‘NCIS: LA’ Teases Nell & Kensi’s Futures in the Season 12 Premiere (RECAP)

NCIS Los Angeles Season 12 Premiere Callen Sam The Bear
Spoiler Alert

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 12 premiere of NCIS: Los Angeles, “The Bear.”]

The NCIS: LA team kicks off its new season with an easy case (for them, at least): finding a missing Russian bomber. It’s just another day at the office for them, really.

But it is serious enough that someone needs to run point, and that’s what brings intelligence analyst Nell Jones (Renée Felice Smith), who tried to quit last season before operations manager Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt) urged her to use her vacation time to figure out what she really wants to do, back to work.

And what better way to officially welcome Devin Rountree (Caleb Castille), the FBI agent who has now been to FLETC and is joining NCIS, to the team? After all, he’s worked some crazy cases with them already. Plus, the details of the case lead to the agents reaching out to Arkady Kolcheck (Vyto Ruginis), who’s always fun.

Where’s Hetty?!

Hetty calls Nell into the office but is nowhere to be seen … except on a video call after the analyst doesn’t answer the phone ringing on her (former) boss’ desk. The operations manager is in the middle of what appears to be a war zone (“nowhere I want to be” is the only information she offers) and after a Russian aircraft disappears off the coast of California, she needs Nell to essentially be her for this case (as she’d hoped would happen once she eventually retires). Exactly what Hetty’s doing is going to remain a mystery for now.

What Comes Next?

As we learn through Nell’s talk with Hetty, the analyst’s mother passed away. (Nell had taken time off to take care of her.) “She fought a good fight,” she tells Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah) when the agent checks on her. But now Nell has to figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life. Will this time filling in for Hetty lead to her deciding to stay with NCIS and eventually taking on the job permanently?

And that conversation may be setting up Kensi’s arc this season, as she seems to be questioning what she wants to do as well. Nell thinks she’s where she’s supposed to be, but the expression on Kensi’s face suggests she may not be so sure.

Renee Felice Smith Daniela Ruah NCIS Los Angeles Season 12 Premiere Nell Kensi


Where’s Eric?

Tech operator Eric Beale (Barrett Foa) is MIA in the premiere, and it all goes back to his undercover gig last season. He’s “officially” on vacation, Kensi and Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) inform Nell. Unofficially, he’s at the Tokyo Trade Show because while the company he’d been working for in San Francisco was bogus, the tech he was developing was real.

Furthermore, “he has become far more eccentric since you’ve been gone,” Kensi informs his sort of ex-girlfriend? Eric and Nell do need to define their relationship (again) this season.

The Polite Business of Espionage

Sam (LL Cool J) and Callen (Chris O’Donnell) take a helicopter (courtesy of Nell “Don’t leave me the keys if you don’t want me driving” Jones) to scout out a possible location for the Russian strategic bomber, known as the Bear, which can hold 33,000 pounds of missiles, including nukes. They’d want to secure those and get any intel that may be on board. And the fallout of any potential attacks would be catastrophic.

Meanwhile, Nell has Rountree stake out the Russian consulate (the poor guy doesn’t believe there’s one in Los Angeles), with (former newbie) Fatima Namazi (Medalion Rahimi) offering him tips (he is being watched as he watches everyone go in and out, and yes, he should follow a person of interest in the surveillance food truck unless he wants to call an Uber).

Deeks Kensi Bar NCIS Los Angeles Arkady Season 12 Premiere


And Kensi and Deeks are the ones to meet with Arkady in hopes that the man can get them the names of the men onboard the plane. Arkady is training for a triathlon, he shares. “What are your events, drinking, gambling, and smoking?” Kensi asks. While the bar may be closed given the hour (Russia calls people who don’t drink this early “underachievers,” Arkady says), he’s more than happy to drink three-quarters of a bottle of vodka to help him think (instead of the whole bottle because he’s going to work out after).

He can’t call up “Spies ‘R’ Us,” as he informs them, but after a few calls, he does pass along the name of the woman who can help them — if they’re willing to pay for her shopping addiction.

“Don’t Mess With the New Guy”

And so Deeks pulls out his homeless man undercover clothes and approaches Zasha Gagrin (Olesya Rulin) with the offer of a backpack of cash for the names. Then he messes with Rountree, seated a few tables away. Though it takes Zasha a bit to bite, she does bring Deeks the names of the crew members.

And that comes in handy when Sam and Callen do find the plane and end up having to split up: the former to track four men whose footprints lead away and the latter to try to get the two men inside to talk to him and not blow up the plane using its self-destruct mechanism.

Sam finds signs that the men on foot are shooting at one another (if one is trying to defect), while Callen uses the names they hope are legit (if they’re not, Nell’s worried Hetty will kill her for how much they cost) to try to open a line of communication with the other two. By bringing up one of their sons, Callen is able to at least get through the hatch without coming under fire (as he did previously). They can all leave together and live, Callen insists.

Chris O'Donnell Callen NCIS Los Angeles Season 12 Premiere


Kensi, Deeks, Fatima, and Rountree, meanwhile, hit the ground and head to help Sam, just as he finds the men he was tracking. They’re able to disarm three, with the fourth who does appear to want to defect, making a run for it. Rountree stops him, but Fatima steps in to help, knocking out the Russian. “Don’t mess with the new guy,” she says. Who else is liking the dynamic between Fatima and Rountree so far? It’s great to see her helping him learn the ropes.

But what about the plane? To their surprise, there’s an explosion from that direction. Fortunately, everyone’s OK. Sure, the plane is in pieces, but that was part of the compromise, Callen explains to Sam. And it was a training machine anyway, with no weapons other than the tail gun.

With that, they’ve saved the day again and all that’s left to do is make plans to get fish tacos. All in all, it feels like just a regular episode of NCIS: LA, and as the past 11 seasons have shown, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

NCIS: Los Angeles, Sundays, 8/7c, CBS