Peeta has just joined Katniss’s mission, stationed outside the Capitol. Boggs, the leader of Katniss’s branch of the mission, is furious with this news—he assigns soldiers to watch Peeta around the clock, in case Peeta shows any residual signs of aggression to Katniss or the rebels. One day, shortly after Peeta’s arrival, Katniss points out to Boggs that Coin clearly wants her dead. Boggs doesn’t disagree, and he says that Coin is looking to consolidate her power. Katniss, a charismatic leader, would be a major threat to Coin after the Capitol is defeated. Boggs assures Katniss that he’ll defend her at all costs.
The new friendship between Boggs and Katniss seems mostly based on Boggs’s loyalty to higher ideals that aren’t always embodied by the rebels. While Boggs is Coin’s assistant, he’s not afraid to help Katniss even if this conflicts with Coin’s wishes. This reminds us that it’s possible to disobey Coin’s orders, and, more implicitly, that “I was only following orders” isn’t a convincing excuse for anything. One can disobey unreasonable orders, as Boggs implies that he’ll do.
At dinner, Gale asks Katniss if she’s prepared to kill Peeta in the event that he attacks her again. He adds that he knows Katniss is planning to leave the army soon, and offers to join her, hinting that he’ll reveal her plans to Boggs unless she agrees. Katniss, amused, tells Gale that they must leave soon.
In spite of the distance that’s grown between Katniss and Gale, they still understand one another almost intuitively. They have years and years of information about one another to work with—as a result, they can usually predict each other’s behavior.
At midnight, Katniss is required to take watch outside the rebels’ camp. She’s joined, to her surprise, by Peeta. Peeta tells Katniss that he doesn’t know who to trust anymore—in response, Finnick walks out from behind the trees. He has been watching Peeta to make sure he doesn’t attack Katniss again. Finnick assures Peeta that he’s among friends: Peeta’s actions have saved many lives in District 13, an act of bravery the rebels will never forget. Peeta seems to accept this information, and Finnick leaves him to speak with Katniss.
Finnick demonstrates that he’s a good, loyal friend. In the previous book, he saved Peeta’s life on more than one occasion, but he only did so, it was ultimately revealed, because he wanted to keep Katniss on his side. Here, halfway through the third volume of the Hunger Games trilogy, we see that Finnick is genuinely loyal to Peeta—he respects him for his bravery, and considers him a friend.
The next morning, Katniss, Gale, and Finnick shoot at a nearby building, filmed by the TV crew for propaganda purposes. Afterwards, Katniss sees that Jackson, a rebel soldier, has been playing a game with Peeta called “Real or Not Real.” In this game, Peeta names something he remembers, and Jackson tells him if it’s real or not real (that is, artificially implanted by Capitol torturers). Katniss realizes that she should be playing this game with Peeta, since she knows him better than almost anyone.
There’s an interesting symmetry in the way that Jackson plays a game with Peeta to undo the damage the Capitol has done. Peeta was first involved with the Capitol via the Hunger Games, and now a different kind of “game” is used to save him from the Capitol’s manipulations. Jackson’s game will reappear many times in the novel.
The next afternoon, the mission is summoned to film a complicated propaganda scene. Katniss and her fellow soldiers will shoot at a large, smoking building, and the TV crew will add in sound effects—mostly gunfire—later. Katniss and Gale run toward a Pod, which, Plutarch has ascertained, will shoot bullets when it’s triggered. The team shoots at the Pod, and it fires bullets everywhere as the team dives for cover. After the Pod has deactivated, Boggs walks toward it, laughing and smiling. As he walks closer, he accidentally activates a bomb that blows off his legs.
Collins, as usual, closes the chapter with some kind of shocking revelation or action. This one is especially poignant because of its sudden violence and because Katniss has built up a friendship with Boggs in the last hundred pages. It seems like every time Katniss becomes friendly with someone, that person endures a sudden, brutal punishment of some kind.