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NCIS is ready to begin a whole new era. Season 20 will mark the procedural’s first full season without stalwart Mark Harmon (Leroy Jethro Gibbs), and fans will finally get to see the new team with no expectation of his return. 

To kick off this new season and new era, NCIS is bringing back another fan favorite for the premiere, adding a new recurring cast member, and working a case with the team from NCIS: Hawai’i via crossover! Here’s what we know.

NCIS star Gary Cole as Special Agent Alden Parker in the season 20 premiere
Gary Cole in the ‘NCIS’ Season 20 premiere | CBS via Getty Images

The ‘NCIS’ Season 20 premiere will feature the return of fan-favorite Tobias Fornell

Joe Spano has been popping up on NCIS as FBI agent Tobias Fornell since the beginning of the series. Over the years, Fornell and Gibbs grew quite close and leaned on each other when they experienced trauma. 

But just because Gibbs has retired to Alaska, that doesn’t mean fans won’t get to see Fornell anymore. He has a relationship with longstanding team members, like Agent McGee (Sean Murray), Director Vance (Rocky Carroll), and Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen). Fornell also knows new team leader Alden Parker (Gary Cole) from his days in the FBI.

Because of this connection to the NCIS team, CBS has announced that Spano will be back as Fornell during the season 20 premiere — an episode titled “A Family Matter.”

The season 20 premiere will be a crossover with ‘Hawai’i’

Fans will recall that NCIS Season 19 ended with Parker being framed for murder in a case involving his ex-wife — former FBI agent Vivian Kolchak, played by Fosters alum Teri Polo. She will be back for season 20 as a recurring character, and the story will pick up in the season 20 premiere exactly where it left off in season 19. 

“Special Agent Alden Parker (Gary Cole) is still on the run with his ex-wife Vivian (Teri Polo), so the team investigates who from his past might have a personal vendetta against him in hopes of clearing Parker’s name,” the episode description reads.

The premiere will also be a two-hour crossover event with NCIS: Hawai’i, marking the spinoff’s season 2 premiere. But unlike the crossover last season — which took place in Hawaii with NCIS agents Nick Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) and Lucy Knight (Katrina Law) visiting from DC — this crossover will take place on the mainland.

“Enlisting the help of NCIS: Hawai’i’s Special Agent Jane Tennant (Vanessa Lachey) and Computer Specialist Ernie Malick (Jason Antoon), who are in town meeting with Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) in preparation for a global military exercise, the group tracks down their prime suspect, The Raven,” the description concludes.

‘NCIS’ Season 20 will be a bit different compared to seasons past

Harmon’s absence won’t be the only change to NCIS in season 20. Executive producer Steven D. Binder told Parade that viewers will get to know more about the agents’ personal lives, instead of the team exclusively working cases.

“We’ll be seeing their non-work life a little more. I think one of the cores of the show is the cases. The show’s called NCIS, it’s about the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. But anyone who watches the show knows that it’s really about the people on the show,” Binder explained.


‘NCIS’ Showrunner Steven D. Binder on the Return of Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs — ‘He Can Come Back, He’s Safe, He’s Happy’

“I always tell the new writers, your cases have to work, they need to be funny, they need to be interesting, they need to be in a new arena, they need to be clear, they need a twist, and they need to be exciting to the end. And nobody cares about any of it. What they care about is the people on the show and their history. So, you’ve got to get that straight so we can then dance in the realm that people care about.”

The NCIS Season 20/NCIS: Hawai’i Season 2 premiere crossover event airs Monday, September 19 on CBS.