Welcome to the far-too-long-awaited third season of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan! There’s a whole lotta plot to get through, so let’s not waste any time. Here we go:
The story begins in 1969 in Matoska, Russia – where Army General Kuznetsov (Matthew Marsh), his officers and a battalion of soldiers arrive at the base of some unknown secret project. The lead scientist (Armen Georgian) tells the General that they ran into some problems and need more time. Kuznetsov agrees and thanks everyone for their work, telling them how proud their government is of them in what was “not an easy assignment.”
He leaves and, once outside, tells his officer, Luka Gocharov (Roman Evdokimov), that they “live in complicated times” and that Russia has “lost its nerve.” Kuznetsov then says that the project, called “Sokol” – or “Falcon” – has become too dangerous to continue. He orders Luka to take care of the situation and drives off. Luka then tells his sergeant, Petr Lebedev (Adam Fidusiewicz), that Sokol must be “shut down completely.” And as Luka stays outside having a smoke, Lebedev and the rest of the battalion head back inside the building and shoot everyone.
Cut to present-day Rome, where a CIA tech guy watches on his computer as a very sharply-dressed Jack (John Krasinski) walks to a swanky hotel and an employee passes him a key. Jack goes in through the service entrance as their contact, called “Firebird,” arrives out front with a security detail.
Jack opens a locker with the key and pulls out a key card. Firebird and her entourage get let into a roped-off area, which leads to a rooftop party. Jack comes up the back way and meets her in a quiet corner. Firebird introduces herself as Zoya (Ana Ularu) and palms a SIM card to him in a handshake.
Zoya confirms that Jack’s investigating the Sokol project, whose aim was to develop a small-yield nuclear device that would be undetectable by radar. She says the project’s been reactivated and that they’ve actually produced the device. Jack asks where it is, but all she knows is that it’s being moved. Jack asks where she’s getting the information from, and she only says it’s someone who shares his concern. Then she apologizes in advance as she walks away and yells at her security guys for letting any a**hole off the street approach her.
After the security guys toss Jack out on his sharply-dressed butt, he meets up with his tech guy and finds Jim Greer (Wendell Pierce) there too, who’s flown in from Moscow. Jack tells him the situation’s worse than they thought and that the weapon’s already built.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, President Surikov (Mikhail Safronov) meets with Alexei Petrov (Alexej Manvelov), assistant to Defense Minister Popov (Mikhail Gorevoy). Petrov tells the president that NATO may be moving missiles into the Czech Republic and that Russia will have to respond. Pres. Surikov asks if that’s really Popov’s position, and Alexei agrees, saying Popov is already on his way to meet the Czech president in Prague.
An old man sitting in the background pipes up – turns out it’s Luka Gocharov from the 1969 scene, and it’s clear he’s an important advisor to Pres. Surikov. Luka (James Cosmo) says the NATO situation is just a bargaining chip. He says the Czech President, Alena Kovac (Nina Hoss), must want something – which is why the information was leaked to them in the first place. Alexei says they should move troops into the region, but Luka says the Czech president is a pragmatic woman and that they should talk to her instead to “keep their enemies close – easier to slip in the knife if necessary.”
In Prague, President Kovac and her assistant David (Marian Mitas) talk about the upcoming meeting with Popov. David says that Popov’s an old-school hardliner, uncomfortable with powerful women. Big surprise. Then her convoy drives her out to a lovely lakeside estate. She tells David to make sure there are lots of reporters at the meeting, even though the Russians requested no press.
Alena walks down to the dock, where her father, Petr (Peter Guinness), is sitting and fishing. Petr shoos her security guy, Radek (Adam Vacula), away – then he tells her that the timing of the meeting with Popov is no coincidence. He says Russia views the NATO move as “bold aggression.” And as Alena helps him tie a lure, Petr says that half the country thinks she’s in NATO’s pocket, while the other half views her as a Russian puppet. Popov will underestimate her, he says – and as she casts the line, Alena says she’s counting on that.
Back in Rome, Jack heads to work at the embassy and talks with his superior, Elizabeth Wright (Betty Gabriel), who scolds him for not receiving an after-action report regarding his meeting with Zoya. She says she’s never liked heroes – that they’re always thinking of their actions more than the repercussions. Jack takes his slap on the wrist and goes into a tech suite, and asks tech guy Tristan (Charley Palmer Rothwell) to show him what’s on the SIM card Zoya gave him. Turns out to be a map of the Crimean Peninsula, but there’s no other information – yet. Whoever is on the sending end of the info will be adding tracking information to it at some point. Jack takes the card back and grabs a burner phone on the way out.
Jack heads into the office and makes sure to touch the star on the wall. Then he has a meeting with Wright to explain his analysis along with Greer. Jack describes a plan that some Russian hardliners had to preserve the USSR back during the Cold War called the Sokol project, whose name comes from a wargame called “7 Days to the Rhine.” The plan was to use a “Small Wars” doctrine, where they would sow unrest in other Eastern bloc nations through misinformation and assassinations, thereby destabilizing those governments. Then a limited nuclear strike would be used to create chaos and allow Russia to invade, thereby expanding the USSR’s borders.
Greer says that at the time, the technology to create the nuclear device wasn’t available – but it is now, and the Sokol project is active. Jack confirms it, telling Wright about Zoya’s information and the SIM card she gave him. Turns out Zoya’s with the Russian embassy and was trained as a “swallow” (female intelligence agents known for luring important men into compromising positions).
Jack says that the worst-case scenario is that the “7 Days” plan has already begun, and “a lot of dominoes will fall,” leading to a new worldwide conflict. Greer adds that he’s dealt with Zoya before and that when she’s not being a “self-serving bullsh*tter,” her intel is good. But they still don’t know where she’s getting her information from. Wright says that swallows are almost always lying, but Jack disagrees, saying that Zoya was scared.
Wright asks what Jack expects them to do if they do get a location of the weapon, and he says they need to find it and deal with it. But Wright shuts that down, saying Jack’s theory isn’t proven and that the US can’t officially go anywhere near the area. As she walks out, she says that they’ll reassess if they get any concrete info from the SIM card. End of discussion. Greer notes how Wright keeps busting Jack’s butt and that he needs to keep an eye on her.
Back in Prague, Defense Minister Popov and Alexei arrive to meet President Kovac, only to be ambushed by a slew of photographers and reporters. Popov is surprised and pissed, but the meeting continues. He asks Pres. Kovac what her intentions are regarding NATO. She says that they’ve offered to outfit their base with surface-to-air missiles and that she’s considering it. But if the Russian government would agree to halt their incursions into Ukraine, she’ll decline the offer.
Kovac says Russia’s actions in Ukraine cause destabilization and makes her people feel the need for NATO protection. Popov then asks to continue the meeting privately, during which he makes his displeasure apparent at the press ambush, telling her to “tread lightly.”
Meanwhile, in some random bar somewhere, a random blonde woman talks to the bartender, who pours her a drink. He says it looks like she’s been stood up. She says she had tickets to the upcoming football match between the Czechs and Russia and now needs someone to go with. The bartender’s only too happy to oblige.
Back in Rome, Jack and Greer have dinner, and while Jack’s eating some yummy junk food, Greer’s eating a salad. He’s had the operation on his heart, so he has to stick to his boring diet – no booze, no bread, no dairy. He’s even meditating. Yikes. He says that Zoya might just be sending them on a wild goose chase to embarrass the CIA and burn through their resources. But Jack disagrees and says it’s worth the risk. Greer seems impressed that Jack’s taken to the field so naturally. Jack counters that Greer really wants to get back in the field himself, but Greer says no, that’s all behind him. He’s content to keep his head down and stay comfy in his office until retirement, which Jack isn’t buying.
Later on that night at his apartment, Jack gets a notification from the SIM card’s mapping program with a set of coordinates – and the next morning, Wright calls CIA Director Miller (John Schwab) back at Langley. With Jack and Greer there, they tell Miller that a cargo ship left from Sevastopol (Ukraine) with nuclear material on board. Miller shoots them down though, saying that any intel from Zoya is just noise. But Wright says that it would look really bad for the US if they had knowledge of a nuclear device on the move and did nothing to stop it. Miller reluctantly agrees to let Jack take a 4-man team to do a recon mission, but nothing else.
Cut to the USS Roosevelt in the Black Sea, where Captain Bennett (Mark Menchaca) welcomes him on board and then proceeds to tell him what a pain the whole situation is for him. Bennett says Greer told him that Jack was a smart guy whose gut’s gotten him into a lot of bullsh*t. Bennett then says that once Jack leaves, they will have no further contact. He wishes him luck as Jack meets his team, and they head out.
Back in Prague, Pres. Kovac’s security guy Radek says that the Popov’s plane is being readied at the airport, so he might be leaving before the football match. Kovac says since she backed him into a corner, that he might respond by having their power grid shut down. So she tells Radek to send Popov a bottle of Soyuznik vodka – meaning “ally.”
Jack and the recon team get on board the cargo ship and make their way to the hold. Instead of finding a nuclear device, they find a guy named Yuri Baskin (Michael Epp) locked in one of the containers. Yuri says he’s a nuclear scientist who helped build Sokol and that he was told the Americans would come to get him. Jack and the team almost manage to get off the ship, but then they’re spotted, and a firefight ensues. He ends up having to jump off the ship to escape, and the guys pick him up, and they head back.
Jack calls a waiting Greer and Wright and tells them what happened. He says Yuri’s been sent to them for a reason and that their intel’s confirmed. Greer warns Wright that if she tells Director Miller what happened, that he’ll torpedo the whole thing. They need to play it out and see where it goes. Wright agrees to have transport waiting for Jack in Greece to take him and Yuri to a safe house.
Greer and Wright confirm Yuri’s credentials and argue about whether or not they should trust Jack. Wright harps on the fact that they’re buddies, but strangely on his transfer order, Jack didn’t list Greer as a reference. Greer says they often butt heads but that Jack’s definitely on to something now. By daybreak, Jack and the team arrive at the beach in Legrena, Greece, where some guys with pickup trucks are waiting.
Jack asks Yuri how long he’s been working on Sokol. Yuri says four years and that he was initially told they were building an enrichment facility – but then his duties changed. Yuri doesn’t know exactly how the weapon works, but that it’s small only three megatons. Jack asks about its invisibility, and Yuri confirms that they were working on reflection and infrared emissions. Jack asks why Yuri was in trouble, and Yuri says he kept asking questions – the “7 Days to the Rhine” kind of questions.
Yuri refuses to say any more until he has asylum. Then suddenly, another group of guys drive up and open fire on them. Jack manages to keep Yuri with him, and they take one of the vehicles and speed off. As they’re driving, Jack calls Wright and tells them their people are dead. Wright gives him an address in Athens to go to as the baddies give chase. But they end up on a busy highway, and the baddies end up going off a cliff in spectacular style.
Back in Prague, Pres. Kovac heads to the football stadium to meet up with Popov, who thanks her for the vodka “apology.” She calls it more of a truce, and they make a friendly-ish bet on the game. Meanwhile, that random blonde from the random bar and the bartender arrive, and he’s psyched that she has a VIP parking spot. A random blonde then tases him and her partner, who’s been waiting nearby, and pulls out a rifle.
Pres. Kovac and Popov have a much friendlier chat, making all kinds of analogies between sports and the real world. Pres. Kovac says the Czechs are doomed to be a small, proud nation caught between two superpowers but that they must remain close with Russia. Popov says he’ll bring her proposal to President Surikov but can’t make any promises. Just as Pres. Kovac thanks him Popov gets shot in the head. As security whisks Pres. Kovac away, the Czech police arrive to find the bartender lying with the rifle. Kovac’s security guy Radek takes him out.
As Jack and Yuri arrive in Athens, another group of baddies starts chasing them. Jack manages to sideline the baddies, but then Athens police show up with some unnamed tall, blonde dude (Anton Pampushnyy) who’s clearly in charge but doesn’t look like he’s a cop. Jack and Yuri get stuck in traffic and ditch the car – but before they can get off the street, Yuri gets shot by the blonde guy.
He gets Yuri up a flight of steps and into an apartment. In the few seconds he leaves him, the blonde guy finds Yuri and demands to know who helped him get out of Russia. Yuri refuses to say, telling him, “F**k you, traitor,” before the blonde guy kills him. Jack gets spotted, and the chase continues – he manages to get out of the building, but not before shooting an Athens police officer. He quickly disappears into the crowd.
Pres. Kovac arrives back at Prague Castle, where her father, Petr’s waiting, demanding to know what happened. Kovac asks David to get President Surikov on the phone. Meanwhile, Jack makes his way to the safehouse address. But looking at the people outside, he’s not sure if it’s really safe. He calls Greer and Wright and tells them Yuri’s dead. Greer tells him about Popov – Jack says the “7 Days” plan has started.
Wright asks if he’s at the safe house, but Jack lies and says no. Wright tells him that the Greeks have accused him of entering the country illegally to kill a Russian national and killed one of their police officers. Jack realizes that the CIA’s looking for a fall guy. Wright warns him that if he doesn’t come in, he’ll be recalled and lose all agency protection.
Jack says someone is reaching out to them – but if he gives up, they’ll lose the lead. Greer warns him not to do it, and says something to him in Arabic before Jack hangs up. Greer confronts Wright and asks if Miller told her to burn Jack – but she says that Miller left it to her, and she made the choice, saying that Jack’s a liability. When she asks what Greer said, he tells her, “Shelter in paradise.” Jack takes out the mapping program SIM card, tosses the burner phone and disappears into the crowd.
Whew! Did you get all that? Needless to say, this new season isn’t wasting any time getting down to the action. It moves fast, and it’s easy to get confused with all these new characters. But if you’ve ever seen the movie version of Clancy’s The Sum of All Fears (the one where Ben Affleck played Jack), it’s pretty much an updated variation of that story.
Speaking of the new characters, Nina Hoss’ President Alena Kovac and Betty Gabriel’s Elizabeth Wright are definitely the standouts. Gabriel’s Wright holds her own with both Jack and especially Greer, which is not an easy task. And Hoss’ President Kovac is a terrific blend of kindness, class and savvy toughness, which makes her a real scene-stealer.
And as for our heroes, it’s good to see Greer back up and about. Though it’s pretty much impossible to believe his whole thing about being content to lay low until retirement, even with a touchy new heart. Yeah, right. I buy that as much as him sticking to that nasty vegan diet. And as far as Jack goes, I have to admit that I’m a little meh on what feels like an awfully sudden change into a full-tilt Jason Bourne-ish character. This season’s Jack doesn’t seem like the ordinary guy thrust into extraordinary situations anymore – which is what I like most about the character. So if this is how it’s going to be throughout, it’s a letdown. But there are seven more episodes to go, so maybe we’ll see the awesomely dorky analyst make a reappearance.
If you’d like to go back and get a refresher on the previous seasons of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, check out those recaps here!