[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the NCIS: Los Angeles Season 14, Episode 1 “Game of Drones.”]
Are we certain NCIS: Los Angeles is not going to kill off its beloved Hetty (Linda Hunt), especially offscreen? Yes. Are we still worried about where her mission in Syria might take her? Yes. That said, the Season 14 premiere did try to make us wonder about that first question.
Kilbride (Gerald McRaney) brings Callen (Chris O’Donnell) into his office for a video call with Commander Neal (Jennifer Marshall), whose squad was doing joint recon work alongside the Syrian democratic forces when they came across an abandoned school used as a shared safe house. There were signs of an ambush, as well as human remains burned beyond recognition. One body had documents IDing her as an American, Trudy Chambers. Callen freezes upon hearing that. The Trudy they know is a small woman, he says, asking if the remains reflect that. They do. All they can do is wait on dental and DNA confirmation for a positive ID, but Trudy is one of Hetty’s known aliases.
Callen asks Kilbride about Keane (Jeff Kober), who was with Hetty in Syria, but there has been no sign of him. If she was ambushed in the safe house, that means that someone sold her out. And even if the remains aren’t hers, she’s still in danger. As Kilbride reminds Callen, Hetty was in danger as soon as she went back: There’s no such thing as a safe house in Syria, “but then again, this is Hetty we’re talking about. She’s got more lives than a barn cat and lord knows, she’s just as mean.”
After that, they’re stuck waiting for news. Callen works a case with the rest of the team, while waiting to hear from Kilbride. It’s not until the end of the episode that they hear. When Kilbride offers him a drink when he walks into his office, Callen asks if he’ll need it. “The longer you stay in this business, definitely, but not because of Hetty, not now,” Kilbride tells him.
The remains belonged to a female child, but what’s a dead girl doing with one of Hetty’s IDs on her? Kilbride guesses Hetty planted it, because without forensics, it would convince whoever found the body that she was dead. Callen sees that as a sign that she’s in trouble, but again, Kilbride points out she was in trouble the minute she went back. Callen wants permission to go look for her, but just like Kilbride’s not getting what he wants (the knees he had when he was 30), that’s not happening, yet. If they had actionable intel, it would be a different story, he tells Callen. Until then, Hetty is on her own. Callen’s willing to use the leave he’s saved up, but Kilbride points out that they just had a foreign terrorist attack in their backyard, so there’s no way he’s letting him go halfway around the world to search for his surrogate mother.
In happier news for Callen, he and Anna (Bar Paly) are getting married after he proposed in the Season 13 finale. Now, if only they could pick a wedding venue. As Callen explains to Fatima (Medalion Rahimi), Anna’s thinking somewhere between going to City Hall and fulfilling her father Arkady’s (Vyto Ruginis) dream of recreating Doctor Zhivago with everyone on horses and real snow.
NCIS: Los Angeles, Sundays, 10/9c, CBS