'NCIS: LA': Why Barrett Foa's Eric Beale Was Back in This Week's Episode

This week's NCIS: Los Angeles was a self-contained adventure, with Sam and Callen forced to protect Navy Admiral Kilbride, played by guest star Gerald McRaney. It also featured Barrett Foa as Eric Beale, but made no reference to his absence in last week's episode. Fans were confused about his appearance, but there was a simple behind-the-scenes explanation.

The episode, titled "Hail Mary," was actually filmed at the end of production for Season 10. The production code for the episode was 1026, meaning it was the 26th episode produced for Season 10, but CBS only aired 24 episodes as part of the season. The Season 11 premiere, "Let Fate Decide," was the 25th episode made during Season 10 production.

This explains why "Hail Mary" featured no dialogue explaining why Eric was suddenly back after missing from last week's episode, "Decoy."

At the very beginning of "Decoy," Nell (Renee Felice Smith) told Kensi (Daniela Ruah) Eric was working for a security technology company in San Francisco. The two were a little suspicious about his work for the company though, since Eric has not given Nell any specifics about his work. They believe Hetty (Linda Hunt) might know more about it.

Kensi and Nell have a good reason to be concerned about Eric's new job. Showrunner R. Scott Gemmill told TV Line his new job is part of a "much bigger story where the work he was involved in takes a dark turn."

"We’ve already set up that he had a job opportunity in San Francisco in the Bay Area for something that he was really excited about, and this will play into that," Gemmill explained in another interview with Parade. "He will be doing something that he truly, truly loves, but then he, ultimately, has to decide what’s important to him. What he’s involved in may not be exactly what he thought it was, and, in the end, he’s going to need our guys to help him."

Before the new season began, the NCIS: LA team confirmed Foa would miss five episodes after he agreed to star in a St. Louis production of Angels in America. That means there are still four more episodes to go before he makes his true return to the show.

"Missing my NCIS: Los Angeles family so much right now as they dive into what is sure to be an incredible and unforgettable Season 11," Foa wrote on Instagram. "Meanwhile, I’ll be flexing some different muscles by diving into this complex and beautiful Pulitzer Prize-winning play. Missing you, Renée, Dani, Eric, Chris, Todd, and Linda. Don’t worry, I’ll be back in Oct!"

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New episodes of NCIS: LA air Sundays on CBS after God Friended Me.

Photo credit: Bill Inoshita/CBS