works because the group has found their hideout and Ellie must lead them away from a still-bedridden Joel. She does, mounting her horse and taunting a handful of grown men with guns, but not before leaving Joel with a hunting knife and a stern warning to stay awake because sh*ts going down and now is not the time to catch up on beauty sleep.

Unfortunately, Ellie and her horse are overrun and she’s taken hostage by the cult before Joel can wake his a** up and do his damn job. (He does miraculously recover enough to interrogate and slaughter a couple of gunmen, eventually torturing one long enough to learn the group is staying at a resort that’s not on the map.)

While he’s planning a rescue mission, Ellie’s waking up in a concrete cell and discovering what the term “child bride” means for the first time. David’s interest in Ellie at the beginning of the episode felt a bit unnerving, but it’s when he’s got her concussed and caged that we discover his true intentions.

Why are men like this?

The Sheep And The Shepherd

So here’s the truth: David is not a god-fearing man, he’s a guy with violent urges who saw an opportunity when surrounded by a group of frightened, lost people. Being the sociopath that he is, he faked piousness to earn their subservience and love and now he’s bored. Like really bored. Because sure, being worshipped like a god is fun for a while but eventually, you want someone to verbally spar with, someone to challenge you, someone to make life interesting again.

He believes Ellie is that someone, and though he never directly says it, he hints at the hope that she’ll be his equal in every way, his partner, someone to build a life with. Which, ewww.

But those weird romantic declarations where David asserts they both have violent hearts and she reminds him of himself, a person beyond needing a father (literally or spiritually, we guess), all fall on deaf ears because, well, Ellie gets a glimpse of one on the killing room floor. It turns out, David’s been chopping up his own flock to sustain him and while he claims to be ashamed of that fact, he’s quick to threaten Ellie with the same fate should she refuse his offer. She does anyway, breaking his hand and being altogether badass before staving off her own execution by showing her bite mark.

She tries to escape but is trapped in a lodge she accidentally sets on fire with a psychotic pedophile enticing her to let him be her new daddy. It’s very The Shining reminiscent except Ellie is the one who ends up with the meat cleaver, making good use of it by hacking into David’s skull over and over and over again after he tries to sexually assault her.

The episode ends with Ellie escaping the burning building and being comforted by Joel, who arrives just in time to witness her breakdown and hug her through it while calling her “baby girl” and telling her everything’s going to be fine now.

It’s not, but we’re not going to complain when it’s Pedro Pascal saying it.

Survival Odds

Ellie (1 to 10 odds)
Again, these numbers mean absolutely nothing to us but we’ve been told we’ve been doing the odds percentage all wrong this entire time. So, for sake of appearing to care about things like math and statistical probability, we’re switching it up. The bottom line is this: Ellie doesn’t need anyone but herself to survive this hellscape. Sure, having Joel around is nice and reassuring, but she’s graduated from being a smuggled child to a young woman capable of burning down a cult and cutting through a couple of fanatical cannibals on her way out. Ellie is now mother.

Joel (7 to 1 odds)
We know Joel woke up and started slicing kneecaps but we’ve got to be honest, we’re not sure how much penicillin it takes to heal a stomach infection. And that’s if it was administered correctly, which we all know it wasn’t. Maybe he’s got a robust immune system or maybe he’s just running on the fumes of adrenaline. We’ll see.