‘NCIS:’ Cote de Pablo’s Ziva to Live Only in Agent Gibbs’ Mind in Season 17?

Cote de Pablo has, at last, satisfied NCIS fans spanning the globe by reprising her career-defining role as Ziva David. Making her grand re-entrance in the closing moments of the NCIS season 16 finale, Ziva appears at the top of Agent Gibbs’ staircase, comes down the stairwell – determined, yet also emotionally fueled – to warn the agent that he’s in danger.

Cote de Pablo
Cote de Pablo | Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage

As moms and daughters, sons and fathers, aunt and uncles everywhere jumped up from their couches, Gibbs uttered one word upon seeing his former agent: “Ziva.” The moment was quite emotional, as Gibbs appeared virtually starstruck to see the once presumed dead Ziva David.

Cote de Pablo and Mark Harmon’s characters on the show always retained a father-daughter dynamic; thus, though this instant was designed to express a dire circumstance, the writers were also tasked with catalyzing – in an instant – all the love, respect, and admiration that once existed between the two. And, both the writers and the actors delivered! However, while Ziva appears to be back for good, will the character exist in the real world, or only in Gibbs’ imagination?

Why Cote de Pablo’s Ziva may not be “real” in season 17 of ‘NCIS’

Throughout the entirety of the season 16 finale, Agent Gibbs hallucinates his ex-wife, while trying to manage a personal case involving her daughter, which goes against one of the agent’s many rules.

Coming to the realization that the personal aspect involved in a case may just be the very facet that propels Gibbs to discover the truth, and find the secrets that others may miss, fans are left to wonder whether Ziva’s appearance is simply a continuation of his hallucinatory episode.

While Cote de Pablo is real, is the character she portrays equally tangible? A few signs are leading some viewers to believe that the character may be a hallucination.

While everyone hopes Ziva is alive and in the flesh, it is easy to deem her entrance quite odd. She simply appears at the top of Gibbs’ staircase. After all these years, she didn’t think to knock and let Gibbs come to the door? Furthermore, if Cote de Pablo only exists in his mind, she can be, in a peculiar way, the voice he needs to rediscover his way.

‘NCIS’ writers say Cote de Pablo will only guest star in the season 17 premiere

According to Cinema Blend, the NCIS writers, regarding Cote de Pablo’s return, released the following statement:

“This surprising moment is just the beginning. We are thrilled to share that Cote de Pablo will guest star in the NCIS Season 17 premiere this Fall as Ziva’s warning to Gibbs unfolds.”

Cinema Blend goes onto explain, “Cote de Pablo evidently isn’t joining back up as a series regular.” If a character as major as Ziva is only guest-starring, how can they write her story in such a way that she does not need to appear in every episode? If she only exists in Gibbs’ mind, she can appear and disappear based on the agent’s grip on reality. It would be the easiest way to keep her involved and give her character a reason to exist while keeping Pablo in the guest-star realm.

Let’s hope that the writers have something else planned, as this does feel like one of the weaker narrative options. And, given what Pablo has stated in the past, she likely wouldn’t settle for such a simple arc. Pablo’s role will hopefully develop as the season progresses, and, it would be great to see the actress tasked with protecting the life of her former boss.