Henrietta Lang has always been a powerful force of nature on NCIS: Los Angeles. Played by Oscar-winning actress Linda Hunt, the beloved Hetty was the center of operations for years at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s Office of Special Projects. Hetty was rife with connections to everyone in a position of power, pulling strings at every turn as the team solved crimes and brought the bad guys to justice. And yet, despite the many times she has saved the backsides of each and every member of the OSP, Hetty has become a rare sighting on the popular crime drama over the last few seasons — often disappearing for months on end with no contact with the team or an explanation as to where she went.
Unfortunately, there’s a reason for Hetty’s many absences from NCIS: LA. In July 2018, a few months after CBS renewed the series for season 10, Hunt was involved in a bad car accident. She originally stated that she was “looking forward to starting production” on NCIS: LA later that summer, but in November 2018, Hunt shared that she “had to take some additional time to recover.”
Since the accident, Hunt has made sporadic appearances on NCIS: LA — the most exciting of which was on the season 10 episode “To Death Do Us Part,” on which she drove a bright yellow MINI Cooper through a wall to stop a gun-toting villain from crashing Kensi (Daniela Ruah) and Deek’s (Eric Christian Olsen) wedding. As of this writing, Hunt’s Hetty has only been on seven episodes since the “Densi” wedding.
And now it seems that Hunt’s departure may be of a more permanent nature in the not-too-distant future. Many have speculated that Hetty is going to be replaced on the show, leaving the actress out of NCIS: LA for good.
Hetty seems to be getting ready to retire
Though she’s still 100-percent a badass, Hetty is no spring chicken, and it seems quite reasonable for her to be considering retirement at this point. She certainly can’t babysit the team forever, particularly considering it would be a high-stress job that could eventually end very badly for her. It seems that the other NCIS: LA characters are laying the groundwork for exactly that: the unthinkable day that Hetty retires.
After her sudden reappearance, Hetty seemed to hint to Special Agent G. Callen (Chris O’Donnell) that he should be the one to take over from her as Operational Manager — but their initial conversation saw Callen telling Hetty to stick around for a while longer, as he didn’t feel it was time for her to step down just yet. Most of the team feels that while Hetty won’t be around to save their butts forever, she won’t be going anytime soon. Still, the conversation popped up again on a recent episode of NCIS: LA, with Kensi pointing out that Hetty is definitely “slowing down” from the powerhouse she once was. Sam Hanna (LL Cool J) clearly isn’t interested in taking on all the responsibility of Hetty’s job since he’s hoping to train young agents, but he seems to be trying to nudge his partner Callen into the position, feeling that he would be a perfect fit.
Is Callen a sure thing to replace Hetty?
The conversation between Hetty and Callen also hinted that there was another possibility for who could take over her job. While perhaps a slightly more subdued option, Callen points out that Hetty has been grooming Nell (Renee Felice Smith) to eventually take over her job when she’s ready to leave. Nell has the intelligence to pull it off, but perhaps not the same experience in the field that Callen has built up over the years, despite occasionally stepping in to take a few shots. However, Nell has been fairly absent from the team recently, as she struggles to juggle her work life with her mother’s ever-worsening illness in San Francisco.
Realistically speaking, Sam is right: Callen is the perfect fit to replace Hetty when and if she retires. He’s been the leader of the team forever, and was practically raised into this life by Hetty after his mother was killed, so it would be the best way to honor Hetty’s legacy to hand the team over to someone who has worked with her for so long and learned all the tricks of the trade directly from her. Although Callen was initially hesitant at the thought of having to take over from Hetty, he seems to, at the very least, be considering the possibility that he may have to do so one day soon. The shift seems to be preparing fans for the day Hetty takes her final bow on NCIS: LA.
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