‘NCIS: Los Angeles’: Who Should Take Over When Hetty Retires?

NCIS Los Angeles Who Replaces Hetty Season 12
CBS; Aaron Epstein/CBS; Monty Brinton/CBS

As much as fans (and the team) may not want to admit it, the day will come when operations manager Hetty Lange (Linda Hunt) retires from the Office of Special Projects (OSP) on NCIS: Los Angeles.

But when that day comes, it’s unclear who will be taking over (because someone has to). Hetty does have her own ideas in mind — like Special Agent G. Callen (Chris O’Donnell) and intelligence analyst Nell Jones (Renée Felice Smith) — but so far, the current team members seem reluctant to do so.

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“It could be somebody completely new that we haven’t seen before, but there are a bunch of different characters that have come through the show that could come in that they may not like, but that would make sense for the team,” executive producer Frank Military noted.

Scroll down to see who we think could take over for Hetty, ranked from least to most likely.

NCIS: Los Angeles, Season 12, Fall 2020, CBS

LL Cool J NCIS Los Angeles Sam Replaces Hetty
Monty Brinton/CBS

Sam Hanna (LL Cool J)

While Sam has made it clear that he doesn’t want the job and we can’t see him behind a desk — there’s a reason why we’re ranking him as a possibility as very unlikely — it is always possible that events lead to him stepping up. And with his years of experience, both as an agent and as a leader, he could certainly handle the requirements of the position.

Chris O'Donnell NCIS Los Angeles Callen Replaces Hetty
Aaron Epstein/CBS

Grisha Aleksandrovich Callen (Chris O'Donnell)

He’s one of Hetty’s choices, and his partner agrees. In fact, Callen taking over is part of Sam’s long-term plan for the team. They’ll train younger agents in the way they do things, and in Sam’s mind, that’ll help the office be “the best it’s ever been.” But it’s hard to imagine NCIS: LA not having those two be partners in the field, so it’s unlikely we’d see Callen in Hetty’s position before the series ends. (She has been grooming him for the position, after all, so we imagine that coming to fruition at some point.)

Renee Felice Smith NCIS Los Angeles Nell Replaces Hetty
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Nell Jones (Renée Felice Smith)

Everyone has been expecting the tech analyst to take over for Hetty, but in Season 11, Nell realized she didn’t even want to work at NCIS anymore, as an analyst or a field agent. Rather than accept her resignation, Hetty told her to use her vacation time to think about her future. That’s exactly what Nell is currently doing, and it’s very possible that when she returns, she’ll begin taking the steps to be Hetty’s eventual replacement. Plus, as much as we’d miss seeing her with Eric (Barrett Foa) in the Ops Center, we’d still get to see them around the office.

Catherine Bell NCIS Los Angeles Mac Replaces Hetty

Sarah "Mac" MacKenzie (Catherine Bell)

Bell has brought her JAG character over to the spinoff of her series’ spinoff (NCIS), and the Marine Lieutenant Colonel did take over Hetty’s office when she worked with the team in the Season 11 finale. Could that be foreshadowing what’s to come? Military did name her as a possibility, and it could be quite fitting to have someone the team knows and respects and who’s part of the franchise’s origins fill those big shoes. But Bell’s role on Hallmark’s Good Witch could be a factor.

Gerald McRaney NCIS Los Angeles Kilbride Replaces Hetty
Ron P. Jaffe/CBS

Hollace Kilbride (Gerald McRaney)

The retired Navy Admiral has not only taken on a leadership role with the team before, he’s also worked with them in the field, which could come in handy in Hetty’s position. After all, he knows how the team operates, and like Mac, they respect him. (They haven’t always had that luck with people coming in and out of OSP.)

NCIS Los Angeles Someone New Replaces Hetty
Monty Brinton/CBS

Someone new

This is probably the most likely option, as it’s how open spots generally tend to be filled on this show. (For example, Nia Long’s Executive Assistant Director Shay Mosley took over for Miguel Ferrer’s Assistant Director Owen Granger.)