Summary and Analysis
Katniss sees Peeta on-stage for the first time. He looks healed and healthy, and Katniss runs to his arms. They kiss in front of the audience and continue to kiss even as Caesar Flickerman tries to get them to stop. When they're ready, Katniss and Peeta sit together on the small sofa, Katniss tucking her feet underneath her and resting her head on Peeta's shoulder. She feels a sense of security, stability even, as she sits beside him and they watch the video highlights of the Hunger Games. She can't imagine doing this by herself and wonders how the tributes in the past have managed to.
This year's recap video has been shaped as a love story, and Katniss gets to witness, for the first time, how Peeta worked to save her from the start, misleading the Careers and staying awake the whole night when she was pinned up in the tree. She thinks she seems heartless by comparison, that is, until she calls out Peeta's name after the announcement that two tributes can win the Games that year, and goes on to find him and nurse him back to health. Katniss notices, too, that the filmmakers choose not to show Rue decorated with flowers, probably because that would seem too rebellious.
President Snow emerges with two crowns and places them on the victors' heads. Although President Snow is smiling, Katniss can tell that he blames her for the stunt with the berries, that she is the one who will be punished. They finish the night at the Victory Banquet, Katniss never letting go of Peeta's hand, and then return to their rooms for the night. Katniss finds that her door has been locked from the outside; she is again the Capitol's prisoner.
The next morning, Katniss and Peeta reunite with Caesar Flickerman for their final interviews. They sit together on the sofa as they did the previous night, and Caesar asks them about their budding romance. Katniss finds the discussion challenging, but Caesar helps her, saying that he knew that she was in love with Peeta for the first time when she called out his name after hearing about the rule change. Katniss goes along with Caesar's suggestion but tries to keep the focus on Peeta. She finds out, too, that Peeta lost his leg and gets her first look at his prosthetic. Caesar, as expected, asks Katniss about the berries, and she struggles to get the right words out, but, afterward, Haymitch says she was perfect.
Katniss, Peeta, Effie, and Haymitch board the train to go home. In her room, Katniss washes away her make-up, changes out of her dress, and transforms back into herself. As she nears District 12, she wonders more and more about who she is and what she'll say to Gale when she sees him. When the train stops for fuel, Katniss walks with Peeta out along the tracks, past the end of the train, and he learns that Katniss doesn't know how she feels about him, how she has done and said a lot of things in order to keep both of them alive and has not acted out of love like he has. That night, Peeta goes to his room and Katniss doesn't see him again until they've pulled into the District 12 station. Peeta reaches out his hand for Katniss' and, his voice hollow, asks if he can hold her hand just one more time for the audience. Katniss knows she's losing him.
Although the Games have ended, Katniss still finds herself having to use strategy in order to survive. The Capitol is watching her very closely, and she can feel them trying to control her. Even the dress that Cinna makes for her first appearance is meant to help her look innocent in front of the Capitol. She plays up her affection for Peeta on-stage, kissing him and snuggling up against him. A part of her still feels as if Peeta is acting, too, because she notes how "Peeta is, as usual, playing the crowd exactly right." She still doesn't realize that Peeta isn't acting. Haymitch, however, can tell that while Peeta is madly in love, Katniss isn't. He needs to coach Katniss and encourage her to act affectionately toward Peeta whenever they're in front of the cameras. He works hard to keep the two of them separate, probably so that Katniss won't say anything to Peeta about her conflicted feelings, which would destroy the one thing that is preventing the Capitol from killing them: their mad love for one another.
This chapter focuses a great deal on the manipulation of appearances, not only in how Katniss dresses and continues to maintains this false act of love, but also in how the people who put the highlights video together work to spin the footage into a love story. They show Peeta at all of the right moments, and Katniss, too, ending with her pounding on the hovercraft's glass door screaming Peeta's name. Certain parts are omitted, as well, particularly the part when Katniss decorates Rue's body with flowers. The Capitol wouldn't want the audience to see such a rebellious act, an act that could give them rebellious ideas of their own, so this part has been left out.
Throughout the night of the video replay, the Victory Banquet, and the final interview, Katniss has been very attached to Peeta, holding his land, leaning against his shoulder. He remains a source of security for her. He is stable during these closing moments and helps her maintain her stability, which recalls how, during the opening ceremonies, Katniss also depended a great deal on Peeta, refusing to let go of his hand even then.
It is only when Katniss is on her way home, when she changes out of her dress and removes her make-up — removing some of the masks that she has put on for the Capitol — that she begins to feel like herself again. She tries to remember who she is. In the arena, she has been the "girl on fire" and a "star-crossed lover." But in District 12, she is a girl from the Seam. She is a hunter and a survivor. She thinks about Gale and knows that she's going to have to face him as well as Peeta once she's a "safe" distance from the Capitol. So far, she has been able to avoid addressing her conflicting feelings because of the Hunger Games, but now she will have to tackle them head-on. When she rejoins the others on the train, Peeta's arm around her feels "alien." The flowers — which are really the tops of wild onions — that Peeta gives her when the train stops only remind her more of Gale and of their hunting and gathering days. She feels as if she's been lying to two people, and when Peeta learns that Haymitch had to coach her on how to act in love, he feels betrayed and wants to know what has been real and what has been an act between him and Katniss. Again, there's this theme of how the Hunger Games can blur reality. Now that they're outside the Games, Katniss and Peeta both are searching for the truth.
What Katniss does know is that she doesn't want to have a family, that she doesn't want to get married and have children, and so she believes that she would be a disappointment to Peeta anyway. As they roll into the District 12 station and Peeta takes her hand, it's as if it's for the last time. Katniss can feel him slipping away from her and she knows that she doesn't want that at all. Her feelings continue to be conflicted, stretched between Peeta and Gale and her thoughts of the future. It seems that, for the victors, the Hunger Games never really end, and now Katniss faces an uncertain future, with the Capitol, her family, Peeta, and Gale all weighing heavily on her mind.