Why did Nell leave NCIS: Los Angeles last season?

Nell And Eric NCIS
Nell and Eric have been a memorable couple on NCIS: Los Angeles. Pic credit: CBS

Intelligence Analyst Nell Jones was an essential character on NCIS: Los Angeles who often helped lead the team from behind-the-scenes.

During Season 11, though, Nell decided to leave NCIS and it led to fans becoming worried that her relationship with Tech Operator Eric Beale would come to an end.

On the show, Nell is played by actress Renee Felice Smith, who has been with the show for many years. Her character often used her tech prowess and her investigation skills to help the characters in the field, who continued to get most of the credit.

Why did Nell leave NCIS?

On Season 11, Episode 19, Nell pulled Special Agent Kensi Blye (Daniela Ruah) aside to speak to her. Nell talked about how she might need to move on from this part of her life and that her love for the job was gone.

The following week, Nell spent a lot of the episode dodging Eric and Henrietta “Hetty” Lange (Linda Hunt). It appeared that she was ready to make a decision about her career, and it was later revealed that Hetty already knew (she typically knows everything) and was just trying to give Nell some space.

Near the end of the episode, Hetty finally met with Nell to have that important chat. But, before Nell could make an official statement or decision about quitting, Hetty told her that she should use some of the leave she had accrued over years on the job.

This seemed to be a good way to keep Nell linked to NCIS, but also give her the freedom to make the choice that she felt was best for her life. Hetty then told Nell that if she didn’t hear back by the time the leave had ended, that it would be a message to her that Nell was officially leaving NCIS.

And then, Nell was gone.

Original plans to wrap up Season 11 were scrapped when NCIS: Los Angeles was unable to film the final four episodes due to the coronavirus pandemic. It seemed like Nell would have reappeared on the show during that time, especially to really evolve or wrap up the storylines for that character

Nell Jones returns for NCIS: LA Season 12

Ahead of the premiere episode, a clip of Nell returning to the NCIS offices was revealed. It contains a few spoilers, but it has a really important conversation between Nell and Hetty that could have an overreaching impact on Season 12.

Additional sneak peek clips have been revealed for the NCIS: LA season premiere and it gives a wider look at what the characters are going to be up to on Season 12, Episode 1.

NCIS: Los Angeles airs Sundays at 8/7c on CBS.

All episodes of NCIS are now streaming on Paramount+. Try it FREE!

The link above is an affiliate link. This means that for any qualifying purchase you make, we may earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you.

Notify of

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

Greetings ~
I missed a few of last season’s episodes so I was a bit shocked when I saw other characters replacing Nell & Eric. Am hugely disappointed. Been watching the program diligently for years. I absolutely enjoy ALL the regular characters including “Hetty” (Linda Hunt), the wise one :-). I do understand (my experiences) when someone feels it is time to move on for whatever reason(s). But I’m still disappointed. The other characters are doing fine but isn’t the same. The one thing else I noticed after watching the episode “The Bear” last evening (aired in MN 3/21/21 – was a rerun I hadn’t seen previously) was that the platform/format of the program was different. Different in the sense that usually Callen, his partner (mind drawing a blank for his name), Deeks & Kinsey take a suspect into a small room to be interrogated. Maybe it was just the nature of the program that took that element away from the usual. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the removal of that segment. Last night’s episode anyway. So many changes but not many in the way or things we want.