‘Jack Ryan’ Season 3 Episode 8 Recap: “Star on the Wall”
Trust is a valuable commodity in any industry, but it’s always fungible. Its validity relies on the personal investment of belief, which makes trust the opposite of cold, hard, seeable fact, and not something world leaders can base their policies on, especially when it comes to nuclear brinkmanship. And yet, so much of what Jack Ryan does out there on the front lines of global intelligence comes down to trust. He had to believe in the trust offered by Luca, and he had to convert that belief into convincing his CIA superiors to also trust the crusty old Russian spy. Not only that, but when confronted with the hair’s breadth possibility of conventional war, when Jack stood on the bridge of a US navy destroyer and asked its commander not to fire on its aggressive Russian naval counterpart, Jack fell back on his favorite fungible tool. “You’ve gotta trust me. You’ve gotta buy them more time.”
It’s called the situation room, not the trust cave. But Elizabeth Wright believes in her guy. As Antonov, the Sokol plotter, orders his vessel’s missile bay doors opened, a snarky military type in the room says the US doesn’t have a machine that reads intentions. “Well I do,” Wright says. “His name is Jack Ryan.” And she manages to delay a decision to fire on the Russian navy. But it’s certainly tense out there on the Baltic Sea, even with Jack’s superhuman powers of trustability. Having snuck out of Russia and deposited himself on the US navy destroyer – the CIA literally tossed him from a chopper, which forced its reluctant commander to fish him out of the chop – Jack is tracking the movements of the Russian ship, upon which Luca is engaging in another personal battle between old dogs. Captain Antonov, after all, was once a part of the Spetsnaz unit that included Luca and Petr, the same one from the Matoksa massacre. And it’s what has inspired him over these many years. “You remember what you told me that day, the day we killed our own? ‘You will forget this.’ That’s the difference between traitors and patriots. You chose to forget. I refused.” Luca, of course, disagrees with Antonov’s assessment. Who is the patriot and who is the traitor if Antonov kills him and the Sokol plotters in Moscow don’t prevail?
Natalya Popov was true to her word. Using the map the assassinated defense minister’s widow provided, Greer and Mike escort President Kovac into the network of tunnels that wind beneath Moscow and the Kremlin. “You love this shit,” Mike says to Greer, and the CIA lifer’s eyes glint even in the gloom of the tunnel. “You bet your ass I do.” They split up, with Greer’s route winding to a confrontation with Alexei Petrov and Mike leading President Kovac to her secret meeting with Surikov. Once in the room with President Surikov, she tells him of Petr and Petrov’s plot. “I’m here to take responsibility. To take on the sins of my father and put an end to this.” And after playing for him the recording that incriminates his new defense minister, Surikov is not only convinced of the coup plot, he’s enraged. While the president was meeting with Kovac and Mike, Petrov was delivering a bunch of blather in the Kremlin war room. “Today we are a shadow of our former self, our greatness diluted by bureaucrats, oligarchs, and politicians that came after the fall.” His hubris is toxic. Surikov has Petrov summoned, and his security detail shoots him dead for treason.
The Sokol plot is unraveling by the second. With Petr long gone, and now with Petrov dead – “He has been removed from office” is how Surikov euphemistically describes this to Greer – the coup has lost its footing. Petrov’s attempts to land a vote against Surikov? Worthless. “Petrov’s reach exceeded his grasp,” the president tells his gathered top brass. “In this room some of you are traitors, some of you are not. Today, we sort them out.” You would think this is where the Russian president would immediately telephone his American counterpart, and emphasize the lasting peace between their two countries. But for the sake of Jack Ryan’s storyline, that doesn’t happen, and we return to the Baltic, where Jack is still using the wishy-washy nature of trust to broker a mutual stand-down between the US and Russian navies. Launch keys are turned. Missiles are even fired. But between Jack on the US destroyer and Luca on the Russian vessel, the situation is eventually deescalated.
Yowza, that was close. But with the CIA loose inside Kremlin tunnels, the dignity of Czech President Kovac, the foresight and tact of Russian President Surikov, Jack’s innate powers of trust making, Greer being cagey and gruff old bastard Greer, and Elizabeth Wright’s ability to manage her people and collate their intelligence, talk of wars and coups can subside for now. And in the relieved afterglow of all this tension, President Bachler promotes the Rome station chief to the CIA’s top chair. “Congratulations, Director Wright.”
Things aren’t as promising for Luca, though he alluded to his eventual end more than once during this season of Jack Ryan. It’s a week later, and the aging Russian intelligence man is in his home making tea when he hears the knock at the door he knew would come. It’s alright, he assures the stern young man; he won’t make a fuss. And as Luca is escorted to a waiting vehicle – just like the tsars and the purges and the Iron Curtain, old spymasters are bound to eventually fall – he speaks to Jack in voiceover. “This fight was passed down to us,” he says over scenes of Jack and Greer receiving medals of commendation from Director Wright. “And it will continue on, with or without us. But we will always be better than the institutions we serve. There are no heroes in our profession. But occasionally, there are good men. Men who act on what is right, and not by simply doing what they are told.”
Johnny Loftus is an independent writer and editor living at large in Chicagoland. His work has appeared in The Village Voice, All Music Guide, Pitchfork Media, and Nicki Swift. Follow him on Twitter: @glennganges
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