Could it be there are personnel changes in the wind at the OSP?
Hints about such were none too subtly dropped on NCIS: Los Angeles Season 11 Episode 17.
For the last three seasons, the assumption was that Linda Hunt would get done and Hetty would retire.
But maybe that's just a red herring. Maybe Hetty will remain as a recurring character, occasionally seen but constantly referenced, a ghost in the machine.
Instead, the changes may be coming further down in the lineup.
NCIS: Los Angeles has been the most stable castwise of the three long-running NCIS franchises.
Dom, and later Nate, left early on, while the bugs were still getting worked out, although Nate could certainly be considered a recurring character at this point.
Granger would likely still be there, recurring like Hetty, if cancer hadn't claimed Miguel Ferrer in 2017.
So, for a series likely to be going into its 12th season, would a little shakeup be a horrible thing?
Let's look at the clues that were dropped.
After Fatima's ordeal of being abducted and ransomed by jihadists on NCIS: Los Angeles Season 11 Episode 16, Hetty had her transferred back to L.A., where she could keep an eye on Fatima.
Then, in the end, Eric got a partnership offer from a startup tech firm in San Francisco.
This marks the second time in two seasons that Eric has contemplated moving to the private sector, so maybe it takes this time?
At this juncture in the series, Eric has become a punchline.
Take, for example, the boxing scene with Sam and Evander Holyfield. Its sole purpose appeared to be, once again, to point out that Eric's a dweeb. Been there, done that.
I mean, Nell can provide the technological wizardry that the team needs, and did so for the first quarter of this season.
And, as long as Deeks is there, comic relief is handled.
Eric leaves and Fatima slides into Ops as Nell's No. 2.
The added benefit is that, unlike Eric, Fatima is a competent field agent who promises only to get better. She could be the protege for whom Sam's been pining.
Also having an odd number of field agents allows for different combinations so that someone is always available to go on one of Hetty's off-the-books missions.
After all, it's been almost a whole season without the team pissing off some upper-level bureaucrat in Washington.
Although Anna's back and about a quarter of the season remains, so there's still time.
Don't read anything into Deeks getting called back to LAPD. Any time there's a name guest star as a field agent, someone has to go to the bench, and frankly Deeks is the most expendable.
Also, Deeks and Kensi are the only stable couple in the NCIS universe, so he's not going anywhere. (I don't count slow-simmering potential couples.)
Lance Hamilton returned for the fourth time to NCIS: Los Angeles. Since Sam shot down the potential DOJ partnership with Lance, maybe a spinoff is being considered?
Each time, we learn a little bit more about Lance, which makes him a more interesting character. Yoga for anger management, huh?
Always, he works so well with whoever he gets paired, but especially Kensi, like in this episode.
How ill-timed that on International Women's Day, a female FBI agent got murdered charging into a potentially dangerous system without backup following a hunch.
Of course, it turned out she was as dirty as her male partner so that's equality for you.
It was puzzling that NCIS, whose purview is cases involving the Navy and Marines, got assigned to look into a murder of an FBI agent and search for a missing FBI agent.
But I guess we should just chalk it up to interagency cooperation or all hands on deck or you pick the cliche.
And naturally, they got saddled with the surviving FBI agent who feels guilty or, as it turned out, was guilty.
It was good that Callen gave Sam time off to spend with Aiden, at least long enough so that Sam could find out that Aiden got into flight school. Sam still made it back for the obligatory gunfight.
Sam and Deeks being gone made for a couple of interesting pairings, Callen with Fatima, and Kensi and Lance.
Callen gave Fatima every opportunity to beg off, with which she wanted nothing to do. For partners who hadn't been thrown together much, they worked well as a unit.
Lance gets Kensi, so he just followed her lead, lighter fluid, match, and all.
Everyone's ultimate target, Devin, handled himself well, for someone on his first undercover assignment. He put together that the people assigned to protect him were in bed with his target, and he collected all the necessary evidence.
He was skilled enough to stay a step ahead of his pursuers and those trying to help him as well.
He wasn't sure what to make of Callen and Sam asking for quality beer but he knew enough to escape in the ambulance.
I wouldn't mind Devin returning in the future. After all, they've had that annoying, short blonde FBI agent on a couple of times, so anything's possible.
To revisit Lance's appearances, watch NCIS: Los Angeles online.
Were you glad to see Lance again?
Would you trade Fatima for Eric?
Will any changes happen or are viewers just being teased?
Dale McGarrigle is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.