Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for the Jan. 9, 2023, NCIS crossover event.
We've decided to officially begin referring to April 2 as "Hettypalooza." On that day in 1945, Linda Hunt (who plays Hetty Lange) was born, and we want to make sure we celebrate that day the way Hetty would: with a strong cup of tea. Linda played the role of Operations Manager on NCIS: Los Angeles since day one until the COVID-19 pandemic, and the show just isn't the same without her.
Hetty popped in at the start of Season 13 but quickly left for Syria on a mysterious mission. In reality, the 77-year-old actor wanted to take a step back due to COVID-19 concerns, but now we're wondering if we'll ever see her again before the series ends.
Now that it's the final season of NCIS: Los Angeles, is Hetty coming back before the show wraps up or was a sneaky voice cameo the last we'll hear from her?
Is Hetty coming back to 'NCIS: Los Angeles' before the series finale?
We're optimistic that we'll see Hetty at least one more time before NCIS: Los Angeles ends. Speaking with Variety in late 2022, showrunner and executive producer R. Scott Gemmill teased that she'd be back.
"Hetty has been an integral force within the agency and an especially important part of Callen’s past. As Callen starts thinking about his upcoming wedding to Anna, he would want Hetty present."
"The plan is to go and rescue her at some point and find out what she’s gotten herself into in Syria, but we’re just trying to figure out when we can pull it off. The goal is to make it happen this season.” A goal doesn't mean it's set in stone, but it's clear that fans and producers are all on the same page when it comes to bringing Hetty back to the show.
Plans do change, however. “We don’t get to that point [of rescuing Hetty], but it’s put in motion. Let’s put it that way,” Scott later told Parade. “We are going to have steps taken to resolve Hetty’s storyline in a way that I hope leaves fans feeling excited.”
There are a lot of loose ends to tie up, particularly when it comes to Callen (Chris O'Donnell) and his complicated relationship with Hetty. He has been going through quite the internal crisis when it comes to exactly what he is to her.
In the beginning of Season 13, Callen learned that Hetty has known him for much longer than he originally thought. In fact, she tested his future spy skills when he was just 8 years old and in the foster care system.
Of course, Callen isn't the only one Hetty took a shining to. Callen casually turned off security cameras so he could rifle through some of Hetty's private files, which is where he discovered other children in similar foster home situations, who were given the same tests he was. Naturally, after confronting Hetty, Callen doesn't really get a straight answer. Then it was off to Syria for Hetty, never to been seen again!
Hetty already made a small voice cameo in Season 14, which we're hoping is a sign that she'll come back soon.
We don't know for sure if Hetty will return to NCIS: Los Angeles, but after a voice cameo in the major Jan. 9 NCIS crossover event, we have to assume that she'll be back in person soon. Plus, with only a few more episodes to go of the series, the clock is ticking on when Hetty could potentially return.
In the Jan. 9 episode, during the final part of the NCIS crossover event, Callen and Sam (LL Cool J) each receive a cryptic text that helps them solve the "Simon Williams" debacle. When the two texts are put together, Callen and Sam are able to unlock an audio message from none other than the elusive Hetty Lange.
“Sounds like you’ve got yourself in a bit of a pickle,” Hetty says in the message. “I warned Hollis that his Simon Williams days would come to bite him in the ass. You are all quite capable, and far be it for me to tell you what to do. But you might want to contact an old friend, Gwen Johns." This message leads the agents to exactly the right person, and they then take down some of the episodes big bad villains.
"The triple crossover was such an important event for all of our NCIS families that it was important to have Hetty be a part of it, even if she was physically unavailable," Scott told TV Line. "In true Hetty fashion, she proved not only to be on top of what was going on, but she even offered some cryptic advice to help get them out of a jam.”
We can only assume that her audio tease coupled with Callen and Anna's potential wedding series finale is proof that Hetty could come back sooner than we expected. With NCIS: Los Angeles's next major episode airing on March 19, we have some hope for Hetty.
NCIS: Los Angeles airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on CBS.