‘NCIS:’ Proof That Michael Weatherly’s Exit Upset Fans More Than Cote de Pablo’s

Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo were mainstays on NCIS for several of the show’s most memorable seasons. The dynamic duo, boasting a slow-boiling romance fraught with jealousy, confusion, and needed doses of humor, offered chemistry that oozed from the screen until de Pablo left at the start of season eleven. 

Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo
Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo | Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

Cote de Pablo exited NCIS, a few years before Weatherly, going on to explore opportunities outside the hit procedural. She starred in both The Dovekeepers and The 33 in 2015. Though she tried to cement a career untethered to the former Mossad Agent she had grown famous for portraying, de Pablo failed to gain much ground as both works opened to poor critical reviews.

On the other hand, Michael Weatherly left NCIS after completing season 13 and went on to lead a new hit procedural, Bull. Though watching Weatherly take on another comedic character – a more mature DiNozzo of sorts – he has yet to make the leap to the silver screen and is still intimately tied to his former NCIS role.

Both Cote de Pablo and Michael Weatherly will forever be remembered as Ziva David and Tony DiNozzo respectively. You can’t star on the number one show for years on end without falling victim to the Harry Potter effect. The question remains: with two stars intimately tied to their characters, who did fans miss more? Whose departure left fans scarred beyond repair?

Ratings suggest Michael Weatherly’s departure from ‘NCIS’ dealt the bigger blow 

The last season Michael Weatherly starred in NCIS, the show raked in an average of 16.611 million viewers across its 24 episodes. However, the following season, according to TV Series Finale, the show averaged 14.619 million viewers. After Michael Weatherly left NCIS, the show lost nearly 2 million viewers on average! 

In comparison, in Cote de Pablo’s final season, the show averaged 18.5 million viewers and only dropped to 17.26 million the following season. While Cote de Pablo was an integral character and a fan favorite, ratings would suggest that Weatherly’s absence was deemed a bit more “unacceptable,” leading many fans to bid the show farewell.

Note: NCIS ratings have steadily decreased over time, so a drop each season is expected. However, the show usually loses approximately one million viewers with each passing season. The loss of nearly two million viewers following Weatherly’s departure remains one of the show’s most significant declines between two seasons. 

If the series continues to lose fans – season sixteen closed out to an average of 12.101 million viewers – will the show be able to persist? Will Cote de Pablo’s return be enough to give the show the boost it needs?

Will Cote de Pablo’s return catalyze a resurgence in ‘NCIS’ ratings, or does the show need Weatherly too? 

Since Cote de Pablo was a fan favorite while starring in NCIS, her return is bound to bring back some since departed fans. Her run as Ziva David was inspiring, and her performance was captivating: she got to play a tough girl, with both a kick*** (we mean this literally) personality and a romantic plotline. How often do those two qualities come together on-screen? 

While Cote de Pablo’s Ziva David was entertaining in her own right, her relationship with DiNozzo was the show’s bread to Mark Harmon’s butter for many years. Their relationship was one of the very reasons fans kept coming back for more. So, will Michael Weatherly return to star across from Ziva?

If Michael Weatherly does not reprise his role, will de Pablo’s return be enough to gain back millions of the viewers? Or, will a return, absent of DiNozzo, fail to hit the high note the showrunners are hoping for?