[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 11 finale of NCIS: Los Angeles, “Code of Conduct.”]
While the plan hadn’t been to end Season 11 with Sunday’s episode, it did work as a finale.
In “Code of Conduct,” Mac (Catherine Bell) reunited with the NCIS: LA team to investigate two SEALs’ claim that their chief, Argento (Juan Riedinger), murdered a sedated prisoner — and civilians. Sam (LL Cool J), Callen (Chris O’Donnell), and Rountree (Caleb Castille) head to investigate, and though they run into trouble, they do arrest Argento. However, the navy chief is certain that he won’t be convicted due to his D.C. connections, so it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger.
As for the originally planned finale, executive producer Frank Military tells TV Insider we will see that air in Season 12. The only question is when, which will depend on when they resume production and how many episodes they have.
Here, Military, who wrote and directed “Code of Conduct,” breaks down the season and looks ahead.
This was almost fitting for a finale, though it didn’t end as big as last year’s. It is much more personal for the team, especially for Sam. Was that the plan for the end of this season, especially since they’ve been thinking about the future of the team?
Frank Military: Yes, it was, but we unfortunately didn’t get a chance to shoot our last episode, so we pulled [this] up because it was so dramatic and did have a little bit of a cliffhanger in the sense that the trial of Argento and his mano a mano morality battle with Sam, we will pick that up next year. It won’t be the first episode.
Mac mentioned the potential consequences of the investigation for OSP, and Argento is connected in D.C.. How big of a concern is that?
It will be a big concern. There will be pressure coming from that direction, that this gets squashed.
The season was unintentionally bookended with Mac appearances, and the stage is certainly set for a future return from her.
Given the circumstances, I can’t say exactly when we would see her, but we would really love to have her on the show as much as possible. She is a terrific character, and the fact that this is now storytelling that goes back about 23 years with that character being a through line is very cool. On top of that, Catherine Bell is an amazing person to work with, and you can see it in our cast. To jump on a set that is not her home set and to pick up the ball and run with it and do an amazing performance is really fun to watch and it’s great to have her be part of this team.
And is there a chance we’ll see Harm again?
Yeah, of course.
After watching Kensi and Deeks’ dance for years, it’s been really nice to see them happy, married, and stable, but now there’s the matter of having kids and their jobs. How might that test them next year?
It’s going to be a test. It’s a very interesting story. Most people say, “let’s have a baby,” and they think you flip a switch and you have a baby, and it doesn’t work like that for a lot of people. That’s what’s going to be embodied in the Kensi and Deeks dynamic. Then when you layer on top of that the fact that these are both people — or at least Kensi has really wrestled with this dilemma between this larger obligation to be part of the Office of Special Projects and save the world every week and having a personal life, having a baby with Deeks. And now suddenly to face, well, that might not be a guarantee, is an incredibly interesting dilemma for that couple.
Callen’s planting roots with Anna, but there’s the matter of Katya. Is that going to end up being another curveball in their relationship?
That’s going to be a huge complication. Anna and Callen will be in jeopardy next year.
Will we see Arkady again as part of that? He’s just so funny.
Of course. We love Arkady. He’s terrific. He’s an amazing actor and just so funny, and he’s really part of the team.
I’ve really enjoyed watching the gradual build to Sam and Katherine because it felt like you were being respectful of him and Michelle by not having him move on too fast over the years. Can you talk about the approach to that relationship?
Sam is such a thoughtful and deliberate character, and we knew that after Michelle died, we really were going to have to handle his healing process very patiently. It’s difficult because you have LL Cool J, lady lover, and it’s one of the great aspects of him, of Todd as an actor. But on the other hand, as a character, he had to really take the time to mourn losing her because he didn’t just lose her. There was always part of him that believed it was his fault because he saves everybody else every week, and the fact that he couldn’t save his own wife was very difficult for Sam Hanna.
We had an episode where he said he thinks it’s time to stop having that pain and to move on, and it’s something she would’ve wanted. We wanted to move on, but do it in a very slow and deliberate way.
And then what we wanted to do was have a character like Katherine, who is really fun, who can challenge Sam, and who comes from an entirely different world. She comes from the upper echelons, economic strata of Los Angeles. She is dealing with the wealthiest people in Los Angeles and goes to fine restaurants and art gallery openings and all of that stuff that’s not Sam’s world. Sam comes from a military background, and with that juxtaposition, we’ll be able to have a lot of fun with those characters moving forward.
I liked seeing the question of whether or not they could trust Katherine, especially after what Callen went through with Joelle.
Yeah, that’s always in the back of everybody’s mind because of what happened with Joelle. The interesting thing is Joelle is still in the universe, and she did betray the team, but she is ultimately on their side, so it’s an interesting dilemma.
Are there any plans to see her soon?
Yes, we’ll see Joelle definitely.
We really, really, really take pride in building our world out further than the core group of characters. We love doing that. We love bringing people back over and over and giving the audience the feeling that even when you don’t see people, they still exist. We talk about them. They come back, [even if] you can go two or three years and not see them.
Nell and Eric really questioned their professional and personal lives. How might Nell’s leave of absence and their time apart benefit them in both areas?
We began to hint at this, that something was not right with that relationship, and they both had a need to grow. Eric admired Nell for being able to see that in herself and push them both to move forward in their lives. In a sense, as painful as it might be for Eric, it also is something that’s inspiring at this point in his life. He’s been at NCIS for a very, very long time, and so has Nell, so for them to consider all the possibilities that the world has to offer — people who are as brilliant and smart and dedicated and courageous as those two are — is a refreshing thing for them as
It’s been such a joy to watch Fatima seamlessly join the team and come into her own. What makes her the right fit for the team?
The truth is she’s a perfect fit for the team. She is somebody who is both technically [and] geopolitically savvy. She is also a physically capable team member. She’s somebody that has the courage and the skills to go out and battle in the field.
The team really is the best of the best; that’s always been the premise of the Office of Special Projects. We’re not a regular NCIS office. We are the office that takes on cases that have the largest scope and are the most complicated and are threats that are the highest level to the United States and its allies. Those are the kinds of characters that work on the show.
And she’s definitely that. It’s a little bit of a superhero. She’s got all of those skills, and it’s also thrilling for us to have another Muslim character on the show who unabashedly wears her hijab and is Iranian and she is though first and foremost American, Iranian-American. That’s a great character to represent to the world right now.
Like they said in this episode, you really threw Rountree into it in his first cases with the team. But for him, it’s the family vibe that’s keeping him from immediately saying yes to joining. Is he sticking around?
That character has just worked out so well for us, and like Fatima, we really do want to be bringing around the next generation of characters in this show. He’s one that quite possibly could be. I hope he says yes. I think we can expect to see him.
Speaking of that next generation, this season has been talking about Hetty’s eventual retirement and who will take over. What are you looking at in terms of how her retirement could change the team dynamics?
It already has. We’ve seen that even over the last two seasons, that she is no longer day-to-day running the ship from the office. Hetty is always pulling strings no matter where she is in the world, and I have no doubt she could run that office without our team even realizing she was running the office.
Who would lead the team is a big question moving forward. Everybody seems reluctant to want to do that, whether it was Callen or Sam or even Nell was being groomed for that position.
There are a lot of characters who could step in and do that on a day-to-day basis that we’ve had on the show. But on the other hand, Hetty is not disappearing. She will be with our show.
Will the characters debate who takes over versus the fact they may not want someone new to come in?
It depends. 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.
(Ron P. Jaffe/CBS)
Kilbride, the character played by Gerald McRaney, is somebody that they’ve worked with before who clearly could step into that position. Catherine Bell could step into that position. I’m not saying any one of them is going to do that. … Or Sam or Callen or somebody could relent and assume that mantle.
I’m glad you mentioned all the recurring characters because that group is so strong. I love seeing all those people come back, like Sabatino, who is always fun.
Oh my God, that’s a character that’s been on the show for years and years and years, and we love bringing him in all the time. He’s a great foil for the team, so that’s a perfect example of somebody we really love. And Erik Palladino is a great guy to have around.