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I played through The Last of Us and the ending left me a bit confused.

Did Joel lie to Ellie about the Fireflies after he saved her?

I listened to some of the Doctor's recordings and he says something along the lines of "there have been similar cases to Ellie but no vaccine could be found". To make a potential vaccine they would to have killed Ellie, so i'm guessing Joel didn't want to take the risk of Ellie losing her life for no reason and saved her. He did mention to her in the car that the Fireflies were no longer looking for a vaccine, which I think is the lie, right?

If Joel did lie to Ellie, why did he lie to her?

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I'm unspoilering both the question and the answer, due to our spoiler discussion here:…. – Frank Jun 28 '13 at 15:29
That meta discussion seems to support unspoilering the answer, but not the question. I'm not a fan of spoiler tags, since I can't see through them on my iPad, but the problem arises when someone views all questions for the tag and gets accidentally spoilers by the question excerpt when they had no intention at all of actually clicking on the question and reading it. – Sterno Jun 28 '13 at 16:03
@fbueckert It wouldn't require "excessive contorsionism" to reword this title to be spoiler free. "Did Joel lie at the end of the game? If so, why?" is both clear and doesn't spoil the survival of other characters, especially when that survival might be in question. – Zxaos Jul 17 '13 at 2:22
@Zxaos It does spoil the survival of Joel, however, which isn't necessarily a given. Would "Did Joel lie?" be a reasonable alternative? It seems obscure enough to not spoil, but people who know what the question refers to would understand the question being asked. – Teryx Sep 5 '13 at 19:39
up vote 26 down vote accepted

Did Joel lie to Ellie?

Yes, Joel lies to Ellie. This is made clear by the flashbacks that you see while he is telling her the story when she wakes up in the car.

He says that the Fireflies have found many people who are immune to the fungus and that they have stopped looking for a cure. This is clearly not true as he had to forcefully extract Ellie from the operating room before the medical team could kill her to extract the cure from her.

The fact that this is a lie is also undermined by the flashback involving Marlene: She tried to stop Joel in the parking lot when he was carrying Ellie to the car to get away with her. Joel had to shoot her to be able to leave with Ellie.

Why did Joel lie to Ellie?

This is mostly speculation on my part based on the events of the game, but I think there are two reasons why Joel lies to Ellie.

Ellie is determined to finish her "mission".

Over the course of the game there are several dialogues showing that Ellie wants to finish her mission. When they find the giraffes at the bus stop, Joel tells Ellie that she does not need to go through with all of this but she insists on going on:

After all we've been through. Everything that I've done. It can't be for nothing. Look, I know you mean well … but there's no half-way with this.

Also at the final dialogue when Ellie tells Joel about her friend Riley who was bitten and died it becomes clear that she feels guilty for surviving while other people have had to die. It seems she wants to remedy this guilt by doing good and saving the lives of others.

Joel does not want to lose Ellie

Even though Joel always tries to pretend that Ellie is just annoying him, towards the end of the game it becomes clear that they have bonded. The conversational tone between them changes remarkably over the course of the game.

This can be seen by a conversation that takes place relatively early in the game shortly after Tess has died and Joel and Ellie have escaped the soldiers:

Joel: And lastly, you do what I say, when I say it. We clear?

Ellie: Sure.

Joel: Repeat it.

Ellie: What you say, goes. sighs

Joel: sighs Good.

Ellie clearly shows that she is attached to Joel when he is about to leave her with Tommy. She gets very worked up about this on the ranch she fled to:

Admit that you wanted to get rid of me the whole time!

Joel is trying to justify his decision rationally but Ellie does not want to hear it:

Everyone I have cared about has either died or left me. Everyone — fucking except for you! So don't tell me I would be safer with somebody else, because the truth is I would just be more scared.

In the end, Joel goes with her even though he pretends he only does it not to upset Tommy's wife who did not want Tommy leaving the family to help Ellie.

Joels growing affection to her is expressed subtly over the course of the game and climates for the first time when he finds her hacking on David in the burning restaurant. He hugs and comforts her and she accepts the comforting. This is also the first time I consciously saw him calling her "baby girl". Note that the only other person he has called "baby" so far was his daughter Sarah.

Ellie is hacking on David's head with a switchblade.

Joel: Ellie! Stop. Stop. grabs her and pulls her off David

Ellie: not realizing who is coming No! Don't fucking touch me!

Joel: holds her It's okay. It's me. It's me. It's me. Look, look. turns her head to face him It's me.

Ellie: sobbing He tried to…

Joel: hugs her tight, comforts her Oh, baby girl… It's okay. It's okay. It's okay now.

The second time he calls her "baby girl" is when he is carrying unconscious Ellie out of the operating room before the doctors can kill her:

Come on, baby girl. I got you. I got you.

Once he is out of there, he even shoots Marlene who begs for her life to keep Ellie safe:

You'd just come after her.

All of this suggests that he is by the end deeply attached to Ellie and very afraid of losing her.


The conclusion of these two reasons is that Joel has no other choice but to lie to Ellie. If he had told her the truth she probably would have gone back to the Fireflies to finish her mission and die so they could extract the cure from her.

Even if Joel had managed to prevent her from leaving she would have despised him for taking away her chance to redeem her guilt. This would have made it very difficult to maintain a healthy relationship with her.

It is left unclear whether Ellie actually believes the lie. The game ends on a very doubting looking Ellie suggesting that she knows she is being lied to. My interpretation is that she knows but also sees that Joel is very attached to her and understands why he lies. Maybe his words in their final conversation also moved her to let go of her initial mission to help find the cure.

Joel: I struggled for a long time with survivin'. And you— No matter what, you keep finding something to fight for.

Ellie's well being gives Joel's life meaning and purpose, something to fight for; Ellie is his "raison d'etre" if you will.

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Yes, Joel lied to Ellie about the Fireflies. The motivation of the lie isn't clearly stated and up to speculation.

One could argue that he either saw Ellie as his daughter and did not want to lose her again no matter the consequence or he did not accept the sacrifice of a child as a valid approach to cure humanity.

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This is valid, I've no idea why it's been downvoted. Have an upvote good sir. – David Yell Jun 29 '13 at 16:03
@DavidYell Thank you very much. I guess it was due to spoiler never minding the fact the question was spoilery to begin with. – k0pernikus Jun 29 '13 at 16:06

Yes, he lied, but to a degree. The answer isn't 100% black and white. From listening to the scientist's recordings, it's clear they're no closer to a cure now than when they started, and Ellie is just another guinea pig they HOPE will be successful. "If she dies.. Oh well. It's for a good cause right? NEXT LAB RAT PLZ". Joel can't accept this. He's unwilling to sacrifice this 14 year old girl he's come to see as his own on the narrow hope some good will come from it. It's just not worth it. In the final cutscene, Marlene asks him to do the right thing. I believe he did. Of course this is just my personal speculation, which I believe was ND's intent. The sneaky goofballs. I'm not sure whether or not Ellie believed his promise completely. I still sensed some strain and suspicion there. She let it go, and accepted it, though. the "Okay" was a little ambiguous and definately lacking real closure. This is my take on it. We'll see!

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It depends on how you look at it. That tape at the end might have been about other immune people and thus he only lied about them stopping their search for a cure. But on the other hand it could be Ellie is the only one who's immune or she might be the only known immune person because who would know, if you were bitten they didn't wait for you to turned they shot you immediately. Joel also really bonded with Ellie and he finally had a place to stay, his brother, and now a daughter figure to care for and he wasn't giving that up easily.

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the game ends right at the point of the lie. we dont know if she goes with Joel or turns back and go back to the fireflies. if they were smart they would put out an expansion pack with an alternate ending. in this expansion pack they could also continue the story with Joel and Tommy in a part II. maybe even have a survival mode in Tommy's fortress.

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Alas, speculation about "what would be neat" doesn't belong on Arquade; we look for clear answers that directly address the question being asked. This is 1/3 answer and 2/3 wishlist-for-an-expansion. Can you edit your post to answer the question more clearly and directly? – Paul Marshall Aug 13 '13 at 2:20

Throughout the game, Ellie shows concerns for the welfare of others. She takes the picture of Joel and Sarah, she gets the robot for Sam. I think Joel felt Ellie would have sacrificed herself for humanity if she had known the truth of what happened in the hospital with the Fireflies, that she would have insisted on going back to help others. Joel lied to her for his own selfish reasons to prevent Ellie from giving her life for humanity. He simply came to love her and could not bear to lose her as he lost Sarah.

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I think joel did lie to ellie and she was the one and only cure but he lied because he doesn't think humanity deserves to be saved because all it ever did was take from him for example a human took away sara and his life and even though a zombie bit tess a human killed her and it also took away sam and Henry even though they werent that close so joel didn't want to loose ellie who he sees as his daughter in a way

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Citation needed. You think, you have no proof. – ardaozkal Aug 29 '15 at 11:40

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