Eric's Back on 'NCIS: LA,' But What About His Secret Assignment?

Meredith Jacobs
Spoiler Alert Monty Brinton/CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 11, Episode 3 of NCIS: Los Angeles, "Hail Mary."]

UPDATE (10/14/2019):

The mystery into Eric's (Barrett Foa) new, secretive case deepens in the latest NCIS: Los Angeles episode, mainly because his previous absence isn't addressed at all.

Instead, Eric is in the office, working the case like usual with the team, in "Hail Mary." There is no mention of his work as a consultant with the security technology company in San Francisco from Episode 2. There's no mention that he was even gone. It is very much a standalone episode.

However, Eric's return to work does fit with what Nell (Renée Felice Smith) told Kensi (Daniela Ruah) in that episode, that he was coming back in a week. And since he did, we can now start speculating that he'll be returning to that gig; Foa is set to miss five of the first six episodes, meaning he'll be MIA for three more.

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Even Nell didn't know the details of his assignment before, and it's unlikely that will change moving forward, especially since we can assume that things will get more complicated. But we do know that the team will end up being involved in whatever happens next when he ends up needing their help. And with Hetty (Linda Hunt) the one who does know what he's doing and in the promo for the next episode, perhaps we'll start getting clues (though that would have to come before the case, considering they're dealing with a potential outbreak).

Original Story 10/7/2019:

NCIS: LA is down a member in Ops for the time being — but is Eric (Barrett Foa) where Nell (Renée Felice Smith) thinks he is?

Fans knew going into the season that Foa would be MIA for five of the first six episodes while part of a production of Angels in America at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. And because of that, the series had to write him out for the time being, much like it has written around Daniela Ruah's pregnancies in past seasons.

Since the premiere picked up right after the finale, there was no need to address his (or Nell's) absence from the episode; the team had gone international, and both Eric and Nell had left LA for San Francisco due to her mother's health. But in Episode 2, Nell's back at work and Eric is nowhere to be seen.

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There won't be another coin toss, but the couple's relationship remains up in the air.

He's supposedly on a job in San Francisco working with a security technology company. If you'll recall, he'd been offered a job leading a team working on home surveillance and security systems at a top tech company in the city last season. But what exactly is he doing there? Nell has no idea. "Hetty wouldn't have signed off on it if it wasn't important," Kensi (Ruah) points out.

Nell also expects to see him soon. "He's technically just a consultant, he's not full-time," she tells Kensi. "Supposedly, he's coming back next week." The only problem is she's barely heard from him since he took the job. "All I'm getting are these short, cryptic messages he's leaving on some random cosplay site," she says, and even when she's in San Francisco every weekend visiting her mother, "I'm literally in the same city, and I don't hear from him."

(Cliff Lipson/CBS)

There's clearly more to this assignment, which makes sense given the details that had been released when his absence was first announced. On Hetty's (Linda Hunt) orders, he's working "a clandestine case with an outside company," and "the situation will take a dangerous turn and Eric will need to rely on the team to survive." Also, the details of this case won't be revealed until he's back, meaning that any information Nell has or gets is obviously not the whole story — or likely even a small part of it.

Is Eric even in San Francisco? Chances are he's not, at least not the entire time. There's obviously a reason why his only way of communicating with Nell is via a cosplay site and he can't even see her when she's in the same city. And if he was truly just "consulting," he'd more than likely be back when he's "supposedly" due, a week after the second episode.

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Sam and Callen are on protection detail in Episode 3.

However, we do have to wonder why there is that end date on the assignment and when we'll see the team getting involved. Will the "assignment" have been "extended" when Episode 3 begins? Will things take a turn in a few weeks and that's when the team comes in to help Eric?

Kensi suggests in "Decoy" that she and Nell begin working Hetty for information, and we'll have to see how long it will take for Nell to realize there's more to what's going on with her boyfriend's absence than meets the eye.

(Cliff Lipson/CBS)

NCIS: Los Angeles, Sundays, 9/8c, CBS