NCIS: Los Angeles has managed to hang on to the same core cast since way back in Season 2, and fans had every reason to expect that the same cast would be back in action for the upcoming season. Well, it turns out that one of the team won't be around nearly as much in Season 11. Barrett Foa, who has played tech genius Eric Beale since the very first season, will be missing from a handful of episodes when NCIS: LA returns in the fall.
The good news is that Eric isn't going to be absent for reasons like those that took Linda Hunt out of commission last season, but because of a non-NCIS: LA opportunity. TVLine reports Barrett Foa is taking a break from the show to star in a stage production of Angels in America in the fall, which would interfere with returning full-time as Eric.
This is all despite reports that both Barrett Foa and Renée Felice Smith (who plays Nell) would be back as series regulars, when the Season 10 finale had left their characters' futures on NCIS: LA in question. That said, Foa is only taking a leave of absence, and NCIS: LA already has plans for how it will write the lack of Eric into the season.
In Season 11, Hetty assigns Eric to work on a case that will keep him away from the rest of the team. The case is clandestine, and requires him to work with an outside company. Not a whole lot will be known about his mission while he's gone, but details will begin to emerge once he returns later in the fall.
When things go south in grand NCIS: LA style, Eric is going to need the team to lend a hand if he's going to survive. No spoilers on this, but I'm going to hazard a guess that a shootout and/or car chase will be involved.
Interestingly, Barrett Foa will reportedly be out for five of the first six episodes of Season 11, which suggests that he'll be present for the premiere and then gone for the next five. This would make sense, as the Season 10 finale saw both Eric and Nell head to San Francisco.
If they're around for the premiere, then it would track that they were back in the action, which leads to Hetty pulling Eric to send him on his mysterious mission.
The good news is that Hetty sending Eric off presumably means that Hetty will be in the mix. She was missing for a lot of Season 10, for perfectly understandable reasons. Still, it would be nice not to have two major characters missing, so hopefully Hetty will be lurking as usual.
If NCIS: Los Angeles continues to explore JAG characters into Season 11, there may be so much going on that Eric's absence may not be super distracting, but only time will tell. Will NCIS: LA launch a JAG revival? How will NCIS: LA say a temporary goodbye to Eric? What will his departure mean for his relationship with Nell? Now that Kensi and Deeks tied the knot, have Eric and Nell inherited the relationship drama of the series?
Find out when NCIS: Los Angeles premieres its eleventh season on Sunday, September 29 on CBS in the fall TV lineup.