‘NCIS: Los Angeles’: Linda Hunt to Return as Hetty This Season

by Suzanne Halliburton

NCIS: Los Angeles fans likely spent the entire premiere with high anxiety, wondering whether Hetty was dead in Syria. After all, a burned up body had her identification on her.

But fans of Henrietta Lange, the small, but omnipotent manager of special projects, can relax. Linda Hunt, who originated the Hetty character when NCIS: Los Angeles premiered in 2009, should be seen in season 14. We just don’t know when she’ll show up.

“Hetty has been an integral force within the agency and an especially important part of Callen’s past,” NCIS: Los Angeles showrunner Scott Gemmill told Variety. “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.”

However, the premiere threw a scare into those who love Hetty. As the episode “Game of Drones” opened, Kilbride (Gerald McRaney) and Callen (Chris O’Donnell) had a classified briefing from a commander on the ground in Syria. Her unit had discovered a burned up safe house. One of the bodies, which was burned beyond recognition, had an ID that suggested she was Trudy Chambers. That’s an alternate identity Hetty used throughout her career as a super secret spy.

Callen asked Kilbride if he could go to Syria and accompany Hetty’s body back to Los Angeles. But Kilbride cautioned to wait until a medical examiner had checked the body. Although the body was small enough to be Hetty’s and had her ID, it wasn’t for certain that the boss was dead.

“Again, this is Hetty we’re talking about,” Kilbride told Callen. “She’s got more lives than a barn cat. And Lord knows, she’s just as mean.”

Kilbride really does love and respect Hetty. The two worked together for decades. But the two of them, when they’re on screen together, have these brilliant, acid-dripping conversation.

But Kilbride is correct in this instance. Hetty does have at least as many lives as a barn cat. At the end of the premiere, Kilbride poured Callen a tall Scotch. As Callen pondered whether he’d need that stiff of a drink, Kilbride told him that the dead body belonged to a child, not Hetty. It’s very likely that deliberately planted the ID on the body to make her enemies believe she is dead.

Linda Hunt probably will return for an NCIS: Los Angeles wedding this season. (Monty Brinton/CBS)

Hunt last appeared on NCIS: Los Angeles in the season 13 premiere. Callen confronted Hetty about her part in a CIA program to identify foster children to be future spies. Callen discovered that he was “Subject 17” in the program. Hetty fled to Syria to finish a secret mission (off-screen). The COVID-19 pandemic impacted Hunt’s presence on set. She’s 77 and is at higher risk for the virus. However, Hunt already had taken a step back from NCIS: Los Angeles since at least 2018. She usually shows up for special occasions, like the wedding of Kensi and Deeks or the departure of Nell. Callen currently is planning his wedding to Ana, so circle that party for an appearance.

The teases for the next two NCIS: Los Angeles episodes don’t mention Hetty. However, this Sunday’s episode features a special guest star. Dominic Zamprogna, who portrays Dante Falconeri on the long-running soap opera General Hospital, joins the show for “Of Value.”