Katniss looks at the “unwashed bodies” of her prep team: Flavius, Venia, and Octavia. Flavius, Venia, and Octavia have “done” Katniss’s makeup throughout her two Hunger Games. Katniss gently approaches Venia and asks her what’s happened. Venia explains that “they” took them from the Capitol on the night that Katniss broke out of the Hunger Games. She adds that Cinna, Katniss’s loyal friend, requested that they be taken to District 13. Katniss is enormously confused—she finds it hard to believe that Cinna, who’s always been kind and gentle to her, would mistreat his own coworkers. Even Fulvia and Plutarch seem confused.
In this expository section, Collins finds a clever way to illustrate Katniss’s moral dilemma. She’s just aligned herself with the rebels, only to find that they might not be much better than the Capitol itself. In essence, she’s forced to grapple with the fact that her friends aren’t as friendly as she thought. Collins illustrates Katniss’s new moral dilemma by describing her conflicted thoughts about Cinna: she’s newly suspicious of her once-trusted friends.
The guard explains to Katniss that Venia, Octavia, and Flavius have been imprisoned for stealing food. They were warned not to take food, and continued to do so. Nevertheless, Katniss yells at the guard to release the prep team. Plutarch urges him to do so as well, adding that he’ll take full responsibility. The guard releases Venia, Octavia, and Flavius, and they limp out of their cell.
The efficiency and speed of District 13, which Katniss had admired only a few pages ago, now seems terrifying and harsh to her. At the same time, we see that there are ways around the brutality of the district—but only for people with some kind of power or privilege, like Katniss and her friends.
Katniss leads Venia, Octavia, and Flavius to District 13’s hospital, and calls her mother, who is a skillful nurse. Katniss’s mother is welcomed into the hospital, where she examines the prep team and concludes that they’ll be all right. Meanwhile, Fulvia and Plutarch arrive at the hospital. Katniss points out that Coin is sending a message to all of them: comply with the rules of District 13, or face the consequences. Fulvia and Plutarch point out that they’re too important to the rebel cause to be punished in such a way, but Katniss responds that leaders, like Hunger Games contestants, are important—until they’re not.
Katniss goes back and forth between seeming exceptionally insightful and exceptionally naïve. Here, she’s at her most insightful, pointing out a fact that both Plutarch and Fulvia couldn’t see: Coin will get rid of them if she has to, without any remorse whatsoever. Katniss is predisposed to see through this veneer of acceptance and friendship because she experienced something similar during the Hunger Games—developing friendships and alliances, and then seeing them fall apart as soon as fortunes change.
Katniss leaves the hospital, remembering the terms of her contract—she’s entitled to go hunting with Gale above ground. They proceed by elevator to the surface of the Earth, armed with bows and arrows they’ve been issued by the district. At the surface, there are wild animals, such as turkeys and rabbits. As they hunt, Gale asks Katniss why she cares about her prep team so much—after all, their job was to make her look pretty before she was murdered. Katniss angrily defends her team, arguing that she’ll defend anyone who’s tortured for stealing bread. At the same time, Katniss can’t help but feel that Gale has a point—her prep team never seemed to mind that Katniss was going to almost certain death.
After the heady politics and crafty maneuvering of the previous sections, it’s refreshing to see Katniss and Gale doing the same thing they’ve done together for years: hunting. We’re reminded again that Katniss seems to be faced with a choice between her feelings for Gale and her feelings for Peeta. Here, we’re given a major piece of information about Gale’s personality: he’s a little more callous and coolly logical than we’d thought. Thus, he doesn’t think Katniss owes her prep team any leave or loyalty, since they never gave her much.
Katniss and Gale return from their hunt with a large number of kills. They take their food to Greasy Sae, an old resident of District 12 whom Gale managed to save. Sae takes their meat and promises to cook a good meal with it. Afterwards, Gale and Katniss make their way to the Collective, a huge hall where a meeting is about to occur. Gale points out the scar marks on the people’s faces, reminding Katniss that there was a pox epidemic in District 13 long ago.
The presence of Greasy Sae, who also appeared in the previous two novels, reminds us that not everything has changed—there are a few vestiges of Katniss and Gale’s old life in District 12. This also tells us a great deal about Katniss’s feelings for Gale—she likes to be with him because he represents the “old days,” before she had to face the responsibility of being a warrior and a leader.
Among the crowd of people waiting in the Collective, Katniss spots her friend Finnick Odair, another contestant in the previous Games. Finnick, who seems frustrated and exhausted, explains to Katniss that he’s worried his old friend and lover, Annie Cresta, will say something that could be construed as treasonous. Katniss runs to the front of the Collective, where Coin is about to speak, and tells her that she needs Coin to put Annie Cresta’s name on the “immunity list.” Coin Nods but says that this is unnecessary—the mentally ill (like Annie) aren’t punished for treason.
Collins moves back and forth between descriptions of Katniss’s intelligence and her naiveté. Here, she’s back to the latter: it seems very clumsy of Katniss to be tacking on new demands only a few moments before President Coin is to make her speech to the people of District 13. Finnick was part of the rebellion before Katniss was, yet he too seems frustrated with the harshness of District 13’s rules.
Coin tells Katniss that she’s about to announce that Katniss will be the mockingjay. Katniss, getting the message, runs away from the Collective. As she leaves, she hears Coin telling the crowd that Katniss has agreed to be mockingjay, on the condition that Peeta, Johanna, Annie, and Enobaria are granted immunity. Boos and jeers greet this news, and Katniss realizes that the people of District 13 wanted Peeta punished for his treason. She also realizes that she’s under a strict contract of loyalty and cooperation with Coin—if she “steps out of line,” she and her friends are as good as dead.
In strictly political terms, Coin’s speech is brilliant. It unites Coin’s regime with Katniss’s reputation as a leader and an iconoclast, while also creating a distance between Katniss and the people of District 13—in essence, Katniss is both a figurehead and a “fall-guy.” This is diabolically clever on Coin’s part, as she is using Katniss in the present while protecting herself from Katniss in the future. It will now be difficult for Katniss to seize political power from Coin—as she’ll always be the one who pardoned traitors.