Hetty Has Been Away Since the Season 13 Premiere of 'NCIS: Los Angeles' — Why?

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

May 25 2023, Updated 8:35 p.m. ET

Linda Hunt as Hetty Lange in 'NCIS: Los Angeles'
Source: CBS

We want to be clear about one thing: There simply can't be an NCIS: Los Angeles without its operations manager, Hetty Lange (played by the eternally wonderful Linda Hunt). She's the cornerstone of that place, and all she ever asks of anyone is their undying commitment and the occasional cup of tea.

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Sadly, Hetty was largely absent from Season 13, and fans started wondering where she was. Is Hetty coming back to NCIS: Los Angeles? Where has she been? Here's what we know.

Where was Hetty during Season 13 of 'NCIS: Los Angeles'?

The first time we saw Hetty in Season 13 was during the premiere of NCIS: Los Angeles, titled "Subject 17." The episode saw Hetty and Callen (Chris O'Donnell) really get into it about his past after he managed to secure another piece of that puzzle. And while a deeper conversation is necessary and is sure to happen at some point, Hetty didn't really have time for it because she had to book it for Syria. That's so Hetty.

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Hetty talking on a phone in 'NCIS: Los Angeles'
Source: CBS

When Hetty finds out Callen has broken into her office, she's hunched over a map of the Syrian desert. Admiral Hollace Kilbride (Gerald McRaney) then gives Hetty her traveling information along with a chilling warning about how she messed things up last time she was there.

"I will sign the order, but if you make it worse, you will be sacrificed for the sake of diplomacy, and if you do something really stupid and find yourself in a cage again, you will be disavowed," Kilbride tells Hetty.

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Kilbride lets it slip to Callen that Hetty is going to Syria, so Callen asks Zasha (Olesya Rulin) to keep an eye on her. The twist there is that Zasha's passport is set to expire in eight months, so the clock is ticking. We finally get a semi-update in Episode 11, "All the Little Things," when Callen checks in on Zasha after a drone strike went down in Syria. It's highly unlikely that Hetty was involved, but Callen's gonna Callen, so he has a feeling she was.

What is Hetty doing in Syria?

It turns out Hetty's old friend Harris Keane (Jeff Kober) was able to provide Callen and Kilbride with some more information. Believe it or not, Hetty was in Syria to meet with Al-Qaeda leaders in order to negotiate the release of some hostages. She couldn't say who they were exactly, but evidently the Al-Qaeda leader was al-Kalmira. Hetty didn't know that, and sadly Harris lost contact with her.

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Harris Keane and Hetty Lange in 'NCIS: Los Angeles'
Source: CBS

Why was Linda Hunt missing during Season 13 of 'NCIS: Los Angeles'?

Reportedly, they had planned on her returning during Season 13, but COVID-19 precautions prevented them from doing it right away.

"Things seem to be settling down a bit, and we have a a little bit [of] normalcy back in shooting," Scott told TVLine back during production. "Hopefully, nothing new comes along and we can make [it] happen this year." And they eventually did! Hetty was back for Season 14.

Did Linda Hunt’s character die in 'NCIS: Los Angeles'?

No, Hetty doesn't die in the Season 14 finale. Although we weren’t able to say farewell to Hetty in person, the show paid tribute to the fan favorite in a small way. After Callen and Anna’s wedding, a courier showed up with an envelope for G. Callen (Chris O’Donnell) with a wax seal with familiar initials. Hetty somehow knew about the wedding taking place, and she surprised the couple with a honeymoon and a new secret mission.

You can stream NCIS: Los Angeles on Paramount Plus.

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