Eric finally returned in spectacular Beale fashion.
He was nearly kidnapped, escaped, got arrested, got abducted, escaped, and nearly got caught once again on NCIS: Los Angeles Season 11 Episode 9.
Yes, he had to get saved by his teammates in the end, but how else would it have gone?
Eric never seemed in real danger, no matter how much nervous foreshadowing the rest of the cast did.
After all, this was only the second time in nine episodes this season that Barrett Foa had appeared, so the powers that be weren't go to kill the celebratory mood by offing him.
All that, and Hetty too (also only the second time this season)!
That was appropriate since it was Hetty's fault that Eric found himself in an unusual amount of danger (for him).
For anyone thinking that Beale could still fulfill his fantasy and become a field agent, this episode was a resounding no.
Unlike, say, Sebastian on NCIS: New Orleans, who is at least becoming a credible field agent.
NCIS, the mother ship, keeps its techies in the building as much as possible, except for the rare undercover opportunity.
Hopefully, all those near misses were enough to convince Eric of that fact. But probably not.
Still, all those videogames did teach him to think on his feet in difficult situations.
You would have thought he would have some type of weaponry his apartment to protect himself. But going out the window and scaling down a rope ladder was a better choice in any event, especially after he got hit with that tranquilizer dart.
That had to be one rugged cell phone to shatter the reinforced window of a police car. I mean, those are built to keep dangerous criminals contained.
Eric showed a knack for irritating everyone he came across: SFPD (that was understandable), the fake agents, and everyone he met after he climbed out of that dumpster (also understandable).
Granted, Beale had gotten drugged, but it still took him quite a while to determine that the agents from NCIS: Monterey (yes, it's a real thing) were fake.
The burly male's surly disposition toward one of his fellow agents, even a chatterbox such as Eric, should have been a dead giveaway something was up.
But once the female agent, who earlier said Hetty had sent them, started quizzing him about Henrietta, he realized things were fishy.
(It was jarring to see Anna Bellnap, formerly of CSI: New York, playing one of the fake agents.)
So Eric used that all-purpose weapon, vomit, likely induced by the drug in the coffee he'd had to drink to throw off the fake agents and escape out the bathroom window, in an hallucinogenic haze.
He didn't seem to understand that after he climbed out of a dumpster, he shouldn't be approaching people on the street.
His using the surveillance camera to call for help was both inspired and stupid. That's Eric in a nutshell.
He knew that Nell would be searching surveillance footage and would locate him.
But likewise, he was attempting to elude a tech company backed by Chinese intelligence, who would also be searching such footage.
Also, running anime-style to blur his image on camera caused me to doubt his field-agent qualifications.
Not surprisingly, he was able to utilize the playground equipment (also a videogame-like move) long enough for Sam and Callen to rescue him.
All of this could have gotten avoided if Hetty had had someone backstopping her least experienced field agent (maybe someone really from NCIS: Monterey, or the overflowing NCIS: San Diego office).
He was the perfect person for the assignment, so it's hard to fault her there.
But at the very least, immediately after Eric's arrest, she should have told her team on what he was working, so they could have more intelligently investigated the crime.
Instead, she waited for first Kensi, then an angry Nell, to browbeat information out of her, wasting valuable time.
Speaking of Kensi, where was Deeks? I must have looked away at the wrong time when they were explaining his absence.
Maybe there's some unwritten rule that both Deeks and Eric can't be prominently featured in an episode, to minimize the number of rambling monologues.
But I digress. Hetty seemed to have endangered her succession plan.
By placing Eric in harm's way, then keeping Nell in the dark, she appears to have lost her chosen successor, right when she's ready to head out the door, it seems.
One of the few dramatic moments on the episode was when Nell exploded at Hetty, giving her a tongue lashing and pretty much resigning from being Hetty's heir apparent.
That is problematic, based on the handful of Hetty appearances the last three seasons.
Yes, Linda Hunt deserves a break from the day-to-day demands of television production. So a successor as operation manager is needed should the series continue with a 12th season.
It's already proven that with a Hetty-type character, who knows where the bodies are buried, there's no need for a unit supervisor.
Granger was a good addition, but otherwise no.
Yeah, with the show at an advanced age, this could be a moot point. But let's follow the argument.
Callen gave Hetty a flat no at episode's end. And no one now with the team has the strategic mind for the position other than Nell.
So Hetty has to mend some fences. As recent seasons have shown, going outside the OSP for leadership just hasn't worked out well.
To follow Eric's development, watch NCIS: Los Angeles online.
Should Eric be a field agent?
Was Hetty wrong to send him on this assignment?
Is Nell wrong to walk away from being Hetty's successor?
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.