‘NCIS: LA’ Season 12 Finale: Hetty Returns, Plus Who Leaves the Team? (RECAP)

Linda Hunt Returns NCIS LA Season 12 Finale Hetty Lange
Spoiler Alert
CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 12 finale of NCIS: Los Angeles, “A Tale of Two Igors.”]

How are the late Anatoli Kirkin (Ravil Isyanov), dolphins, and the team’s final case of the season connected? You’ll probably be surprised.

NCIS: LA closes out its 12th season with an episode that brings back MIA operations manager Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt), sees Nell Jones (Renée Felice Smith) — who’s been filling in for her — decide her future, and … Investigator Marty Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) get bequeathed an organized crime syndicate. (Yes, really.)

To borrow a line from Retire Navy Admiral Hollace Kilbride (Gerald McRaney), these are “things that could only happen in this office.” (And that’s why we love this show.)

As One Piece of OSP Returns, Another…

The team may not be ready to write off Hetty just yet, but Kilbride is determined to keep moving forward and that means packing up the operations manager’s stuff (including her weapons in the armory) and making Nell’s promotion official. And when she says she can’t take Hetty’s position, he gives her an ultimatum: “sign or resign.”

CBS Fall 2021 Schedule: 'NCIS' on the Move to Make Way for All 'FBI' TuesdaysSee Also

CBS Fall 2021 Schedule: 'NCIS' on the Move to Make Way for All 'FBI' Tuesdays

Plus, find out how many episodes of 'SEAL Team' Season 5 will air on CBS before its move to Paramount+.

Does Kilbride know something they don’t, Callen (Chris O’Donnell) asks, like Hetty’s not coming back? The admiral recommends he focus more on his future, especially with that vast Russian social network everyone now knows about thanks to the DOJ’s investigation. And Kilbride’s not exactly Hetty’s number one fan when it comes to the way she never worried about optics. She brainwashed Callen, he says. “Hetty helped me when I was young,” the agent argues. “She didn’t groom me for anything.”

Meanwhile, as Nell’s trying to figure out her future, Eric Beale (Barrett Foa) stops by his former office with a job offer: He has the funding to open an office in Tokyo and wants her to run it with him. “Who knows cybersecurity and Kaleidoscope 2.0 and can manage a team better than you?” he asks. The board wants them because the members know how well they work together. They’re “the Wonder Twins.”

She is grateful “strictly from a business standpoint,” she assures him, but she doesn’t want to abandon the team. “I was so young when I took this job. I didn’t know anyone in LA and then I met the team, you,” she remembers. “This place, these people, they’re part of my life now, my entire adult life.”

Renee Felice Smith Linda Hunt NCIS LA Season 12 Finale

CBS

So what does she decide? Nell is officially moving on, but before she says goodbye to OSP, Kensi (Daniela Ruah) finds her to say goodbye. (She and Deeks will visit, she says, and they’ll get together before she leaves.) She asks if Nell is sure about leaving. “No, but it kind of feels like one of those now or never things,” Nell admits. “I’ll be all alone in Tokyo with Eric, so I give it six weeks max.”

And when she goes to take one last look around, she finds Hetty in her office. Where she’s been is a story for another day, her mentor tells her. (And it doesn’t sound like she’s completed the mission quite yet.) But she wants to wish her luck — and give her her brooch. Just don’t aim it at anyone she likes, Hetty warns, and she may or may not be joking. With one last hug, Nell leaves NCIS, with Eric.

As for Hetty, she tells Kilbride they need to have a chat. It’s unclear what’s discussed, but she does watch him return her weapons to where they belong in the armory.

Gerald McRaney NCIS LA Season 12 Finale Kilbride

CBS

The Easiest Kidnapping of a Federal Agent Ever?

Three men who work for Kirlin kidnap Deeks on the beach … and no one bats an eye when one, Igor, yells out asking if anyone cares. Igor then takes Deeks, with a hood over his head, to a drive-thru (yes, really), where Deeks tries asking the person to call 9-1-1. Igor takes Deeks somewhere and reveals that Kirkin chose him to take over his operation — all of it: fashion, gambling, smuggling, cars, money, laundering, everything. However, another man in the operation, also named Igor, thinks he should be in charge and hijacked weapons Kirkin was sneaking into the country. They have to get them back.

The first Igor lets Deeks go, and he heads to the office to fill everyone in. (“This whole damn office is like a Moscow train station at rush hour. Is there not one of you without ties to a Russian?” Kilbride asks, frustrated, at one point. He’s really had the best lines this season.)

“Nobody is over this Russian thing more than I am,” Deeks laments, turning to Callen, “No offense to you, Grisha.” Callen takes it in stride: “No offense, Martin.”

Chris O'Donnell NCIS LA Season 12 Finale Callen

CBS

What exactly are the weapons they’re looking for? That connects back to the case: the shooting of a militarized dolphin embedded with a Russian microchip. Kirkin paid for six of them. A Russian sailor, who couldn’t stand to see the dolphins killed when the program was terminated, rescued as many as he could. And when they locate the Igor who abducted Deeks at an aquarium, the team goes to stop the meet … only to find out the two Igors have come to an understanding and set the dolphins free.

If you can’t believe how crazy this all sounds, you’re not alone. Sam (LL Cool J) and Callen share a laugh about just that on their way to the aquarium: Eric’s a billionaire, Kensi has a psychopath writing her love letters … Eric’s a billionaire!

Oh, but what about the dolphin that was shot and brought the team on this case? One of the second Igor’s men accidentally hit the dolphin when he was aiming for the sailor. Deeks pushes him into a tank with, “You kill a dolphin, you die with the sharks,” when he tries to run. The guy flails around … with sea turtles.

Densi Picnic NCIS LA Season 12 Finale Kensi Deeks

CBS

The Benefits of Living Near the Beach

The season ends on a pretty happy note. Fatima (Medalion Rahimi) opens up to Rountree (Caleb Castille) about why she’s been in a bad mood all day: It’s the anniversary of her best friend’s death. That was when she stopped acting; she hadn’t stopped her friend, who had been partying, from getting in the car that night. That’s when she changed everything about her life, learned about her heritage and religion, and got rid of everything that wasn’t important. And in the closing montage, she’s smiling (for the first time all episode).

Meanwhile, Sam heads to the beach to watch his son Aiden’s flight test, with Callen joining him. He’s a great dad, Callen tells his partner. And in turn, Sam tells him he’d be a great father, too.

And Kensi and Deeks have a picnic on the beach, relaxing after their tough year of trying to get pregnant and the psychopath after Kensi. It’s sweet, and all this happiness for everyone is so well deserved.

NCIS: Los Angeles, Season 13, Fall 2021, CBS