‘NCIS’: How Was Ziva David’s Return Kept a Secret?

For fans of the long-running CBS drama, NCIS, it was quite the shock when the show hinted that fan-favorite Ziva David might still be alive. But at the conclusion of season 16 episode 13, fans worried the mention of Cote de Pablo’s character might just be a ruse and they shouldn’t get their hopes up for the character’s return.

Cote de Pablo is back as Ziva
Cote de Pablo is back as Ziva | Gregg DeGuire/WireImage

Fans were pleasantly surprised when de Pablo as Ziva did indeed return to the show in the closing minutes of the season 16 finale. Though there is no official word whether the actress’ return is permanent and whether her character is indeed alive, fans are already excited about how this could affect the show moving forward.

Fans have secretly been hoping for de Pablo’s return ever since she left the show, but to most, they never saw that dream actually materializing. Now that the character has returned to the show, fans really want to know: “How was Ziva David’s return kept a secret?”

When did Cote de Pablo leave NCIS?

Cote de Pablo left NCIS in 2013 after playing Ziva David for eight years. The actress departed the show originally citing personal reasons. Later de Pablo admitted that internal politics at the show played a role in her departure.

She added that she didn’t agree with the storyline the writers had in mind for her character, stating, “Unfortunately, because of political things and the scripts not being good enough, I chose not to [stay]. I love this character. I worked eight years in crafting this character and loving her, so when I felt or I perceived the character was not being treated with the respect that she deserved, all the money in the world couldn’t buy [me].”

Fans were disappointed about the character’s departure, but they weren’t the only ones. Co-star David McCallum thought de Pablo was making the wrong decision by leaving the show. McCallum told Digital Spy, “I just don’t understand how a leading lady in a show that’s worldwide, who ostensibly wants to have a career as an actress, suddenly walks away from such a gem and just vanishes a couple of days before we start production.” The actor added that he felt that de Pablo didn’t take the rest of the cast into consideration and made a “poor career move.”

Is de Pablo back for good?

Right now it is uncertain in what capacity the actress will be returning to the show. The 39-year-old made a brief appearance on the season finale but is only scheduled to return as a guest star for the season premiere this fall. 

That doesn’t mean that her role won’t be changed to a series regular once the 17th season gets underway. Writers and producers kept her return under wraps so as not to spoil the storyline this season. If there are plans to have the actress return full time, it could be that the showrunners may not be ready to announce her return just yet. 

How did ‘NCIS’ keep Ziva David’s return a secret?

It’s not easy to keep a secret in Hollywood these days. One slip or one leaked script can completely spoil a major twist. So it was surprising that NCIS was able to keep things under wraps. But how did they manage to keep Ziva David’s return a secret?

de Pablo’s return was somewhat of a covert operation for those who knew about her return. No one outside of showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder had a copy of the final scene. To keep de Pablo’s presence hidden, the actress was brought in through a back door and the scene was filmed with a small crew around midnight. 

For now, de Pablo’s future is unknown, but fans will definitely be tuning in this fall to see what the future holds.