The chapter begins with Katniss describing herself as being “blindsided” by news Haymitch has given her. She runs to Command, where she finds the rebel leaders conversing. Haymitch has told Katniss that she’s not going to the Capitol as a part of the rebels’ upcoming mission. Coin is the first to reply to this sudden outburst—Katniss is too important to the rebels’ cause, she explains, to sacrifice her life. Thus, Katniss can come to the Capitol after it’s secured, and contribute to propaganda. Nevertheless, Katniss insists, she has to fight the Capitol—she has a personal vendetta with President Snow. Reluctantly, Coin says that the mission leaves in three weeks, and if Katniss recovers sufficiently in this time (her ribs are still horribly bruised), there’s a chance that she’ll be able to join.
Here We begin in medias res—in the middle of the action—much as we began the novel itself. Katniss is still eager to help the rebels even if it means putting herself in danger, so she’s furious that she’s not included in the mission to the Capitol. Coin’s insistence that Katniss is too valuable to the rebel cause, followed by her decision to allow Katniss to join if she’s healed enough in three weeks, seems like a suspiciously rapid reversal of opinion. One wonders if there’s something else she’s not telling Katniss.
Having learned from President Coin that she needs to heal in the next three weeks, Katniss meets up with a resident trainer, Soldier York, who informs her that she’ll need at least a month to recover from her wounds. There’s a way to speed up the process of recovery, York continues, but it involves considerable pain. Katniss accepts this, and decides to undergo the sped-up treatment. In the District 13 hospital, she endures painful injections in her chest. Johanna, who is also healing in the hospital, is going through morphling withdrawal. Nevertheless, when Katniss tells her about the mission to the Capitol, Johanna also resolves to join it.
Katniss and Johanna display considerable bravery in this section. Katniss knows the dangers of rapid surgery, having lived with her mother, a skilled nurse, for most of her life. Yet she agrees to a risky surgery on the grounds that she’ll be able to visit the Capitol and kill Snow. This reminds us that there is something self-hating about her actions—she partly wants to suffer in order to kill Snow as a way of atoning and punishing herself for her actions in the Hunger Games.
Johanna and Katniss spend the next weeks training rigorously. They lift weights and practice their aim, talking with each other about the other contestants in the most recent Hunger Games. Peeta, they agree, is getting better and overcoming his government conditioning. They’re joined by other mission participants, including Finnick, Annie, and Delly. Katniss is happy to see that Finnick is calmer and more stable than he has been in some time, inspired by Annie’s return. Katniss learns that Delly has been important in Peeta’s recovery—her kindness and positivity are so great that they help fight his fear.
It’s unclear what the relationship between Delly and Peeta is, but there’s a small possibility that Delly is drawing Peeta away from Katniss—that is, replacing Peeta’s hatred for Katniss with love for Delly, instead of love for Katniss. This creates some tension in the coming chapters, and reminds us that, even though Katniss has hardly made up her mind about Peeta, she still considers him her love interest, no anyone else’s.
One night, the trainees, including Finnick, Gale, Katniss, Johanna, and Delly, have dinner with Peeta. Peeta is improving, but he still requires a guard’s supervision to spend time with his friends, as there’s always the danger that he could suffer a relapse. Katniss notices that Peeta is gentler and more peaceful than he’s appeared in some time, though she also notes a slight “edge” in his voice. At one point during the meal, Peeta asks if Katniss and Gale are still a couple, and Katniss notices his hands shaking. Johanna distracts Peeta by calling him an “evil mutt,” and Katniss and Gale leave the table. After returning to her room, Katniss learns from Johanna that Peeta’s meal ended when he began yelling at himself, “like he was two people.” Katniss is greatly distressed by this news, and spends the entire night dreaming about her horrific experiences at the Hunger Games.
Peeta yells at himself as if he’s two people at the same time—and indeed, he is: the old Peeta, who loved Katniss, and the conditioned Peeta, who’s been tortured by the government to hate Katniss. It’s no coincidence that the news of Peeta’s distress triggers a “relapse” in Katniss’s nightmares, which she also experienced in the previous book. Where before Katniss could rid herself of these nightmares by sleeping with Peeta, now she has no one to turn to—neither Peeta nor Gale.