Nell Jones
Source: CBS

Nell Jones Left 'NCIS: LA' in the Season 12 Finale, But There's a "Loophole" for Her Return

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May. 24 2021, Published 2:09 p.m. ET

Warning: SPOILERS for the Season 12 finale of NCIS: Los Angeles are ahead.

Though fans of NCIS: Los Angeles expect each season finale to be dramatic, few anticipated that two major characters would be departing at the end of Season 12.

Operations Manager Hetty Lange was absent for the entirety of the season (actress Linda Hunt took a hiatus due to COVID-19), and Nell Jones (Renée Felice Smith) trained for her job.

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While fans expected that Nell would officially take over for Hetty, the latter character finally returned to the Office of Special Projects in the Season 12 finale, "A Tale of Two Igors." The episode continued to deliver even more jaw-dropping moments.

Nell turned down an offer to stay with the team, and she instead took a position in Tokyo — with Eric Beale (Barrett Foa).

Both Eric and Nell said their goodbyes in the episode, and viewers were shocked that two longtime staples would leave the show in one foul swoop.

nelljones
Source: CBS
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Why did Nell leave 'NCIS: LA?'

The character, who has been part of the Office of Special Projects since Season 2, left in the Season 12 finale for a job opportunity in Tokyo. Though Nell was poised to take Hetty's position, she received another job offer from none other than Eric himself.

In "A Tale of Two Igors," Eric (who appeared on a handful of episodes throughout the season) revealed that he had received funding for his tech company, and that the headquarters would be in Japan.

While some fans initially thought that Eric would be leaving solo (and that his relationship with Nell would be done for good as a result), he then announced that he had already told his investors that she would be running the company with him.

Because the investors knew that the two worked well together at OSP, they were on board with offering Nell a position.

She recognized that it would be an excellent career decision for her. Nell also felt that making a big move was a "now or never" type of situation.

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Is Nell leaving 'NCIS: LA' permanently? The showrunner said that there are "loopholes."

Though fans are currently mourning the loss of two of the Office of Special Projects' finest, NCIS: LA showrunner R. Scott Gemmill hinted that there's always a possibility that the actors, Barrett and Renée, will return in the future.

He noted that the two were written out at the same time so the actors could work on other projects.

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Source: CBS
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"Both Renée and Barrett have been on the show a long time, and they're both very ambitious individuals who have projects that they want to do on their own — and we've been giving them time off to do so," he told TVLine after the finale episode. "It seemed like a natural time to let them go off and do some other things, and give [their characters] what is a happy, hopefully, ending."

In a different interview with TVLine, Renée said that she was ready for her "next chapter" beyond the CBS series. She's set to work on an indie movie now that she's not a regular on NCIS: LA. She also shared that she's looking forward to other acting, directing, and writing opportunities.

The actress and her character have both hinted at returning to the action show down the line — and R. Scott Gemmill agrees.

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"There's a little loophole in ["A Tale of Two Igors] when Nell says she's going to be alone in Tokyo with Eric, and she gives it 'six weeks' before she's back, So, we'll see what happens," R. Scott said.

The showrunner confirmed that Nell's exit in particular was meant to shock fans.

reneefelicesmith
Source: CBS
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"This seemed like a good time [to write her out], because you probably expected Nell to take Hetty’s job that she's being groomed for. But it's a good thing, in some ways, to have that little bit of unpredictability to the show. That keeps it fresh and honest," he said. "But also, like I said, we keep in loopholes so that we can bring people back."

Renée already expressed an interest in returning to the popular series in Season 13, when the cast and crew celebrate 300 episodes.

"Of. Course," she responded when asked about whether she would participate in the milestone episode.

Though Nell and Eric have left the team, there's every chance that they will be back in the future.

NCIS: LA has been renewed for Season 13. It is expected to premiere in September of 2021.

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