I don't understand how Steve...

was able to stay in the past and live with Peggy.

But I guess this is because I'm confused about how the time travel works in Endgame. Specifically this one question:

Does Hulk (or whoever is operating the machine) pull people out of the past, or do they leave on their own accord?

It seems to be implied that Hulk forcibly pulls people out of the timeline. For example,

  1. He pulls Ant-Man out of the past several times with no input from Ant-Man. (Although to be fair, this is before Tony perfects the machine).

  2. He pulls Hawkeye out of the past on the first successful run. This surprises Hawkeye, and seems to be at least partially against his will.

  3. He tries unsuccessfully to pull Steve out of the past at the end, but this doesn't work and Steve stays in the past.

But at the same time, there seem to be a lot of scenes implying that you stay in the past until you actively press the button to leave.

  1. We see pretty much ever single Avenger involved in the "Time Heist" press the button to leave. Except for...

  2. Nebula can't press the button, so she gets stuck in the past. (Until 2014 Thanos/Gamora/Nebula take her back)

  3. Presumably, if Steve was able to plan on staying in the past, he must have had some control in how and when he left.

So which is it? Why did Steve and everyone in the Time Heist have agency in leaving the past, when Clint and Ant-Man didn't? And if they did have agency in deciding when to leave, why did they need Hulk to pull them out in 5 seconds in the first place?

This is not a dupe of this question. That question addresses why Steve didn't create a new timeline or a paradox, but it doesn't answer why Hulk didn't stop his plan of living in this past.

  • 2
    I misread the question and after the edits it’s clearer what you are asking here so retracted my close vote.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    May 2, 2019 at 19:48
  • The time travel gear seemed to be integral to time travel. All he has to do is remove the batteries, fold it up, and put it in a suitcase. To get there, Steve knew the time and place where to show up. So he literally could just live that long and drive his classic car there on the proper day, at the proper time, quietly walk up, sit on the bench and wait until he's noticed.
    – Nomenator
    May 3, 2019 at 2:51
  • 1
    I think it's obvious that he simply "lived" a life, then attended the lake scene later, knowing where they were going to be.
    – Möoz
    May 5, 2019 at 23:25

6 Answers 6


Think of the big time machine in Avengers HQ as a beacon in the Quantum Realm. The machine itself doesn’t pull people out of a different time. A traveller has to enter the Quantum Realm and can then use the combination of the Quantum GPS devices and the time machine’s beacon to navigate time.

During the test, Barton’s device had a timer on it that started sounding, indicating his suit was set to automatically pull him back into the Quantum Realm.

Thanos wasn’t pulled to the future by the time machine, bad Nebula just activated the beacon to indicate the exit point in the Quantum Realm. Thanos entered the Quantum Realm by having replicated Pym Particle science.

So Captain America couldn’t be pulled back to the future, he just never entered the Quantum Realm to return, so when Hulk used the portable time machine to send the beacon, Cap wasn’t looking for it.

  • This is my favorite answer so far. I think it's really close. But it does raise the question: Why does hulk need to wait 5 seconds and then press the button? What exactly is that button supposed to do? Activate the beacon?
    – DJMcMayhem
    May 5, 2019 at 22:43
  • 4
    @DJMcMayhem yes, Hulk is essentially triggering the beacon, time stamping the instant he wants Cap to aim for when returning. He waits 5 seconds just to keep the two instants (leaving and arriving) sufficiently separated; leaving and arriving instantaneously could cause an issue, I would assume.
    – SeanR
    May 6, 2019 at 1:42

How did Steve avoid being pulled back by Banner: This should be easy. All he had to do was remove the GPS bracelet, right?

How did Steve come back: Unknown

So what did Steve Rogers have to do in order to time travel back to the primary timeline and give Sam Wilson his shield? That’s a question that we may get an answer to down the road. Because apparently there are still some details Anthony & Joe Russo aren’t willing to reveal. The directors were also asked when Steve Rogers traveled back to in order to dance with her, and they said:

“We can’t answer it for now, this is a story that happened in an alternate reality. Maybe it will be revealed in the future.”


  • 8
    Steve came back at a rate of one day per day. :)
    – Lexible
    May 3, 2019 at 3:24
  • 2
    The fun part of this is that it leaves open the possibility that some of the other Marvel properties ... one or more of the TV series, say ... are actually set in that other reality where there are two Steve Rogers. May 7, 2019 at 2:08
  • @harryjonston based on the fact that steve is old when we see him last, I'd say the possibility strongly exists that WE are the reality that lived with 2 steve rogers :) May 20, 2019 at 13:31

This is how I understand the time machine worked

The Hulk version of the time machine operated differently from the Stark perfected version.

The Hulk version needed someone to control it to get people back as you seen when he was testing.

Tony's version - time traveller has control as well as you could have someone pull you back (based on Nebula pulling Thanos to the future)

Cap at the end simply did not choose to return, if he has chosen to return he would of came back when hulk said he would because that's how the machine worked (5 seconds after time travelling as seen when most of them returned from the heist) OR he tried to pull him back and failed because Cap already destroyed the time GPS but I believe he didn't pull him back, it's more likely that Cap simply did not travel back. The only reason Hulk said he missed his time jump is because if he has travelled back, he would of appeared 5 seconds after Cap left.

Also according to Endgame time travelling rules, the Cap that's sitting on the bench is from an alternate timeline since he changed the past. How he got there is left up to your imagination.

As far as Nebula pulling Thanos back - the only logical explanation is Thanos had somehow replicated the time GPS device which took his ship back since bad Nebula already used the original one.

So yes Steve came back on his own because according to the rules of time travel in the movie, he created an alternate timeline where he stayed with his girl. As to HOW, it is up to your imagination. There could of been a different time machine built in his new timeline or anything else, the movie does not tell you that

  • 1
    For all we know, he might have just automatically popped back to the main timeline when he reached his original departure time. May 2, 2019 at 23:23

All the heroes travel back in time to retrieve the infinity stones, this created 6 different timelines.

When Steve travel back again with the task to restore the infinity stones, he closed those timelines, lefting just one only timeline, the one where (when?) everything started.

So he is in his original timeline (the same their comrades share) but in his past, his past himself is frozen in the sea, and he just hides, steps aside an live a full and plenty life with Peggy Carter. He just need to take a bus on the day he jumped back, to reach their comrades few minutes after his present self travels back, and explain everything to them.

I find this a bit confusing and, tehoretically, creates a time where both present Steve and future Steve are coexisting, one fighting evil with the avengers and the other living a pleasant and secret life with Peggy Carter.

  • This doesn't make sense. How did he "return" the last stone?
    – Valorum
    May 3, 2019 at 11:52
  • This doesn't address the question. It addressed which timeline Steve ended up in, but it doesn't answer "How is Steve not yanked from the past when Hulk pushes the button?"
    – DJMcMayhem
    May 3, 2019 at 19:22
  • @valorum last stone was space stone.
    – Oni
    May 4, 2019 at 0:25
  • @DJMcMayhem but that is easy enough... he just have to wear off the time GPS and drop it
    – Bardo
    May 5, 2019 at 8:02
  • The Time Heist only created four new timelines, not six. They initially sent six teams to three different time periods, then split up after arrival. The Mind, Space and Time stones were the objective of the first group, the Power and Soul stones were the second group and then the Reality stone was the third group. A blunder by the first group led to a fourth branch in order to retrieve the Space stone.
    – aleppke
    Jul 20, 2021 at 22:35

He did not return.

After he completed his quest of taking the stones back to their initial locations, he stayed with Peggy and grew old with her. All he had to do was to remove the GPS bracelet.

Knowing the exact date and time of Hulk was trying to bring him, he simply went there, on foot, as an old man and sit on the bench, waiting for them to realise his presence.

  • That was my original interpretation too, but it is contradicted by interviews with the directors. See Richard's answer to this question, and also this answer. May 7, 2019 at 2:05
  • 1
    This would imply that you CAN change the past by travelling into it, which the movie explicitly explains that you cannot. Wherever Cap lived with Peggy it was not the same timeline that the main plot takes place in. May 8, 2019 at 10:29
  • In support of this answer. May 10, 2019 at 21:28
  • 1
    @JackAidley unless, in the prime universe, this is ALREADY what happened May 20, 2019 at 13:34

The Russo’s have answered this in a Chinese interview

Q: Did Captain America's action at the end affect the timeline? Does that mean there was a time where two CA existed in a same universe?

A: To me, CA's action in the end wasn't the fact he wanted to change anything, it's more like me has made a choice. He chose to go back to past and lived with the one he loved for the rest of his life. The time travel in this movie created an alternate reality. He lived a completely different life in that world. We don't know how exactly his life turned out, but I'd like to believe he still helped many others when they were needed in that world. Yes, there were two CA in that reality, it's just like what Hulk said, what happened in the past has already happened. If you go back to past, you simply created a new reality. The characters in this movie created new timeline when they went back to the past, but it had no effect to the prime universe. What happened in the past 22 movies was still canon.


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