The Last of Us –  Episode 5 recap – ‘Endure and Survive’

Episode 5 of The Last of Us on HBO continues to explore the story of Henry, Sam, and the tragedies of living in the post-apocalypse.
The Last of Us HBO Episode 5 Recap Endure and Survive

The story of brothers Henry and Sam is the subject of The Last of Us Episode 5, with the HBO TV adaptation adding a significant amount of new narrative context. The continuing theme of what keeps us going when all is lost is explored once more, and thrown into the context of how our own selfish actions impact the wider community around us. 

Though ostensibly a two-episode side-story, this version of Henry and Sam’s story appears to have a much greater impact on Joel and Ellie’s relationship and understanding of their post-apocalyptic world. It explores all that can be gained, and how quickly it can all come crumbling down. 

For further analysis and reading on the HBO adaptation of The Last of Us, you can check out the following articles: 

Episode recaps and analysis: 

Behind-the-scenes podcast recaps:

The Last of Us is now streaming on HBO Max in the US, and Binge in Australia.

The Last of Us –  Episode 5 recap – ‘Endure and Survive’

The episode begins with a bang – the firing of flares, as we flash back to the moment the Kansas City Quarantine Zone is liberated from FEDRA. The citizen’s militia, led by Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) is celebrating in the streets, executing and hanging remaining FEDRA soldiers.

As militia trucks patrol the streets trying to round up any FEDRA collaborators, Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) are hiding, and probably with good reason – one of the trucks is seen dragging a corpse completely stickered with knives.

Image: Image: HBO / Binge

Henry focusses his younger brother Sam as he becomes disturbed by the sight, and it’s here that the show establishes one of the key changes to the story of Henry and Sam: Sam is deaf, and the two communicate via sign language, as well as via a Magic Slate reusable writing pad.

As an aside, there’s some fascinating insight into the changes to Henry and Sam’s characters in our interview with Lamar Johnson, who plays Henry.

We then cut elsewhere to a prison cell, where Kathleen is addressing a group of prisoners, cowering on the floor, with a sweet, motherly but sinister demeanour. These people acted as informants to FEDRA during their occupation, ratting out the activities of the resistance in exchange for goods.

Kathleen demands to know the whereabouts of Henry, and after flippantly ordering their deaths, one of the prisoners gives her a name: Edelstein, who was previously unknown to Kathleen as an informant.

With the knowledge that Edelstein has a hideout in the middle of the city, Kathleen sets Perry (Jeffrey Pierce) and the rest of the militia squad on a widespread manhunt, coldly and brutally shutting down Perry’s objections in the process. As she leaves, she orders the execution of the informants.

The Last of Us -  Episode 5 recap - ‘Endure and Survive’
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Henry and Sam arrive at Edelstein’s safehouse, and we discover that Edelstein is the doctor Kathleen was interrogating when we first met her in Episode 4. The three hole up in an attic with a limited supply of food – enough for 11 days – and make plans to sneak their way out of the city. 

At Edelman’s suggestion, Henry spends some time reassuring Sam about their situation, to ease his fear, and put on a brave face. The differences to the dynamic between Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) couldn’t be more stark. Henry surprises Sam with a big bag of used crayons, and invites him to begin decorating their hideout.

10 days later, the hide is adorned with several images of the two brothers as superheroes. Edelman has been gone for a day, militia activity has increased in their immediate surroundings, the young Sam is starving, and Henry is visibly distraught. On the 11th day, Henry admits that Edelmen is probably dead (we know that he is), and the two brothers plan to make a move. Inspired by Sam’s superhero drawings, Henry gives him a makeshift mask with paint, which gives them both the motivation to get going. 

As the brothers are about to leave the building, they’re interrupted by the crash of a car, followed by gunfire. Henry goes to take a look, and sees Joel shooting the assailants that ambushed him and Ellie in the previous episode. Henry tells Sam that he has a new plan in mind.

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The episode skips forward to the present, the end of Episode 4. Henry and Sam have followed Joel and Ellie to the skyscraper they’ve holed up in. They discover the glass noise trap that Joel has laid, and now know how to circumvent it. Henry hands Sam a pistol, and they wake Joel and Ellie up at gunpoint. 

After explaining that they don’t want to hurt them, Henry finds himself at a loss for words, but hopes to assure Joel of their mutual safety. Joel’s gravelly voice alarms Henry, but Ellie tries to diffuse the situation – ‘That’s just the way he sounds! He has an asshole voice!’

Henry introduces him and Sam as ‘the most wanted man in Kansas City’, and the group shares some food over a lamplight. Joel offers additional rations to Sam as the group tries to get to know each other, but Joel is very eager for them to go their separate ways. Henry correctly deduces that the two have camped up in the skyscraper to find a way out of the city, however, and offers his services.

It’s morning, and as Joel and Henry observe the city from above, we get a little bit more context about the Kansas City branch of FEDRA – Henry describes them as mobsters and savages, who raped and tortured people for 20 years, and reveals his role as a collaborator. Henry explains that he knows a way out of the city, but needs someone with Joel’s combat capability to ensure they can make it through. He reveals that his guns are empty, and that he’s never killed anyone in his life. ‘Pointing an unloaded gun at you is the closest I’ve ever come to being violent.’

Meanwhile, Ellie and Sam are hitting it off with Ellie’s joke book. Henry is overjoyed to hear Sam laugh.

The Last of Us -  Episode 5 recap - ‘Endure and Survive’
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In recounting the plan, Sam explains that the only way to circumvent the patrolled borders is through a series of maintenance tunnels. It seems almost too straightforward to Joel, which leads him to question their involvement. Ellie astutely notes that there haven’t been any infected around, and Henry explains that FEDRA had driven them all underground 15 years ago. Could this have something to do with the pulsing floor Kathleen and Perry found in the previous episode? Chances are good!

The prevalent thinking is that they’re still down there – Kathleen and her militia aren’t willing to go down there – but Henry thinks it’s completely empty, thanks to some information he gleaned from a former FEDRA contact. Joel is incredibly reluctant, but when Ellie lets slip that the two encountered clickers (Episode 2) and lived to tell the tale, Henry is only more insistent. To cinch the deal, Henry tells the young Sam that Joel and Ellie will help them, which raises Sam’s spirits, and seems to cinch the deal.

The group reach a maintenance tunnel via a bank building, and Joel tells Ellie to get her gun out, which she is overwhelmingly pleased by. The tunnels appear empty, but Joel continues to practise and project extreme cautiousness.

After some time, they come across a door adorned by a colourful, child-like mural of castles and rainbows. Sam moves to open the door, but Joel stops him. They enter carefully, and find a makeshift underground school, filled with more murals, toys, and children’s furniture. Joel observes a drawing of two smiling armed guards, labelled ‘Danny, Ish. Our protectors’. It’s abandoned.

The Last of Us -  Episode 5 recap - ‘Endure and Survive’
Image: Image: HBO / Binge

Joel notes that he’d previously heard of places like this, and theorises that someone likely didn’t follow the rules, got infected, and the whole community crumbled. 

As Sam rummages through his newfound playroom, he and Ellie bond over a found copy of Savage Starlight – a fictional science fiction comic book series, which also appeared in the video game version of The Last of Us. Together, Sam and Ellie recite one of the book’s catchphrases: ‘To the edge of the universe and back. Endure and survive,’ and Sam teaches Ellie the sign language actions for ‘Endure and Survive’. They repeat it several times.

At Ellie’s suggestion, the group passes the time with the variety of new activities found in the community, with the goal of waiting until nightfall before making a move.

As Ellie and Sam play happily together, Joel expresses sympathy for Henry’s situation with Kathleen’s militia. Henry reveals that Sam was sick with leukaemia, and in exchange for drugs to assist with it, Henry revealed the whereabouts of the leader of the Kansas City resistance group – Kathleen’s brother – to FEDRA. He expresses deep regret over it, referring to him as a great man that he would follow anywhere, and to himself as a bad guy, because he ‘did a bad guy thing’. 

Still, he appeals to Joel’s relationship with Ellie to try and help rationalise his decision. ‘You might not be her father. But you were someone’s.’

The Last of Us -  Episode 5 recap - ‘Endure and Survive’
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Meanwhile, Perry finds Kathleen in her childhood bedroom. Kathleen reminisces about her late brother Michael and his protective, reassuring nature, before reaffirming that her style of leadership is the complete opposite – ‘he would be horrified by the things I’ve done,’ she says.

Kathleen recounts that her brother had told her to forgive Henry after he was imprisoned, but she simply cannot see the logic or justice in that. She wants to see Henry dead. Perry reaffirms her stance, stating that though everyone loved her brother, the successful overthrowing of FEDRA only came about because of Kathleen’s decisive action.

The group finally exits the other side of the tunnel, and all but Joel are in high spirits. They begin chatting, and Ellie offers Sam and Henry to join their group. Joel quickly shoots her an annoyed stare, which only causes Ellie to begin teasing him relentlessly. They’re suddenly interrupted by a near-miss bullet, and the group frantically ducks to cover.

There’s a sniper nesting from a third-storey window at the end of the street, and there’s no escape. Joel orders the group to stay put, as he rushes to the side to try and flank him. He successfully makes it to the house, quietly sneaks upstairs, and holds the sniper, an elderly man, at gunpoint. Joel tries to reason with him, but the old man makes a sudden move and Joel kills him. 

Suddenly, a radio buzzes to life – it’s Kathleen, she’s been in contact with the old man, and they’re already on their way. As the sound of the motor convoy rumbles into distance, Joel screams at Ellie, Henry and Sam, urging them to run.

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Led by a makeshift bulldozer, the convoy begins to ram through a street of parked cars, as Joel frantically tries to take out the driver with the old man’s bolt-action rifle, which eventually jams, of course. 

As the truck catches up to Ellie, Joel finally un-jams the rifle, takes a moment to line up his aim, and successfully takes out the driver of the bulldozer, causing it to veer off the road and plough into a nearby house, and explode into flames. Kathleen, Perry, and a small army converge on the house Joel is in, and Kathleen begins an ultimatum speech, calling out for Henry.

Henry offers to give himself up if the children are spared, but Kathleen flatly refuses. Henry tries to reason with her, but she reveals that she already knows about Sam’s leukaemia situation, and the reason that Henry gave up information to FEDRA. 

‘He’s just a fucking kid!’ he urges. Kathleen rolls her eyes and tells him that kids die all the time, and chastises him for thinking the wellbeing of one child would be worth the survival of the entire community – which, in case you missed it – is a recurring theme throughout the entire narrative of The Last of Us.

The Last of Us -  Episode 5 recap - ‘Endure and Survive’
Image: Image: HBO / Binge

Henry turns to Ellie, and orders her to take Sam and make a break for it on his mark. He reveals himself to Kathleen, and she raises her gun at him. But before she can pull the trigger, the bulldozer sinks into the ground. A stampede can be heard, and after a brief moment of silence, an overwhelming hoard of Infected bursts from the hole. Chaos ensues.

The resistance begins a large-scale firefight with the Infected, and as one goes to attack Ellie, Henry, and Sam, they’re split up. From the sniper’s nest, Joel covers Ellie as she tries to make her way through the crowds to safety – a vehicle with a small, open window.

As Perry tries to protect Kathleen, a new kind of Infected arrives: an enormous, 6-foot Bloater (as they’re called in the video game). Perry urges Kathleen to run, as his head is physically ripped off by the Bloater.

Witnessing the carnage, Ellie and Joel neglect to see a much smaller Infected, a child Clicker, climb through the window of the car Ellie is in. She quickly escapes, and notices Henry and Sam being harassed by a couple of other Clickers under a nearby car. As one of them violently drags Henry out, Ellie deftly kills it with her switchblade, and quickly moves to dispatch the other one, too. They run. 

Before the group can completely get away, Kathleen attempts to hold them at gunpoint. Once again, the group fails to notice the child clicker, who leaps on Kathleen and begins mauling her. Joel regroups with everyone, and urges them away as the horde of infected begin moving back towards the city.

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In a motel sometime later, the group are refuelling. Ellie and Sam are enjoying reading an issue of Savage Starlight, while Henry and Joel lament the trauma they’ve had to go through. Joel reasons that it’s easier as a kid – you don’t have anyone else relying on you. They recall the motto from the comic book, ‘Endure and Survive’, before having a laugh at how redundant the phrase is. Joel formally invites Henry to join them on their trip to Wyoming, which Henry readily accepts. 

As the group turns in for the night, Sam confides in Ellie, asking whether she ever gets scared – it never looks like she is. But Ellie admits to Sam that she’s scared all the time, and scared of ending up alone. When Ellie turns the question back onto Sam, he answers with a question: ‘If you turn into a monster is it still you inside?’

Ellie’s confused, but Sam lifts the left of his pants to reveal a very infected-looking bite. Ellie quickly shows him her healed bite, and crudely explains ‘my blood is medicine.’ Ellie pulls out her switchblade, cuts open her hand, and presses her cut on Sam’s bite. He asks Ellie to stay awake with him. She promises. They hug.

The Last of Us -  Episode 5 recap - ‘Endure and Survive’
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It’s morning, and Ellie is asleep in a chair. She awakes to find Sam sitting on the edge of the bed with his back to her, staring into the distance, motionless. Ellie gets up and goes to touch Sam on the shoulder, and he suddenly turns to attack her. He’s infected. The blood transfusion didn’t do anything. 

The two burst out through the door into the main room, where Joel and Henry are startled awake. Ellie’s pinned to the ground, and they both see Sam on top, attacking her. Both men roll over and reach for Joel’s pistol, but Henry grabs it first and immediately points it at … Joel.

Joel tries to rush in and help Ellie, but Henry fires at Joels’ feet, causing him to surrender as he holds the gun to him. Ellie screams for Joel. After a moment of hesitation that feels like an age, Henry turns his attention, and his gun, to the infected Sam and shoots him dead.

The Last of Us -  Episode 5 recap - ‘Endure and Survive’
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Joel, Ellie, and Henry watch the blood seep out of Sam’s head as they catch their breaths. Joel moves in to comfort Ellie, but before he can, Henry points the gun at him again. As Joel tries to calm Henry and get him to hand over the gun, Henry begins to breathe heavily, a wave of grief suddenly rushing over him. ‘What did I do?’ he repeats.

Henry looks at Sam. Then at Joel. Then back at Sam. He puts the gun to his temple, and pulls the trigger before Joel can get the words ‘Henry, no!’ out of his mouth. Ellie watches and whimpers, as a tear rolls down her cheek.

Sometime later in the day, just outside the motel, Joel and Ellie are burying Sam and Henry. As Ellie brings over their possessions, with Henry’s backpack now Joel’s, she squats by Sam’s grave, and places his Magic Slate writing pad on top of it. 

She stands, asks Joel which way is west, and begins walking. Joel looks down. The pad says ‘I’m sorry.’

The Last of Us -  Episode 5 recap - ‘Endure and Survive’
Image: Image: HBO / Binge

Stray Observations and Analysis

  • There’s a lot that’s new to this version of the story of Henry and Sam, compared to the original telling. A lot of it, namely Sam’s deafness, condition, and the attempted blood transfusion, serves to make the tragic end to their story somehow more tragic. In an interview, creator Neil Druckmann spoke about wanting to try and use less words to tell this version of the story. I suppose this was a very convenient (but effective!) way of going about it. I love the small doses of tension that each Magic Slate message brings. 
  • On the other hand, I’m a little torn by the act of framing Henry as an antagonist in his own right, complete with a whole new faction of bloodthirsty militia coming after him. Kathleen is brutal to be sure, but given how Henry described the FEDRA regime before them (as well as how much he admired Kathleen’s brother), that he would so easily give up Kathleen’s brother for medicine isn’t completely convincing.
  • As much as I like Melanie Lynskey’s performance in these episodes, the creation of a brand new faction that is framed to be just as bad – and perhaps more terrifying – than the literal government fascists that previously held power also feels a bit too heavy-handed and convenient of a plot device. It’s here where The Last of Us veers far more into Walking Dead territory than before. It’s entertaining, but definitely sticks out a bit in the grand scheme of things.
  • In the video game version of The Last of Us, we know a lot more about the underground school that the group stumble upon. As Joel, Ellie, Henry, and Sam explore this location, you can uncover the story of the community through a series of found notes. Ish, one of the guards depicted in the children’s drawing, was a lone survivor who eventually built up a thriving underground community by taking in nearby survivors. Everything was unravelled by someone leaving the door open, allowing the infected to ravage the community. While Ish and a small group escaped, their fate is left unknown.
  • Line of the show: Ellie, concerning Joel: ‘That’s just the way he sounds, he has an asshole voice.’
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Edmond was the founding managing editor of GamesHub. He was also previously at GameSpot for 13 years, where he was the Australian Editor and an award-winning video producer. You can follow him @EdmondTran