What Happened To Hetty on NCIS: Los Angeles? Here’s The Real Reason Linda Hunt Wasn’t In The Finale
An era is officially over. After an emotional Season 14 finale of NCIS: Los Angeles, you might be asking about Linda Hunt’s beloved character, Hetty. What happened to Hetty on NCIS: Los Angeles? Here’s everything that we know.
NCIS: Los Angeles, the first spin-off of NCIS, is the CBS drama that focuses on the Office of Special Projects (OSP), a division of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service based in Los Angeles. The team specializes in undercover assignments and apprehending dangerous criminals. The series premiered in September 2009 and just wrapped up its 14th season. Our sister site Deadline reported in January 2023 that Season 14 would be the last for NCIS: LA.
Linda Hunt played the role of Henrietta “Hetty” Lange, the Operations Manager for the OSP. She first debuted as Hetty in the premiere episode of NCIS: LA, which aired more than a decade ago in 2009. The Oscar-winning actress told The Daily Beast in 2011 that she had no intention of signing up for an ongoing TV series. “I wasn’t looking for anything,” she revealed. “I’m now 66. At this time in my life, that this has come along, feels just like a gift. The heavens opened up and just handed me a little something to get me into my 70s.”
The actress continued: “I knew that Hetty was going to be someone who was incredibly eclectic in her tastes and her sensibility, someone who lived around the world for a while, someone who had a very unusual, very interesting life,” she added. “She always had her shit together, except when she couldn’t possibly. Then you see Hetty under rare circumstances.”
Hunt has been vocal that she didn’t want her role on LA to last forever. “I look forward to a time when I don’t have to work anymore,” she said in an interview with CBS Sunday Morning in February 2013. “Which is close at hand, I think.” Fast forward to 10 years later – the long-running series aired its final episode on May 21, 2023. However, Hetty was only involved in a small way in the finale. What happened to Hetty on NCIS: Los Angeles? Keep reading to find out.
What happened to Hetty on NCIS: Los Angeles?
What happened to Hetty on NCIS: Los Angeles? Over the years, Hunt chose to take a reduced role in the series, and fans have seen Hetty less and less since Season 10. The actress’ first major break in the series came after she was in a car accident in July 2018. Thankfully Hunt didn’t sustain serious injuries from the crash, but Hetty was absent from the entire 10th season and for most of the 11th. In a November 2018 statement obtained by our sister publication TV Line, Hunt revealed that she had to take more time to recover than she originally thought. “I first want to say how much I appreciate the outpouring of support from the NCIS: LA fans following my car accident this summer,” Hunt explained. “Though I had hoped to return to playing Hetty at the start of the season, I had to take some additional time to recover. I look forward to returning later this season.”
Hunt was also largely absent from NCIS: Los Angeles during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the show resumed filming in the summer of 2020, Hetty was given special consideration because of her age. “Linda was away a lot more this season because of COVID and us trying to keep her safe…. And then finally, Linda had both her vaccines, she was feeling great, and she came back [for the finale],” said Scott Gemmill, showrunner and executive producer, in a 2020 interview with TV Line. The showrunner added that Hetty was “so happy to be back… She had been gone for so long and hadn’t really interacted with anyone, so she was just so thrilled to be back on set.”
Because of COVID-19 precautions, Hetty appeared only a handful of times in Season 12. The writers developed a new storyline that Hetty needed to return to Syria, which is where the character was for much of the season. But in the Season 12 finale, “A Tale of Two Igors,” Admiral Kilbride (Gerald McRaney) ordered the others to clear Hetty’s office, signaling that her time might be over. But in a surprise twist, Hetty came back to the NCIS offices to say goodbye and good luck to Nelle Jones (Renée Felice Smith). The ending of Season 12 also hinted that Hetty could be back in Season 13, especially when she watched over Kilbride as he put everything back in her office where it rightfully belonged.
Fans wanted to see Hetty in a much bigger way in Season 13. Gemmill assured fans in an April 2020 interview with Parade that “Her story continues… She was in at the beginning of this season and then we had her disappear. The plan is to follow that up next year with some reveal.” Hunt only appeared in one episode of Season 13, the series’ premiere, “Subject 17,” in October 2021. Unfortunately, that was the last time we would see Hetty in person before the show finally ended in May 2023.
Her character’s voice appeared in the NCIS, NCIS: Los Angeles and NCIS: Hawai’i three-hour crossover episode in January 2023. She left an encrypted voice message for G. Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and Sam Hanna (LL Cool J), which they had to eventually decode. “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,” Gemmill told TV Line in January 2023 after the crossover premiered. Although we didn’t get to see Hetty on screen, fans still got to hear her voice. Her spot in the crossover also proved that Hetty was, in fact, still alive, after it was believed that she faked her own death earlier in the season.
So, where was Linda Hunt in the Season 14 finale? Did Hetty die? Here’s what we know.
Did Linda Hunt’s character die on NCIS: Los Angeles?
Did Linda Hunt’s character die on NCIS: Los Angeles? No, Hetty does not 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. Read the full letter from Hetty, below:
“Dear Agent Callen, Congratulations on your wedding. I am so very happy for you and Anna. I only wish I could have been there to celebrate such a glorious occasion with all of you. Most people think I never had a family of my own, but I beg to differ. I have been blessed with the greatest family one could ever have wished for…and so have you. As always, Hetty P.S. I have arranged for you and Anna to have my place in Mykonos for your honeymoon. Stay as long as you like.”
In the envelope, there were also plane tickets for the newlyweds and a secondary note that read: “I’ve also sent along two plane tickets to for you and Sam in the event that you may have a couple days beforehand to help me with a small side project.” The episode concluded with Sam and Callen traveling to Morocco to see what the special side project was.
So, why wasn’t Hetty seen in the Season 14 finale? Gemmill told TV Insider in May 2023 that it had to do with the Hunt’s availability. “Yeah, that was just about Linda’s availability. I’d hoped that if Linda was available, the finale would’ve been a rescue mission to find Hetty and whether we would’ve rescued her or not, I’m sure we would’ve put our guys — if we knew we had another season and Linda had been available, we probably would’ve gone to rescue Hetty and wound up in trouble and then had to have resolve that in the next season.”
In. May 2023 interview with TV Line, the showrunner also spoke about how he approached adding Hetty to the finale. “It wouldn’t have been a series finale without some element of Hetty, and we felt like she — being all knowing and all seeing — would have known about the wedding somehow. Somebody must have gotten word to her,” he described. “Her relationship with Callen has always been somewhat of a mother/son relationship, so it only seemed fitting for her to weigh in and also remind Callen that he has a family just like she did, but it’s the NCIS family and not necessarily his immediate family that he was always looking for.”
Want to learn more about NCIS cast salaries? Check out the gallery below to see how much each star makes per episode of NCIS.