NCIS: Los Angeles fans have been wondering if Hetty is ever coming back to the show full-time, and the most recent episode of the show seems to have given some clues. For all of Season 12, Henrietta "Hetty" Lange — played by Linda Hunt — has been absent from the series in a regular capacity, as she has been on a top-secret mission. Hetty video-calls the team from time to time, appearing to be in a warzone area of some kind, while intelligence analyst Nell Jones (Renée Felice Smith) is filling in as the team's temporary operations manager at the Office of Special Projects (OSP).
The short answer to whether or not Hetty is ever coming back to the team appears to be, no. At least, that's what Retired Navy Admiral Hollace Kilbride (Gerald McRaney) has told the team. "Hetty's not coming back," he said during the April 4 episode. Interestingly, at one point in the same episode, Nell speaks to Kilbride and says something about having to "find [Hetty] first." She then says, "if I ever do track her down," possibly implying that she's been looking for Hetty. If the team does go looking for Hetty, it wouldn't be the first time, as they previously tracked her down to Vietnam in Season 9 of NCIS: L.A.
Hunt has been a main cast member of NCIS: L.A. since the show's Season 1 debut in 2009. In 2013, however, Hunt told CBS News that, while she gets "a kick out of" starring in the show, she looks "forward to a time when" she doesn't "have to work anymore." She added, "Which is close at hand, I think." That interview took place eight years ago, and Hunt has been going strong on NCIS: L.A. ever since. Perhaps, if Hetty does make an official and formal exit, it will be Hunt's decision.
Notably, Hetty isn't the only NCIS character whose fate is up in the air right now, as Mark Harmon — who plays NCIS Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs — is said to be considering leaving the original series. In February, it was reported that Harmon "is rumored to be ready to leave, but would be willing to return for a handful of episodes if CBS renews it for a 19th season." At this time, neither Harmon nor CBS has stated on the reports.