The episode opens with the duo moving west, while getting more comfortable and vulnerable with one another as time passes. Ellie is as quick-witted and foul-mouthed as usual, but her shift in perspective from viewing Joel as a means-to-end protector to someone she genuinely cares about is subtle but evident. On the other hand, Joel is less guarded in his replies, to the point that he opens up about his dreams for the future, should he make it out alive. Although still guarded, Joel’s increasing attachment to Ellie manifests in sudden panic attacks, as he steadily feels ill-equipped to protect her from harm. Joel believes he has lost his edge — and maybe, he has with time, which has allowed the trauma of losing his loved ones to truly sink in. However, he is unable to relay these emotions to Ellie, who solely trusts Joel and no one else.
In a faithful recreation of a memorable moment from the first game, Ellie and Joel have a confrontation in which the former asks the latter whether he cares about her or not. In the show, this conversation is triggered after Ellie overhears Joel asking Tommy to keep her safe, which makes her feel hurt and abandoned. Although Ellie starts off by making a snarky remark about people being preoccupied with inane things pre-apocalypse, what she says next is Ellie at her most honest and vulnerable.
By revealing that everyone except Joel has either abandoned her or is dead, Ellie allows him, and us, a peek into the intense pain she carries around with her. There is real fear at the prospect of losing him, which she articulates rather bluntly: It is irrelevant whether Tommy is more capable of keeping her safe. She only feels safe with Joel.