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The finale arc of NCIS: Los Angeles Season 8 was one giant emotional rollercoaster as the NCIS team went from another day of fighting crime to desperately trying to rescue Michelle, then trying to contain Sam after they failed to find Michelle in time to save her. The finale ended with Sam finally accepting Michelle's death and taking a leave of absence from NCIS to go be with his children, presumably until the show picks back up in Season 9. According to showrunner R. Scott Gemmill, however, Sam may never return to his old self on the team after what happened in the Season 8 finale. Gemmill had this to say about Sam in Season 9:
He's trying to figure out what he really wants to do, and it continues into subsequent episodes as he slowly makes some life choices to move forward in a way that is a little bit of a surprise to Callen.
From the very beginning of NCIS: Los Angeles -- in fact, going all the way back to the backdoor pilot on NCIS -- Sam has been at the heart of the team. Even being badly tortured back in Season 4 wasn't enough to throw him off his game once his body recovered, and the threat to his son in Season 7 didn't even scare him away from continuing his career at NCIS. Now, it seems that the murder of his wife is finally what will make Sam question his future on the team. R. Scott Gemmill's comments indicate that Sam might not intend to spend the rest of his career as an NCIS agent.
LL Cool J is obviously a big part of NCIS: Los Angeles, so Sam probably isn't going to be written out of the show unless LL Cool J wants out. Still, the death of Michelle may be the one thing that changes him forever in a way that all the NCIS team banter and bro love with Callen won't be able to fix. In fact, R. Scott Gemmill went on in his chat with TV Guide to reveal that Sam has been absent from the team for months, ever since the end of the Season 8 finale, and he only returns because Callen needs him to help deal with a nuclear threat from North Korea.
It should be interesting to see how the folks at NCIS: Los Angeles carry this storyline throughout Season 9. R. Scott Gemmill was clear that Sam's issues won't be resolved within the span of the Season 9 premiere, but NCIS: LA isn't always the most consistent at showing the repercussions of certain plot twists outside of sweeps episodes. That said, there was a change in how arcs were handled when former showrunner Shane Brennan handed the reins of the series over to Gemmill. Perhaps how Sam handles his devastation will be unlike anything we've ever seen on the NCIS team.
Only time will tell. The Season 9 premiere of NCIS: Los Angeles will air on Sunday, October 1 at 9:30 p.m. ET on CBS. We already know that Deeks will be in a sticky situation of his own thanks to a brand new character. It should be worth tuning in. For everything else that will debut this fall, take a look at our TV premiere guide.