Immediately following Takumi’s revelation, Alaska fesses up to Pudge and convinces Pudge to remain on campus with her during the Thanksgiving break. Pudge phones his parents to inform them that he will not be going home for Thanksgiving, using the excuse of making friends to get his mother to agree. Only after the Colonel suggests that Pudge should not abandon his parents in hopes of furthering a romantic relationship with Alaska, does Pudge feel the need to get his parents’ full approval. Unexpectedly, Pudge’s parents have already made plans in his absence and he is left feeling abandoned.
Alaska and Pudge spend their break drinking Alaska’s wine, reading Kurt Vonnegut, and further exploring the definition of the labyrinth on the soccer field without fear of the Eagle catching them. Alaska believes the labyrinth to be suffering instead of life or death. They spend the Monday of the vacation snooping through the dorm rooms of other students finding everything from alcohol to porn that they watch together. Pudge articulates his feelings for Alaska in his head but decides that their differences are enough to prevent him from making him a room.
On the day before Thanksgiving, Alaska and Pudge spend the morning adding candle wax to the candle wax volcano in Alaska’s room before the Colonel surprises them with an invite to his mother’s house for Thanksgiving. The Colonel and his mother live in a trailer rather than a house, which he offers up as an explanation for his hatred of the rich students at Culver Creek. Pudge interprets the Colonel’s explanation as embarrassment but the following day he learns that the Colonel is not embarrassed at all. Rather, he was scared of turning into one of the bratty students at the boarding school.
After the Colonel drives Pudge and Alaska back to school, Alaska comes crying to Pudge’s room because she told the Colonel that she ratted out Marya, betraying the Colonel’s trust. Pudge tries to comfort her but Alaska pushes back, telling Pudge that he only loves her when she is at her best and not in her current state.
The students all return home for the Christmas break. Pudge works through his feelings of being abandoned by his parents during Thanksgiving. He does mundane activities with his parents, revealing that he has missed them, and in the end is grateful for having a family to return to, unlike Alaska.
Upon their return from Christmas, Alaska initiates the planning of the pre-prank, explaining that no one will expect the regular junior prank after they execute the pre-prank. Deemed Barn Night, the Colonel does not share the details of the prank with Pudge only advising him to wear black. On the day of the prank, the Colonel signs out Pudge and Takumi for a weekend to visit his house while Alaska says that she is going to visit Jake, and Lara told the Eagle that she would be spending the weekend in Atlanta with a friend from Romania. Once they meet up, the group goes over the plan, which involves putting complete faith in each other to properly execute all of the separate components of the prank.
Pudge and Takumi, with his fox hat, are paired together and instructed to lead the Eagle away from campus by lighting a series of fireworks so that the others can complete their tasks. Lara sneaks blue hair dye into Kevin Richman’s shampoo and Alaska sends progress reports to the homes of the Weekday Warriors. The group meets up at the Smoking Hole where they will be spending the night. Despite their perfect planning, Pudge and Takumi get a bit off track and run into the swan when the swan bites Pudge in the butt.
The group sleeps at the Smoking Hole over night. They spend the next day hanging out at the Smoking Hole. Takumi reveals his talent for freestyle rapping and the rest of the group attempts to imitate his skill. As they drink Alaska’s supply of wine, they go around sharing the best and worst days of their lives. For Pudge, the best day of the life was the day of the prank: in pursuit of the Great Perhaps, spending time with friends, and waking up next to Lara. Alaska’s best day is exactly January 9, 1997 when she went to the zoo with her mother. The Colonel expounds that the best day of his life is yet to happen, but it will be the day that he is able to buy his mother a fancy house and show up the Weekday Warriors.
The optimism in the Colonel’s best day scenario quickly dissipates when they switch to sharing their worst days ever and the Colonel’s is the day that his father left his mother. Pudge recalls the day that a fellow student peed on the gym clothes that he was forced to wear, much to his embarrassment. It is the worst day because he was so humiliated but he also decided that day was the day he no longer cared about his social status. Alaska one ups all of their worst days when she says that January 8, 1997 was the day that she watched her mother die because she was unable to call 911. It is clear that she blames herself for her mother’s death, despite the other’s protests. Pudge finds Alaska’s revelation to explain a lot about her impulsive behavior – from her perplexing mood swings to ratting out Marya.
Later that night, Pudge finds himself sleeping next to Lara. In a moment of his own impulsivity, Pudge kisses Lara and tells her that she is beautiful before asking her to be his girlfriend and sleeping in the same sleeping bag.
In these chapters, Pudge’s character develops dramatically. He goes from a passive individual, blindly following Alaska around dorm rooms, and further complicating his feelings for Alaska to someone who finds his own Great Perhaps will pranking the Eagle and taking action on his feelings for Lara. Prior to the pre-prank Pudge has been a passive character, allowing others to make decisions for him but the self-revelation that he is experiencing his Great Perhaps emboldens him to take control of his own life.
When describing the worst day of his life, Pudge states that upon suffering such embarrassment he stopped caring what other people thought of him. Though he may feel this way about himself, his actions contradict this statement. When he first arrives at Culver Creek, making friends largely preoccupies Pudge’s mind. Perhaps Pudge did not stop caring on that day in 7th grade, but he realized that he longer cares. At Culver Creek he has friends, though they are not popular, and he has just experienced a Great Perhaps. This new situation gives Pudge the courage to admit that he is no longer dependent on what others think about him to construct his identity.
In contrast to Pudge’s newfound agency, Alaska seems to fall apart as these chapters progress. Despite the Colonel already not trusting her from the Marya incident, Alaska switches up the prank at the last minute and sends extra progress reports to the Weekday Warriors. An apt symbol for Alaska’s unpredictability is the volcano of candle wax in her room. Unable to confront her past, she buries it further and further beneath layers of wax, waiting for it to explode. Pudge helps her add more layers to the volcano, foreshadowing that his actions will have an impact on her ‘volcanic eruption.’
Another important theme that becomes apparent in these chapters in the idea of abandonment. Pudge initially feels that he has abandoned his parents by agreeing to stay at school with Alaska during the Thanksgiving break, but then feels abandoned by his parents when they immediately make other plans without him. Pudge is able to resolve his abandonment issues when he goes home for Christmas break, unlike Alaska who feels that she has no home. The Colonel admits feeling abandoned by his father when he left his mother. Although all of these characters have feelings of abandonment, they are able to come together and form strong bonds to each other.
Part of the reason that Alaska, the Colonel, and Pudge are able to overcome their feelings of abandonment when they are together is because their relationship exists separately from their lives at home. However, this changes when the Colonel brings Pudge and Alaska to his house for Thanksgiving. Their friendship deepens because they are able to see each other outside of the life that they have created for themselves at Culver Creek. Pudge comes to understand the Colonel’s rational for hating the Weekday Warriors and learn more about Alaska’s home life. Furthermore, Pudge gains an appreciation for his own family. Unlike Alaska’s family, his parents are a known quantity; they support him in the best way that they know how and they give Pudge a solid foundation to depend on, even if they do not completely understand him.