Tess was a supporting character in The Last of Us. A hardened survivor, she was the long-term smuggling partner of Joel Miller. The pair made their living as smugglers in Boston, where they traded with survivors outside of the city. She had a "dog-eat-dog" philosophy, similar to Joel and Ellie.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Personality and traits
- 3 Design and appearance
- 4 Skills and abilities
- 5 Relationships
- 6 Quotes
- 7 Gallery
- 8 Trivia
- 9 References
- 10 Navigation
Background and early life
By 2033, Tess appeared to be in her late 30s. At some point, she became a smuggler in the Boston quarantine zone, living in Area 4. While there, she met Joel. The two became partners; Joel serving as the muscle while she was the brains in their operations. The two became 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.
With Tess having various contacts in the Boston underworld and a no-holds barred approach, she and Joel earned a ruthless reputation, to the point where their fellow survivors within the QZ did not attempt to cross them.
Events of The Last of Us
Tess, having come back from a deal, entered Joel's apartment in the Boston Zone. Joel asked why she did not wait for him when she went to trade ration cards for pills in the West End district. Tess tried to calm him by showing that she did get "enough ration cards to last a couple of months". Joel remained stoic, asking why she had a gash on her face and attempted to clean it with a rag doused in alcohol. Tess revealed that she was attacked by "a couple of nobodies" sent by Robert, another local smuggler who was overdue on paying them a considerable amount of weapons. She then convinced Joel that they could regain their stolen weapons cache, revealing that Robert was hiding in an "old warehouse in Area 5". The two left to find Robert.
Whilst heading to the checkpoint, they discussed how rations must be low and watch as four people are forced from a building to be scanned, with one being infected. They almost made it through the checkpoint but the local militia group, the Fireflies, bombed a truck, prompting the military to close the checkpoint as they chased the terrorists. The pair sprinted away into a building. Joel was lightly injured in the attack, so Tess gave him a health kit to patch himself up. Tess utilized her impressive contacts to sneak out through an underground route to Robert's hideout. While do so, the pair learned that Marlene, the leader of the Fireflies, was also searching for Robert.
After reminiscing on coming through the same path before, they went underground and found the area full of spores, causing them to don respirator masks. They discussed when their next shipment with Bill was due and how Bill "always finds something", although it was not always good. Once they killed the Infected there, they went back within the walls and through the slums of Boston, one smuggler offering Tess a deal on their way, but she insisted she was busy. While crossing through a bus, a smuggler confronted Joel. The pair glared at each other, but Tess told the man to stand down, revealing that the guy was just "an old headache". She found a man guarding a gate, giving him ration cards in exchange for finding out if Robert is in the factory; he was.
The two infiltrated the compound, and learned the security detail was more concerned about Robert's fate should Tess reach him, rather than the more formidable Joel. Robert apparently had not paid the men in a while either. Eventually they reached Robert, who fled, but the pair quickly cornered him. He tried to feign innocence, hoping there are "no hard feelings". Tess sarcastically remarked "none at all" before breaking his knee with a metal pipe. She interrogated him, having Joel torture him, forcing Robert to reveal that he had sold their guns to the Fireflies. Tess was greatly angered by this, having Joel break his arm before ruthlessly shot him dead. The pair both moved on, Joel asking "what now?". Tess remarked they had to find a Firefly.
Moments later, a wounded Marlene arrived and made a deal with Tess and Joel — if they smuggled something out of the city, she would give them their weapons back, double what Robert owed them.
When Tess, Joel, and Marlene reach Marlene's hideout, they met Ellie, a 14-year-old girl who had been under Marlene's protection. Joel and Tess had to take Ellie to the Capitol Building, deep in the city. Once there, a group of Fireflies were supposed to pick her up, thus completing Tess and Joel's mission. Tess and Joel agreed to smuggle Ellie, though Joel was not very happy about it; his relationship with Ellie was quite tense at first. Tess was more protective of Ellie, reassuring her that everything would be fine.
The trio made their way through the city, encountering soldiers and were eventually caught. While the soldiers scanned them for infection, Tess offered to bribe them if they let them go, but before the conversation could continue, Ellie stabbed one of the soldiers in the leg. Joel then tackled him to the ground, killing him with own pistol, while Tess shot the other soldier. They escaped to an abandoned and nearly destroyed skyscraper, where they encountered Runners and Clickers. Together, they made their way out. They reached a museum where Joel was separated from Tess and Ellie. As Joel made his way through, he found Tess fighting a Runner, killing it. Joel and Tess killed the remaining Runners in the museum then went to the roof. After crossing several roofs, they finally arrived at the Capitol Building. In the courtyard, Ellie expressed her gratitude for Marlene selecting them, even though they were only do so in return for payment. Tess replied "Yeah, sure thing."
Finding the Fireflies and death
As Joel, Tess, and Ellie entered the Capitol Building, they found the group of Fireflies that were supposed to rendezvous with them lying dead in the lobby. Determined to get Ellie out of Boston and deliver her to the Fireflies, Tess frantically searched for clues about where they were going, but Joel was reluctant to do so.
As Tess questioned Joel about what he really knew about the Fireflies and about her, Ellie realized that Tess was infected, bitten on her shoulder by the Runner that she was fighting off in the museum. Tess begged 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 felt Joel was obligated to do so. As soldiers arrived, Tess demanded that Joel and Ellie go on without her. She declared she would stay behind to buy them time to escape, and that she would "not turn into one of those things." Joel wanted to fight, Tess shoved him away, telling them to "just go".
Once the pair left, Tess's eyes welled with tears as she turned around to face the oncoming threat.
As Joel and Ellie fled, they heard Tess scream as the soldiers shot her dead. Before her death, she managed to kill two soldiers. Joel also saw Tess' corpse as he and Ellie escaped.
Joel forbade Ellie from talking about Tess. Bill mentioned her several times when Ellie and Joel helped him find a car, something Joel tried to brush off; he doesn't tell him she had died. Later, when Bill insulted Tess, Joel defended her, greatly angered by Bill bringing her up in such a way.
Personality and traits
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.
— Naughty Dog Community strategist Eric Monacelli's description of Tess.
Tess was a leader; she led Joel effortlessly and made friends with many of the people that she met. She had a wide range of contacts and was universally respected, and often feared, among the residents of the Boston Zone. Tess, like most survivors, was ruthless, and did not flinch at the thought of killing people, but conversely was kind to Ellie, more so than Joel originally, and did her best to reassure and protect her. Tess also seemed to lack patience; she decided to shoot the man hired by Robert instead of talking to him.
However, after being bitten, Tess became short-tempered, more aggressive and fixated on finding the Fireflies. These changes in behaviour were a side effect of the infection, which heightens anger. She also held a reluctance to turn into an Infected and was frustrated at her impending death. as such, she desired redemption; she believed 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 forgiveness for the things that she and Joel had done. Her guilt over these things came out when she told Joel that they were "shitty people" and had "been that way for a long time." For Tess, bringing Ellie to the Fireflies would be peace of mind for her, and she made it her last request to Joel.
Tess was also courageous. She accepted Ellie without complaining and faced her death with a humanity rarely seen since the outbreak. She even didn't tell Joel and Ellie that she was bitten, selflessly not wanting them to worry about her until there was no alternative. When coming to the realization that she was on the brink of turning into an Infected, Tess displayed 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 sacrificed herself for them, a stark contradiction to her previous philosophy of a "dog-eat-dog-world" that she shared with Joel, displaying a trait rarely found in the post-apocalyptic world.
Design and appearance
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.
Skills and abilities
Tess was a natural leader, being the brains behind Joel's muscle in their partnership. She was also well connected, being respected, and even feared, by many people within the Boston QZ.
Like most hardened survivors, she was 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, and even two armored soldiers in the same manner. She was skilled enough in hand-to-hand combat to be able to kill two men by herself, despite being injured and taken by surprise. She was also quite stealthy, killing a man with a shiv by sneaking up on him. She wasn't invincible, though; a Runner successfully bit her, resulting in her contracting the infection and was later killed by a squad of soldiers, despite managing to kill two of them.
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, however some sense of closeness beyond friendship is certainly hinted at.
The two flirted occasionally, and Bill called them inseparable, asking if there had been "trouble in paradise" recently. Tess also teased that the two exploring was like they were "on a date," to which Joel responded "well, I am the romantic type" causing Tess to reply "you've got your ways." Joel and Tess made 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 killed a group of enemies. Later, Joel mentioned wanting to "lay low" for a while after they get done with their business with Marlene and Ellie, something Tess actually supported despite previously brushing him off.
When Tess was infected and told Joel to leave her behind, Joel was 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, shown by their chase and subsequent torture of Robert, concluding with Tess shooting him point blank with Joel right behind her, who didn't seem at all fazed with what she had done. When fighting the smugglers, the two 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 an incredibly strong bond that affects Joel beyond her death. When characters such as Ellie or Bill mentioned Tess, Joel would shut them down immediately, showing that there was some amount of grief over her passing that he had not yet dealt with. However, when Ellie mentioned her a year later, Joel reacted sympathetically, suggesting he has moved on from losing Tess.
Tess initially saw Ellie as just another cargo to smuggle in exchange for the weapons Robert sold to Marlene. She also did not believe that Ellie was immune at first, but started to think so once infected herself and observed 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 looked after Ellie with almost maternal care, while Joel scouted ahead and talked with her as well as advising her about what to do. Once she revealed her bite and the military arrived, Tess used her influence to convince Joel to take Ellie to the Fireflies. Ellie would later bring Tess up as she tried to deal with her survivor's guilt.
It is implied that Marlene and Tess knew each other, with Marlene going so far as to call Tess by name. 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 refused to do any smuggling until she sees the merchandise she promised, yet went with her to check it out, trusting the Firefly would not harm her.
Tess knew Bill from her and Joel's smuggling arrangement with him. Bill considered Tess to be a level-headed and smart woman who would not have agreed to transport Ellie. She was apparently on better terms with Bill than Joel was, as Bill was not exactly happy to see him. Tess and Bill would also correspond with notes about their business transactions.
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.
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 was sheepishly obedient to her.
- Tess: "Guess what, we're shitty people, Joel. It's been that way for a long time"
- Tess: "She's just cargo, Joel."
- Tess: "I was on my way back here when I got jumped by these two assholes, alright? Yeah, they got a few good hits in. But… Look, I managed."
- Joel: "Are these assholes still with us?"
- Tess: "Now that's funny."
- Tess: "Oops, right?"
- Tess: "This was three weeks. I was bitten an hour ago and it's already worse. This is fucking real, Joel."
- Tess: "Come on. Make this easy for me."
- Joel: "I can fight..."
- Tess: "No, just go!...just fucking go."
- 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." 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.
- The player can reach Tess' body after the solders kill her. 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, the player can kill the soldiers and return to her corpse, where a sombre tune will play when standing beside her body.
- The Last of Us: acting out the end of the world
- Just go
- "The Quarantine Zone"
- One smuggler remarks to his friend that he should be scared of Joel
- Tess' List
- Pills Note
- Twenty Years Later
- Shipping Manifest
- Queen Firefly
- We're smuggling her?
- "The Outskirts"
- "Bill's Town"
- The Last of Us: New Survivor Tess’ Background, Details