‘NCIS: LA’ Gives Callen Answers About Hetty & His Life (RECAP)
NCIS: Los Angeles
Season 14 • Episode 19
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for NCIS: LA Season 14 Episode 19, “The Reckoning.”]
“Grisha Callen, this is your life.” That is essentially what Pembrook (Jere Burns) says to Chris O’Donnell’s character at the end of the last NCIS: Los Angeles episode before the two-part series finale.
Leading up to that, members of DRONA (now in various government agencies) were killed by those who were part of the program and used (by Pembrook) in black ops. If you ask CIA Rafael Cortes, “Pembrook made monsters, including Agent Callen.” (Cortes, it will soon be revealed, is also DRONA.) Pembrook reaches out to Callen, who goes with him but doesn’t want to hear anything he has to say. At the time, Pembrook thought what he was doing to Callen and the others as children were for the greater good, but he knew he was wrong.
He reveals that Pembrook also knows everything about Callen because he’s been watching him for 35 years. He says he tried to help the children who suffered the most. With the psychopathic DRONA members coming after them, if they get out alive, Pembrook promises Callen his paper file with everything he’d want to know about himself, from his mom’s death to the present day. “It has taken me years to trust any relationship I have gone from jobs at DEA, CIA, NCIS, all to distract me from having to face what you did. You broke in me the most elemental aspect of being human,” Callen says, refusing to accept an apology.
A quick aside: We love how Kilbride (Gerald McRaney) handles Cortes. The CIA officer, pre-DRONA reveal, points out that honesty isn’t exactly part of his job. “I’m an aggravated old son of a bitch who knows how to shake the life out of a tree until it drops its fruit,” Kilbride tells him. Cortes wonders if the admiral will stop him with force when he tries to leave. Kilbride’s response: “Don’t tease me.” Don’t get us started on him telling Cortes he’s doing math, specifically geometric proofs, once he and Fatima (Medalion Rahimi) realize the CIA officer is DRONA. Those two also team up to take out Cortes in the end.
Callen and Pembrook (with a gunshot wound) hide out in a server room after the DRONA members find them. In there, Pembrook tells the NCIS agent that when Hetty (Linda Hunt) found out what he was doing, she immediately pulled him from the program. “Blame me for everything, not Hetty,” he says. Staying alive puts a pin in that conversation — for the time being.
It’s later after the DRONA operatives have been taken care of and others (those in government agencies) have whisked away Pembrook, that Callen gets that file. The two men do meet, and while the answers Callen has wanted may not come from Hetty, he does get them. Why didn’t she tell him she pulled him out of the program? “It’s not something you’d ever seen in her, but Hetty was consumed with guilt for putting you in the program in the first place,” Pembrook explains.
That’s not good enough. “Her guilt doesn’t make up for it. I was used. She was trying to turn children into super agents,” Callen says. But Hetty put him in DRONA because he was brilliant, and she wanted him to fulfill his potential, Pembrook shares. “Her version of my potential,” Callen argues. “She couldn’t teach you the violin. That world was all she knew. It’s all she had to offer you. It’s a mistake parents often make,” Pembrook offers.
Callen protests that Hetty’s not his parent, but as Pembrook sees it, “You’re missing the most important part: Call her what you will; you mean everything to her. And you always have. …You are as close to a son as she’s ever had.” It turns out Hetty and Pembrook have talked once in a while. “I know you think you have been alone in this world all this time, but you have been far from an orphan. You’ve been loved deeply,” Pembrook tells Callen before giving him the file on his life.
He also has one last piece of advice for the agent: “Don’t make your life be just about the past. Let it be about the present and now the future.” To that end, he congratulates him on his engagement and wishes him all the happiness in the world.
Callen’s emotional as Pembrook’s leaving, but the other man has one last surprise for him: That file will reveal that Pembrook was the one to give Hetty the dossier on Sam (LL Cool J). He thought he’d make a great partner — no, friend, for Callen. “Despite everything, I tried to look out for you. I tried to make up for it all,” he says before walking away.
Can Callen be happy now? We’re optimistic.
NCIS: Los Angeles, Sundays, 10/9c, CBS