Having just learned from Haymitch that Gale has volunteered to rescue Peeta from the Capitol, Katniss is terrified that she’ll lose both of her close friends at once. She begs Haymitch to let her join the mission, but Haymitch reveals that it’s already left—Katniss is simply too valuable to send out into danger. Haymitch promises to give Katniss “something to do.”
The dismissive way that Haymitch mentions giving Katniss “something to do” reminds us that, in his eyes, Katniss is still rather weak and immature. This contrasts markedly with Haymitch’s apparent respect for Peeta, which seems to imply some sexist assumptions on his part.
Haymitch proposes that Katniss help create a decoy that will distract the government’s attention from the rescue mission. Katniss proposes that they shoot propaganda in which she appears defiant and brave—exactly the opposite of the way Snow wants her to feel. Cressida agrees, and the two of them begin shooting short interviews in which Katniss talks about Peeta. In one of these interviews, Katniss sarcastically thanks President Snow for encouraging her to declare her freedom—to separate from the authority of the Capitol.
Although she recognizes that Snow’s strategy is working—by keeping Peeta alive, he is weakening her—Katniss is sensible enough to realize that she must pretend that it isn’t working at all. Katniss is getting a better understanding of propaganda: she knows that Beetee’s footage can sway the districts of Panem against the authority of Snow, and also send a message to Snow himself.
Finnick accompanies Katniss in creating propaganda videos. In one of these, he accuses President Snow of rising to power by poisoning his rivals. Afterwards, Katniss asks Haymitch about his own relationship with Snow. Haymitch reveals that Snow murdered his entire family after Haymitch won the Hunger Games by breaking the rules—in this way, Snow sent a clear message that the rules of the Games were inviolable.
It’s left up to us to decide whether to believe this propaganda or not. Haymitch is probably telling the truth—and this adds another tragic, complicating aspect to his character. Finnick’s stories, on the other hand, are harder to gauge. He may be inventing rumors, thinking that they’ll detract from Snow’s credibility—but it’s also important to remember that he was a favorite in the Capitol, a “playboy” who probably had access to all the dirty secrets about those in power.
Katniss knows that the rescue mission will return—whether successfully or not—in the near future. A few days after recording her propaganda videos, the rescue mission arrives back at District 13. Alerted by communicuff, Katniss rushes to the hospital wing, where Haymitch tells Katniss that the mission managed to free everyone except for Enobaria. Katniss finds Johanna Mason, covered in wounds. Katniss notes, sadly, that Johanna has also been tortured because of Katniss. Katniss next hears shouts of “Finnick”—Annie has been freed from her prison. Finally, Katniss sees Peeta, lying in a hospital bed. She’s overjoyed to see him, even though he’s clearly in poor health. When Peeta sees Katniss, he climbs out of bed—to the surprise of his doctors—and walks toward Katniss. He pulls her close and suddenly puts his hands around her throat, choking her.
This section jumps ahead very quickly, and one gets the sense that there’s a huge chunk of plot missing with Peeta’s rescue from the Capitol—but Katniss isn’t involved, so she cannot relay the action in her first-person narrative. Nevertheless, Collins moves on with the same themes she’s been establishing thus far: Katniss feels incredible guilt at having endangered Peeta, and she even learns that her actions have caused Johanna to be tortured as well. Peeta’s sudden attack on Katniss is a major twist in the novel, as what should be a relief and a happy reunion turns into only more suffering and confusion.