Katniss realizes that Rue is pointing at what looks like a wasp nest above Katniss’s head, but Katniss suspects that they’re no ordinary wasps. She believes that the nest belongs to tracker jackers, more muttations from the Capitol. A single tracker jacker sting can swell to the size of a plum and cause hallucinations—several stings can kill a person. The tracker jackers also track down those who have disturbed their nest—hence the name tracker jacker. The smoke from the fire seems to have subdued them for now.
Rue’s decision to reveal the location of the tracker jacker nest to Katniss probably saves Katniss’s life, since just a few stings could kill her. In a game where the object is to kill everyone else, the fact that Rue saves Katniss is very surprising.
Katniss devises a plan to cut down the branch on which the nest hangs. She believes that dropping the nest on the Career pack will be her only chance of escape. She begins to saw at the branch while the evening’s anthem plays, allowing the music to cover up the sound of her sawing. When the music stops, Katniss decides to cut the rest in the morning. When she returns to her spot in the branches below, she discovers that Haymitch has sent her a pot of ointment to treat her burns. The ointment must have cost a fortune and is extremely efficient, offering immediate relief. Katniss dozes off to sleep.
Haymitch wisely saves the sponsor funds for burn ointment rather than the water Katniss wished for earlier. The fact that Katniss has enough sponsors to fund such an expensive gift, however, also shows that Peeta was right about her having an effect on people. She’s managed to elicit compassion from many sponsors.
When Katniss awakens in the morning, she sees that all of the members of the Career pack have drifted off to sleep. She decides to execute her plan but warns Rue before she cuts the rest of the branch that holds the tracker jacker nest. As she saws, she notices that the tracker jackers are beginning to recover from the smoke and are already leaving their nest. As the branch crashes down, three of the tracker jackers find her and sting her, and the rest attack the Career pack. Two of the Careers seem like they won’t survive the attack, including Glimmer, the girl who has the bow and arrows from the Cornucopia. The rest run in the direction of the lake. Katniss flees in the opposite direction, but returns when she remembers the weapons.
Katniss returns the favor and warns Rue that she’s going to disturb the tracker jacker nest. Glimmer is one of the Careers who get the worst of the tracker jacker attack, and although she was presented as the most attractive tribute during the interview process, the tracker jacker stings have made her unrecognizable.
Katniss is hallucinating severely because of the tracker jacker stings, and the trees around her seem to be spinning when she returns. She tries to pry the bow from Glimmer’s hands, but the flesh looks like it’s melting away, and Katniss recoils in horror. Finally, she’s able to obtain the bow and arrows, but then someone else comes rushing through the branches with a spear aimed for her. Katniss registers that it’s Peeta. Suddenly, Peeta is urging her to run, and she does, but not before she sees a fearsome Career named Cato arriving at the scene as well, with his sword drawn.
Katniss’s hallucinations are a literal manifestation of her inability to distinguish appearances for actual intentions (in her relationship with Peeta, for example). Appropriately, Peeta appears in the scene to save her again, defending her from Cato. His loyalty to Katniss defies the setup of the Games, and suggests that his professed love for her is real and not just a ploy.
Katniss continues to hallucinate as she stumbles away, vaguely aware that someone—possibly she—is screaming. Finally, she trips and lands in a place that seems to be filled with orange bubbles. Her final thought is that Peeta Mellark saved her life.
Peeta has defied Katniss’s expectations by saving her life. She still doesn’t understand what aspects of their relationship have been pretend and what’s been real.