The monkeys withdraw as if responding to a signal from the Gamemakers. Meanwhile, the morphling girl who Peeta spent time with at the camouflage training station is mortally wounded. Peeta takes her hand and talks to her about his paint box back home. She paints a flower on his check in blood. Finnick retrieves Katniss's arrows from the monkey corpses. The parts of their skin affected by the poison fog has scabbed over and become insanely itchy. Katniss allows Finnick to take the next watch so he can grieve for Mags in peace.
Katniss wakes to find Finnick has been busy in the night. Two woven bowls hold fresh water and a third is piled with shellfish. Katniss bathes her skin in the water, having scratched herself bloody as she slept. On cue, ointment appears in a parachute when she mentions needing a salve. Katniss shares the ointment with Finnick and the green shade makes them look spooky. Finnick suggests that, as a joke, they stand over Peeta and to scare him when he awakes. The three of them laugh; Katniss's friendship with Finnick is rewarded by a loaf of bread from District 4. Finnick holds it possessively before sharing it with the others. Then, a portion of the jungle vibrates and a huge wave crests on the hill, killing a tribute. The wave disrupts the beach, but not enough to do any damage.
In the distance, Katniss sees three tributes stumble on to the beach. She, Peeta and Finnick step back into the cover of the jungle. Katniss watches Johanna Mason drag Beetee and Wiress follows in loopy circles. They are all stained deep red. Finnick calls out to Johanna and runs to meet her. Peeta and Katniss reluctantly join them, knowing they can't leave Finnick. Johanna explains that the rain that fell in their part of the jungle was thick, hot blood that impaired visibility. Blight, Johanna's male counterpart from District 7, walked into the force field and was killed. Beetee was stabbed in the back at the Cornucopia and, though unharmed, Wiress is living up to her nickname - Nuts. She keeps repeating "Tick, tock. Tick, tock."
Frustrated, Johanna pushes Wiress to the beach. Katniss tells her to stop and Johanna lays into her: "'Who do you think got them out of that bleeding jungle for you?'" (320) Finnick abruptly picks Johanna up and dunks her into the water. Katniss is confused about what has just happened - what did Johanna mean she got them out of the jungle for her? Katniss and Peeta attend to Beetee, cleaning him and covering the deep gash in his back with moss and leaves. Katniss finds a heavy metal cylinder attached to his belt and assumes it must be important. Katniss cleans up Wiress, who still mutters "Tick, tock" in fear. The party eats and swaps information at camp.
As the others rest, Katniss and Johanna take watch. Katniss tells her how they lost Mags and she learns that she was Finnick's mentor and, more than that, his family. Katniss asks Johanna what she meant about Beetee and Wiress. She says she made a deal with Haymitch that she and Katniss could team up if she brought the tributes from District 3 to her - an idea she says came from Katniss. Katniss knows this isn't true, but knows Johanna is lying for the benefit of the cameras. Whatever brought them to this point, Johanna can barely stand Katniss. Wiress reappears, and Johanna leaves her with Katniss to rest.
The sun is directly over them in the sky; Katniss assumes it's noon. The same tree that was struck by lighting the night before is hit again. Katniss remembers that the twelve bongs that preceded the first bolt and it hits her - the arena is a clock. The tree is in the first "wedge" of jungle created by the spokes of land radiating from the Cornucopia island. 12 o'clock. The next wedge saw the blood rain, and the next, 2 o'clock section was where Katniss, Peeta and Finnick were overcome by fog. The monkeys are at 4 o'clock and the wave at 10 o'clock.
The blood rain is falling and Katniss figures they are too close to the 3 o'clock wedge and reasons that the poisonous fog that will appear in two hours. She wakes up the party and tells them her theory. All the tributes but Johanna buy it, but she agrees it's better to be safe than sorry. They wake Wiress who confirms Katniss's idea with a "Tick, tock," then says, "Midnight." Katniss remembers the phrase "It starts at midnight" from her conversation with Plutarch Heavensbee at the Capitol banquet during the Victory Tour. Was that a clue?
Beetee stirs and asks for his wire. Johanna hands him the cylinder, assuming the wire wrapped inside is a weapon used for strangling. But Katniss remembers the electrical trap he used to win his Games. It's suspicious that Johanna, who calls Beetee "Volts", wouldn't put two and two together. Katniss calls her on it and Johanna takes it as an insult. She makes a crack about Katniss losing Mags and they nearly come to blows. Katniss knows they will battle at some point.
Finnick suggests they return to the Cornucopia to test Katniss's clock theory and replenish their stock of weapons. As the Games progress, Katniss knows how hard it will be to kill the others, especially Finnick. She thinks maybe she can engineer a battle between him and the Careers, but she shudders at the thought. She fantasizes instead about killing President Snow. They approach the Cornucopia carefully, on the lookout for the Careers. They set Beetee in the shade and he asks Wiress to clean his cylinder of wire in the water. As she wipes off the blood, Wiress starts singing a nursery rhyme, much to Johanna's chagrin. Beetee defends her, saying she is not just smart, but intuitive. She can sense things before they happen, like a canary in the coal mine. Katniss explains to Johanna that canaries are sent into the mines to detect bad air. If they do, they stop singing, alerting the miners to the dangers below.
Katniss, Johanna and Finnick comb through the weapons as Peeta carves something into a big leaf. He draws a map of the arena, with the concentric circles of land and the spokes of the clock. In the corresponding wedges, he puts the dangers they know about - lightning in 12, blood in 1, fog in 2, etc. He notices that the tail of the Cornucopia points to 12 o'clock. The others gather around him to study his work. Katniss notices that Wiress has stopped singing. She loads an arrow and moves to her, only to find Gloss has slit her throat. Katniss kills him with an arrow and Johanna buries an axe into Cashmere. Finnick deflects a spear Brutus throws at Peeta and, in doing so, catches a knife thrown by Enobaria in his thigh. Three cannons announce the dead.
As the allies pursue Brutus and Enobaria, the ground below them starts to spin. Katniss braces herself until the ring comes to a sudden stop. Finnick, Johanna and Peeta have managed to hang on while the dead bodies have disappeared into the water. Beetee is in the water, kept afloat by his belt. Katniss realizes his cylinder is still in Wiress's hand, so she races against the hovercraft that is going pick up her body. She pries the cylinder free and returns it to a waterlogged Beetee. He pulls out some of the wire - it is pale gold and as thin as hair. Katniss guesses there are miles of it looped inside the cylinder.
Wounds are bandaged and the allies retreat to the beach at 12 o'clock. Since the ground has been spun around and the jungle looks the same in each section, there's no telling which wedge of land is which. They choose one direction and take a chance. Finnick and Katniss get water while Johanna helps Peeta reconstruct his map. Katniss wonders if Finnick and Johanna are trying to divide and kill them. She thinks about the events so far - Finnick retrieving Peeta from his plate in the water, Finnick reviving Peeta, the morphling saving him from the monkey attack, and Finnick blocking Brutus's spear. The others are trying to keep Peeta alive. Perhaps his gift of speech will make him the perfect leader of the revolution.
A scream echoes from deep in the jungle - Prim's scream. Katniss bolts in its direction, terrified. Instead of her sister, she finds a jabberjay mimicking her voice. She kills it with an arrow. Finnick finds her but another female scream makes his blood run cold. Katniss runs after him as he tries to find the source. She finds him circling a tree calling, "Annie, Annie!" She shoots the guilty jabberjay and explains it's a trick, but Finnick points out that jabberjays mimick what they hear. Where did the Capitol get the screams? What did the Capitol do to make Annie and Prim scream in pain and terror? Another jabberjay screams, this time in Gale's voice. Katniss and Finnick run towards Peeta and Johanna on the beach, but a clear wall surrounding the wedge of jungle separates them. Katniss and Finnick have no choice but to wait until the jabberjay hour is over, all the while enduring the screams of their loved ones.
When the wall lifts, Peeta grabs Katniss and Finnick. He assures them that the Capitol is playing tricks on them. Now, only eight tributes survive, which is when the Capitol interviews the remaining players' families and friends. Prim, Gale, and Annie are alive, safe and sound in their districts. Beetee confirms that their voices could have been easily doctored for the jabberjays. Besides, Johanna says, Prim is beloved in Panem. To kill or harm her would easily stoke rebellion. Katniss tries to stop Johanna from re-entering the jungle, but she's not afraid of the jabberjays. There's no one left she loves.
Katniss tells Peeta about Finnick's jabberjay. He guesses it was mimicking Annie Cresta, a victor from his district who went mad during her Games. Mags had volunteered in her place. Finnick clearly loves Annie, despite his womanizing reputation. Then, a cannon goes off and a hovercraft retrieves pieces of a tribute that has been torn to shreds in the 6 o'clock region. Peeta writes "beast" in that section of the map. The sun sets and the death toll broadcast resumes - Cashmere, Gloss, Wiress, Mags, the woman from 5, the morphling who saved Peeta, Blight, and the man from 10. Two-thirds of the tributes have died in the first 36 hours of the Quarter Quell.
24 rolls from arrive from Beetee's District 3 supporters. Finnick counts them, handling them with care, then the allies divide them among themselves. During Peeta and Katniss' turn to take watch, they finally confide in each other. They are each is trying to save the other. Peeta shows Katniss his token, a locket with a mockingjay carved in it. Inside are photos of Katniss's mother, Prim and Gale. Peeta insists she has more to live for than he does. Katniss also knows she will be destroyed if Peeta dies. She kisses him - true kisses. Finnick rouses with the midnight bolt of lightning and Katniss and Peeta separate. Peeta tells her she'll be a great mother, tipping her off that their secret conversation is over. She thinks, before she falls asleep, that she wants to make the world safe for Peeta's child. He must live.
The first-person narration allows for many surprises in Catching Fire. The reader gathers clues alongside Katniss and follow along as the puzzle pieces fall into place. The design of the Quarter Quell arena in particular is such a puzzle. Its maker, secret rebel Plutarch Heavensbee, offers a crucial bit of information to Katniss at the Victory Tour party in the Capitol, but it is Wiress, the eccentric yet brilliant victor from District 8, who first figures out that the arena is a clock. With her help, Katniss cracks the code of the arena and uses this information to keep her allies alive.
After the death of the morphling, there is a rare moment of levity in the arena. Finnick and Katniss’s joke on Peeta reminds the readers that these are all young people placed in a dire situation. Katniss and Peeta are still teenagers and Finnick, a victor at 14, is now in his early 20s. All of them have had to grow up fast in order to survive the Games but there is a flicker of innocence buried under the survival instinct. It is this humanity that they are fighting for.
Johanna Mason’s relationship with Katniss is antagonistic at best, though Katniss cannot understand what she has done to deserve Johanna's ire. They rub each other the wrong way, but there is something deeper that motivates Johanna. She is in on the rebels’ plan to destroy the arena but she seems to resent her role. Keeping Katniss and her chosen allies Wiress and Beetee alive grates on Johanna because she has no one to love. In some ways, this makes her powerful, as she has no one the Capitol can exploit. Still, this lack colors her conversations with Katniss – who is beloved by the rebels, to Peeta, to the other tributes, and to her family.
Katniss and, she learns, Finnick do have loved ones the Capitol can use against them. The jabberjays are another form of psychological torture inflicted upon the tributes. Katniss is targeted with Prim’s cries. Katniss is a protector and the thought of her sister being tortured is the greatest pain she can imagine. Even though Peeta assures her it is just a trick, the jabberjays have done their damage. Finnick’s true nature betrays him as he reacts violently to the tortured voice of his one true love, Annie Cresta. His self-possessed and charmingly confident air is just a persona, one that he puts on for the sake of his reputation in the Capitol.
Katniss and Peeta also put on a show for the Capitol as they continue to weave the story of their romance. Despite Peeta's urgings that she has more to live for than he does, Katniss is not swayed. She knows she would be destroyed by his death. They share a true moment of love in the midst of the arena, perhaps one of their last.