Mark Harmon Set This Goal When Cote de Pablo Left ‘NCIS:’ Has the Show Lived up to It?

Cote de Pablo was one of the first main cast members to leave NCIS. Initially citing personal reasons upon departing, Pablo later credited a lack of “respect” on her character’s behalf as the motivating factor. However, for nine glorious seasons, Cote de Pablo portrayed former Mossad Agent Ziva David in the hit show led by Mark Harmon.

Mark Harmon and Cote de Pablo
Mark Harmon and Cote de Pablo | Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

Brought on to replace the beloved Kate Todd (played by Sasha Alexander), many fans were initially skeptical. Who could be as integral to the team as Todd, and as beneficial to the cast as Alexander? Though Cote de Pablo had tough shoes to fill, she instantly found her way into viewers’ hearts.

Ziva boasted a father-daughter dynamic with Agent Gibbs, a sibling-like bond with McGee, and, most famously, palpable chemistry and a slow-boiling romance with Michael Weatherly’s DiNozzo. Confusing American idioms in one scene and taking down bad guys in the next, her character was unique, captivating, and complex. Thus, when she left, those over at CBS worried about the show’s future.

CBS reportedly offered Cote de Pablo quite the impressive sum to stay; however, it was her time to spread her wings. She went on to star in The 33 and The Dovekeepers in 2015. When asked about Cote de Pablo’s departure, Mark Harmon’s goal for the show became clear. 

Mark Harmon on Cote de Pablo’s exit, and the show’s subsequent challenge 

When Cote de Pablo left NCIS, Mark Harmon explained to TV Guide that the “professional group” left had quite the challenge to overcome, and a tough goal to meet. He stated:

“We have another change this year, with Cote leaving…and it’s up to this highly professional group to use that as a springboard, to improve and stay No. 1 [in total viewers].”

Mark Harmon, upon Cote de Pablo’s departure, wanted to ensure that NCIS stay at number one. NCIS has been one of the most successful shows on TV for years, and though it remains popular, has the show consistently lived up to this goal? 

‘NCIS’ remains at the top, but its ratings have dropped drastically over time 

An average of 12.101 million viewers watched the last season of NCIS; however, 13.222 million viewers watched the final season of The Big Bang Theory, according to TV Series Finale. While NCIS did not hold the number one position overall, it was the most-watched scripted drama in 2018. After sixteen seasons, this is nothing to be ashamed of.

Though NCIS still boasts enough viewers – and the loyal fanbase – needed to stay on the air, its ratings have steadily decreased over the last few seasons. According to TV Series finale, an average of 18.5 million people watched NCIS in season 11 – which also happened to be de Pablo’s final season. 

After Cote de Pablo left, the show dropped to slightly above 17 million viewers; Weatherly’s exit led to a loss of approximately 2 million viewers between seasons – one of the greatest declines the show has ever seen.

As NCIS continues, its viewership numbers decline. Thus, it’s likely that those over at CBS are using Cote de Pablo as a ploy to boost ratings and bring back some since-departed NCIS enthusiasts. 

As for Mark Harmon’s goal, the show may still be at the top, but it is nowhere near the ratings hog it used to be. Nearly 20 million people use to tune in weekly for NCIS. Let’s hope, for NCIS’ sake, that Cote de Pablo can pull off the boost in ratings that everyone is hoping for.