Does Cote de Pablo’s Returning to ‘NCIS’ Really Mean Mark Harmon Is Leaving the Show?

NCIS is one of the most popular shows of all time, thanks in part to the riveting, well-written characters. One of the most popular of those characters is Ziva David, played to perfection by actress Cote de Pablo. While de Pablo was one of the instrumental forces in making the show a success, she departed NCIS in 2013, reportedly unhappy with the direction that her character was heading.

Still, NCIS executives managed to pull off the surprise return of the year, when Ziva made an abrupt appearance in the NCIS season sixteen finale. 

How did Ziva David return to ‘NCIS’?

Cote de Pablo in NCIS | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

Cote de Pablo joined the cast of NCIS in 2005 and quickly became a fan favorite. Her sweet, father-daughter relationship with Gibbs, the series protagonist, played by Mark Harmon, as well as her on-again-off-again romance with fellow agent Tony DiNozzo, allowed for plenty of intrigue around her character.

Ziva was also one of television’s strongest female role models, creating a tough, iconic presence that stood all on her own.

When Cote de Pablo left the show in 2013, fans were devastated. For years, de Pablo worked on her own projects, separate from the NCIS universe, but fans never forgot the character of Ziva or lost hope that she might eventually make a return.

Their faith was rewarded in May 2019, when Ziva herself showed up in the final moments of the season sixteen finale episode, warning Gibbs of imminent danger. Although she was only on screen for a few seconds, her appearance ignited a media firestorm. 

Ziva will factor prominently in season seventeen

While NCIS producers have revealed that Ziva will be featured throughout the upcoming seventeenth season of NCIS, set to debut in September, they have not let slip any details as to what exactly her role will be.

There have been many fan theories, one of the most popular being that Cote de Pablo’s former co-star, Michael Weatherly, who played Tony DiNozzo, will also be making a surprise return and possibly re-ignite their on-screen romance. 

A few fans have expressed the desire to see Ziva reuniting with all her former coworkers and fellow agents, while others have surmised that Ziva was only a figment of Gibbs’ imagination and that she was never really there at all. There is one other theory that has slowly been gaining traction among the NCIS fanbase, one that if proven true, would shake up the series in a major way.

Will Cote de Pablo be replacing Mark Harmon?

The fan theory that has many on edge states that with Cote de Pablo set to return as Ziva, a high-profile character that many fans love, it could mean that Mark Harmon, who has played Gibbs since the show’s beginning, could be ready to make his exit from NCIS.

While the theory is pure speculation at this point, it does make a certain amount of sense. After all, rumors have been swirling for a while that Harmon is considering an exit from the show. At this point, Harmon has not signed on past season seventeen, which has led many to believe that he is planning to leave the show after this next season. 

Fan reactions to the theory on social media have definitely been mixed. Some fans are outspoken in their belief that Harmon is too old to continue to believably play Gibbs for too much longer and that de Pablo’s Ziva is the perfect replacement. Others claim that Gibbs makes the show what it is and that they will not continue to watch if Harmon steps down from the role.

Fans will have to wait until the September premiere of NCIS to see what role Ziva ultimately ends up taking.