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Tess

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I can buy you some time but you have to run... I will not turn in to one of those things. Go on. Make this easy for me.
— Tess, convincing Joel to leave her and deliver Ellie to Tommy.

Tess is a character in The Last of Us. A hardened survivor, she was the long-term "partner" of Joel. The pair made their living as smugglers; they traded with survivors outside of the city. She has a "dog-eat-dog philosophy" similar to Joel and Ellie. She is voiced and mo-capped by Annie Wersching.[1]

BiographyEdit

Background and Early LifeEdit

Not much is known about Tess' life in the pre-pandemic world. She may have been a high school or college student at the time of the outbreak, but if and where is unknown.

By 2033, Tess appears to be in her late 30s. At some point, she became a smuggler in the Boston quarantine zone, living in Area 4. She soon met a man called Joel. The two became partners; Joel serving as the muscle while she was the brains. The two become close, Tess even affectionately calling him "Texas" and the two flirted with each other during their missions, heavily relying upon each other in the post-pandemic world. It's unknown if the two were romantically involved at any point.

With Tess having various contacts in the Boston underworld and a no-holds barred approach, she and Joel earned a reputation for being ruthless, to the point where their fellow survivors within the QZ did not attempt to cross them.[2]

Both Tess and Joel became acquainted with Bill, a lone survivor living in Lincoln.[3] Bill would gather supplies for the two which they would then smuggle into the quarantine zone.[4]

Events of The Last of UsEdit

Confronting RobertEdit

Tess

"We had a drop to make."

Tess is first seen when she enters Joel's apartment in the Boston Zone. Joel asks why she didn't wait for him when she went to trade ration cards for pills in the West End district. Tess tries to calm him by showing that she did get "enough ration cards to last a couple of months". Joel isn't amused, asking why she has a gash on her face and attempts to help clean it with a rag doused in alcohol. Tess reveals that she was attacked by "a couple of nobodies" sent by Robert, another local smuggler who is overdue on paying them a considerable amount of weapons. She talks with Joel and manages to convince him that they can regain their stolen weapons cache, revealing that Robert is hiding in an "old warehouse in Area 5". The two leave to find Robert. [5]

Whilst heading to the checkpoint, they discuss how rations must be low and watch as four people are forced from a building to be scanned, with one being infected. They almost make it through the checkpoint but the local militia group, the Fireflies, bomb a truck, prompting the military to close the checkpoint as they chase the terrorists. The pair sprint away into a building. Joel was injured in the attack, so Tess gives him a health kit to patch himself up. Tess utilizes her impressive contacts to sneak out through an underground route to Robert's hideout. The pair learn that Marlene, the leader of the Fireflies, is also searching for Robert.

After reminiscing on coming through the same path before, they go underground and find the area full of spores, causing them to don respirator masks. They discuss when their next shipment with Bill is due and how Bill "always finds something", although it is not always good.Once they fight through the Infected there, they go back within the walls and through the slums of Boston, one smuggler offering Tess a deal on their way, but she insists she is busy. While crossing through a bus, a smuggler gets in Joel's way. The pair glare at each other, but Tess tells the man to stand down, revealing that the guy is just "an old headache". She finds a man guarding a gate, giving him ration cards in exchange for finding out if Robert is in the factory; he is.[6]

StupidIdea

Tess and Joel interrogate Robert.

The two infiltrate the compound, and learn the security detail is more concerned about Robert's fate should Tess reach him, rather than the more formidable Joel. Robert apparently hasn't paid the men in a while either.[7] Eventually they reach Robert, who flees, only to be quickly cornered. He tries to play "Mr. Innocent" hoping there are "no hard feelings". Tess sarcastically remarks "none at all" before breaking his knee with a metal pipe. She interrogates him, having Joel torture him, forcing Robert to reveal that he had sold their guns to the Fireflies. Tess is greatly angered by this, having Joel break his arm before ruthlessly shooting him. The pair both move on, Joel asking "what now?". Tess remarks they have to find a Firefly.

Smuggling EllieEdit

Moments later a wounded Marlene shows up and makes a deal with Tess and Joel — if they smuggle something out of the city, she will give them their weapons back and double what Robert had been paid.

When Tess, Joel, and Marlene reach Marlene's hideout, they meet Ellie, a 14-year-old girl who has been under Marlene's protection. Ellie is to be taken by Joel and Tess to the Capitol Building, deep in the city. Once there, a group of Fireflies is supposed to pick her up, thus completing Tess and Joel's mission. Tess and Joel agree to smuggle Ellie, though Joel is not very happy about it; his relationship with Ellie is quite tense at first. Tess seems to be more protective of Ellie, reassuring her that everything will be fine.

The trio make their way through the city, encountering soldiers and eventually getting caught. Tess offers to bribe them if they let them go, but before the conversation can continue, Ellie stabs one of the soldiers in the leg. Joel then shoots him, while Tess shoots the other soldier. They make their escape to an abandoned and nearly destroyed skyscraper, where they encounter Runners and Clickers. Together they make their way out, getting closer to their destination. They reach a museum where Joel gets separated from Tess and Ellie. As Joel makes his way through, he finds Tess fighting a Runner, killing it. Joel and Tess kill the remaining Runners in the museum and make their way to the roof. After crossing several roofs they finally arrive at the Capitol Building. In the courtyard Ellie expresses her gratitude for Marlene selecting them, even though they get paid for delivering her to the building. Tess replies "Yeah, sure thing".

Finding the Fireflies and deathEdit

Capitol

Tess and the others discover a traumatic scene.

As Joel, Tess, and Ellie enter the Capitol Building, they see the group of Fireflies that were supposed to rendezvous with them lying dead in the lobby. Tess is determined to get Ellie out of Boston and deliver her to the Fireflies, but Joel is reluctant to do so.

As Tess questions Joel about what he really knows about the Fireflies and about her, Ellie realizes that Tess is infected (presumably bitten on her shoulder by the Runner that she was fighting off in the museum). Tess begs Joel to get Ellie to Joel's brother and ex-Firefly, Tommy, not even taking her eyes off him whilst talking to Ellie, as she feels Joel is obligated to her to do so. As soldiers arrive, Tess demands that Joel and Ellie go on without her. She can stay behind and buy them time to escape, and states that she "will not turn into one of those things." Joel wants to fight, but he is shoved by Tess, telling them to "just go".

Once the pair leave, Tess becomes emotional, tears welling in her eyes as she turns around to face the oncoming threat.

As Joel and Ellie make their escape, they hear Tess scream as she is inevitably overwhelmed by the soldiers' gunfire. Before her death, she managed to kill two of the soldiers. Joel also gets a glimpse of Tess' body as he and Ellie escape.

LegacyEdit

Ellie is forbidden by Joel to bring Tess up. Bill mentions her several times when Ellie and Joel are helping him find a car, something Joel tries to brush off; he doesn't tell him she is dead. When Bill insults Tess, Joel defends her, greatly angered by Bill bringing her up in such a way.

She is later mentioned by Ellie as a reason she has survivor's guilt, as Tess died indirectly because of the Cordyceps Brain Infection; something Ellie has avoided due to her immunity.

RelationshipsEdit

JoelEdit

Joel was Tess' partner in crime, confidante, and closest friend. It was never confirmed that Joel and Tess were romantically involved, or if they ever took their relationship to further levels of intimacy beyond their partnership. Some sense of closeness beyond friendship is certainly hinted at.

WeTried

Joel and Tess argue.

The two flirt occasionally, and several characters make references to this nature (Bill calls them inseparable, and asks if there has been "trouble in paradise" recently). Tess also teases that the two exploring is like they're "on a date," to which Joel responds "well, I am the romantic type." Joel and Tess make suggestive comments shortly after meeting the first batch of Infected in the game, such as Tess saying in a sultry voice, "I love watching you work" after Joel handles a group of enemies.

Later, Joel mentions wanting to "lay low" for a while after they get done with their business with Marlene and Ellie, something Tess actually supports despite previously brushing him off.

When Tess was infected and told Joel to leave her behind, Joel seemed reluctant, but Tess insisted "there is enough here [between us] that you must feel some kind of obligation to me". This convinced Joel, demonstrating how much she means to him that he would enact her final wish for her. He even showed a willingness to fight for and protect her despite the futility of it. Tess therefore started the chain of events that caused Joel to start his journey and bond with Ellie.

The two were an efficient team who are all about business when needed. Together, they were ruthless and would stop at nothing to get what was owed to them in their business, shown by their chase and subsequent torture of Robert, concluding with Tess shooting him point blank with Joel right behind her, who didnt seem at all fazed with what she had done. When fighting the smugglers, the two were worked in-sync with one another; when Joel took one man out, Tess would shiv the other.

In both business and pleasure, Joel and Tess had a bond that affects Joel beyond her death. When characters such as Ellie or Bill mention Tess, Joel shuts them down immediately, showing that there is some amount of grief over her passing that he has not yet dealt with. However, when Ellie mentioned feeling guilty over her death a year later, he reacted sympathetically, suggesting that perhaps he has started to move on from her loss.

EllieEdit

Tess initially sees Ellie as just another cargo to smuggle in exchange for the weapons Robert sold to Marlene. She also does not believe that Ellie is immune at first, but starts to think so once Tess gets infected and observes her bite wound had already gotten worse within an hour compared to Ellie's three-week-old bite. During the trip to the Capitol Building, Tess looks after Ellie with almost maternal or sisterly protection and sympathy while Joel scouts ahead and chats with her as well as advising her what to do. Once she reveals her bite and the military shows up, Tess uses her influence to get Joel to take Ellie to the Fireflies. Ellie would later bring Tess up as she tried to deal with her survivor's guilt.

MarleneEdit

It is implied that Marlene and Tess know each other; Marlene going so far as to call Tess by name. Whether their relationship is personal, or through mutual knowledge of their respective notoriety, is unknown. Tess cared about her to some degree, asking if she was okay when showing signs of pain due to her bullet wound. She was, however, distrustful of Marlene by how she refuses to do any smuggling until she sees the merchandise she promised, yet goes with her to check it out, trusting the Firefly won't harm her.

BillEdit

Tess knows Bill from her and Joel's smuggling arrangement with him. Bill considers Tess to be a very level-headed and smart woman who wouldn't have agreed to transport Ellie. She was apparently on better terms with Bill than Joel is, as Bill was not exactly happy to see him. Some notes can be found in-game from Tess and Bill about their business transactions.[8]

RobertEdit

Tess was initially on good terms with Robert, having traded several goods with him over the years. However, their relationship was strained when Robert attempted to kill her to avoid paying her a cache of guns, which he had been forced to give to the Fireflies.

This caused Tess to recruit Joel to hunt Robert down and enact revenge. She willingly broke his leg with a metal pipe, and had no problem with Joel breaking his arm and beating him. She didn't have any sympathy for him, killing him, and quickly dealing with Marlene afterwards, displaying that her relationship with Robert was merely business and nothing personal.

MalickEdit

Malick has been an acquaintance of Tess' for a long time, and she refers to him as 'an old headache'. Not much is known about the exact nature of their relationship, although he is sheepishly obedient to her.

Personality and appearance Edit

Tess is a leader; she leads Joel effortlessly and makes friends with many of the people that she meets. She has a wide range of contacts and is universally respected, and often feared, among the residents of the Boston Zone. Tess, like most survivors, is ruthless, and does not flinch at the thought of killing people, but conversely is quite kind to Ellie, more so than Joel originally, and does her best to reassure and protect her. Tess seems to be as brutal as Joel; it is hinted that Tess killed the two smugglers hired by Robert to kill her. Tess also seems to have as little patience as Joel; she decided to shoot the man hired by Robert instead of talking to him.

However, after being bitten, Tess becomes short-tempered, more aggressive and stops appreciating the little things. In addition, she becomes obsessed and desperate to find the Fireflies. Little of this behavior is her fault, however, as it is the nature of the infection to make the host hostile and angry. On the other hand, the fixation obviously stems from her reluctance to turn before they reach the drop off point for Ellie. The other piece of her insistence is the suggestion that she believes that getting Ellie to the Fireflies would bring a cure to the world, latching on to it almost straight away despite Joel being completely unbelieving. In Tess' mind, this would mean some kind of forgiveness for the things that she and Joel have done. Her guilt over these things comes out when she tells Joel that they're "shitty people" and they've "been that way for a long time." For Tess, bringing Ellie to the Fireflies would be peace of mind for her, and it shows when that is her last request to Joel.

Tess is very brave; she accepts Ellie without complaining and faces her death with humanity rarely seen since the outbreak. She even doesn't tell Joel and Ellie that she was bitten, selflessly not wanting them to worry about her until there is no alternative. When coming to the realization that she was on the brink of turning into an Infected, Tess displays selflessness and love for Joel and Ellie, urging Joel to take her to the Fireflies, for a chance at redeeming the broken state of the world. She sacrifices herself for them, a stark contradiction to her previous philosophy of a "dog-eat-dog-world" that she shared with Joel. Her sacrifice shows that true humanity is not yet dead in their world.

She has brown hair, worn half-up with a headband or bandanna tied around the middle, straight eyebrows, and wears simple, practical clothes and a backpack with her supplies. Her face is thin and angular, a little harsh, with a few scars. She has a slim figure.

Eric Monacelli, Naughty Community strategist described Tess as "a hardened survivor living in one of the last remaining quarantine zones, Tess operates in the black market of a city under martial law. Partners with Joel, they have become known within the criminal underworld for their ruthlessness. Street smart and confident, Tess is a savvy strategist and negotiator. Her ability to generate intelligent plans to secure the contraband for their trade is second to none. Tess and Joel subscribe to the same dog-eat-dog philosophy. They survive by being willing to do what others can’t or won’t. Her trust in and loyalty towards Joel runs deep. However, secretly, she questions whether Joel shares the same emotions that she feels for him." [9]

Skills and abilities Edit

Tess is a natural leader, being the brains behind Joel's muscle in their partnership. She is also well connected, being respected, and even feared, by many people within the Boston QZ.[10]

Like most hardened survivors, she is skilled in combat, having killed many infected over the years. She was able to kill Runners and Clickers with just a 9mm pistol and her fists,[11] and even two armored soldiers in the same manner.[12] She was skilled enough in hand-to-hand combat to be able to kill two men by herself, despite being injured and them taking her by surprise. She was also quite stealthy, killing a man with a shiv by sneaking up on him. [13] She wasn't invincible, despite all of this, being eventually overpowered and bitten by a Runner which resulted in her sacrificing herself to save Joel and Ellie and fighting several better equipped Military soldiers who killed her after a brief firefight. Even shortly before her death she managed to kill two soldiers. [14]

QuotesEdit

  • "Poor Bastard."
  • "Guess what, we're shitty people, Joel. It's been that way for a long time"
  • "She's just cargo, Joel."
  • "I'd say you bet on the wrong horse."
  • Joel: "Are these assholes still with us?"
    • "Now that's funny."
  • "Just play it cool."
  • "It's like we're on a date."
    • Joel: "Well I am the romantic type."
  • "Lady? You must be thinking of someone else."
  • "Fuckin' hate the smell of the city."
  • Joel: "You know he's expecting us."
    • "Well, that'll make it more interesting."
  • "Nicely done, Texas."
  • "If Robert's good at one thing, it's writing blank checks."
  • "Quit your squirmin'."
  • Joel: "How far are we gonna take this?"
    • "As far as it needs to go!"
  • "What do you know about us? About me?"
  • "This is my last stop."
  • Joel: "I can fight..."
    • "No, just go!...just fucking go." (last words)

GalleryEdit

TriviaEdit

  • Her name is likely a reference to the character Tess in the Jak and Daxter series, which is also developed by Naughty Dog.
  • Her first appearance was in a Game Informer screenshot, which neither revealed her name nor her alliance with Joel and Ellie.
  • As stated by Naughty Dog in her short bio inside The Art of The Last of Us; "Very early on in development, Tess was actually the main antagonist of the game before the final narrative had been established." Interestingly enough, her character's personality and style would in fact suit that of a dangerous villain quite well. One of the pieces of concept art in her section from The Art of The Last of Us even depicts her having tied up Joel, holding a knife to his throat.
    • Her original role as antagonist was explained in further detail at Neil Druckmann's keynote at 2013 IGDA in Toronto. This version of Tess was to have a brother who was killed in crossfire with the military while she and Joel were smuggling Ellie out of the Quarantine Zone, and consequently, she would've blamed Joel for his death. For the remainder of the game, Tess was to pursue Joel and Ellie across America with a crew of henchmen. After the events of the Salt Lake City chapter, Joel was to have been captured by Tess and tortured. However, he would be saved by Ellie, who would've killed Tess and her henchmen. This version of the plot was abandoned after Naughty Dog decided that her pursuit of Joel for a year across the entire country felt too unrealistic.
  • Tess will occasionally hand Joel some ammo or a health pack if he has none in The Outskirts chapter, primarily during the Downtown section of the game.
  • Tess can use the same quotes when fighting fellow Smugglers as the ones used when combating Infected, such as "I fucking hate these things..."
  • She apparently hated sardines, as stated in the artifact Tess' List.
  • It is possible to reach Tess' body once she has been killed by the soldiers. After the cutscene leading to Tess' death finishes, the soldiers will then attempt to break through the doors leading upstairs. Once the doors are successfully opened, fighting your way back downstairs will result in a sad theme playing when standing beside her body.

ReferencesEdit

  1. The Last of Us: acting out the end of the world
  2. One smuggler remarks to his friend that he should be scared of Joel
  3. Tess' List
  4. Pills Note
  5. Revealed in a cinematic cutscene"
  6. The Quarantine Zone
  7. Shipping Manifest
  8. Pills Note, Tess' List
  9. The Last of Us: New Survivor Tess’ Background, Details
  10. Tess bribes people using ration cards and is well known in the slums, at least by a dealer, Malick and Terrence
  11. Outside the wall
  12. The Outskirts
  13. confronting Robert and his henchmen
  14. Capitol


Start a Discussion Discussions about Tess

  • IT IS OVER, TESS!!!!!!!!!!

    2 messages
  • Let's talk about Tess.

    56 messages
    • I miss her, she didn't deserved to die like that, Tess could have started a family with Ellie and Joel in Tommy's citadel.
    • I wish there was a dlc for the game called 'the last stop' where you get to play as tess and play in flashbacks from when she was...

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