Chapter 26 Summary
Kat and Peeta have won the Hunger Games, but they have not yet survived it. As applause from the Capitol is played on the arena’s speakers, a hovercraft appears, drops a ladder, and pulls Peeta and Kat out of the arena. There, Peeta collapses from blood loss and doctors immediately rush to revive him. Kat recalls the mining victims that her mother treats and finds that she now understands why their families stay to watch: they have no choice.
Kat sees her reflection in the glass, and at first she does not recognize herself. Her cheeks are sunken and hollow and she is covered in grime. Before she can consider the changes, she is jabbed with a needle.
The Capitol’s doctors have done their best to make Kat look innocent and healthy. The hearing she lost when she blew up the Careers’ food has been repaired. Her scars have been erased and her skin looks healthy and new. However, the surgery has not returned her weight, and Kat finds that she can still count her ribs in the mirror.
Kat’s time in the arena has ended, but she is not done with the Hunger Games. Now she is a victor; her time in front of the cameras has not yet ended. Kat is returned to Cinna, who offers her a dress that Kat finds makes her look innocent. Cinna tells her that they are hoping she will look good for Peeta, whom Kat has still not seen. Peeta is alive, but the Capitol wants to broadcast her first sight of him to Panem. Kat senses that there is more going on than Cinna is telling her, but she does not push it, knowing that she is still under surveillance.
When Kat next sees Haymitch, he asks her for a hug for luck. Knowing that something is amiss, Kat agrees. Whispering, Haymitch explains that the Hunger Games are a tool by which the Capitol enforces its authority over the districts. The Hunger Games are supposed to seem invincible, yet Peeta and Kat managed to outsmart the Gamemakers. Now, they are in danger and their only hope is to continue their star-crossed lovers routine—and there should also be the suggestion that the Gamemakers were in on the whole thing. Kat still does not understand how she feels about Peeta, but for the time being, her emotions are secondary to her need to survive. Haymitch reveals that for Peeta, there will be no need to pretend.