‘NCIS’ Season 17 Premiere: Does Ziva Save Gibbs Just in Time?

When Ziva David finally returned to NCIS in the season 16 finale, this was the entirety of her dialogue: 

“Hello, Gibbs. No time for pleasantries. You’re in danger.” 

She wasn’t kidding. An image since released by EW  indicates the danger was imminent. And it has since been revealed that Cote de Pablo will appear in more than the two episodes initially announced. 

Cote de Pablo in NCIS | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

Gibbs is bleeding – or is he? 

The photo in EW is apparently a still from the season premiere. It’s not clear exactly how much time has passed since the finale, but the picture shows Gibbs and Ziva still wearing the same clothes from that scene. Both look disheveled and worse for the wear, which is not unusual for NCIS — but there is the added detail of blood on the side of Gibbs’ head. 

We’re not 100 percent sure it’s Gibbs’ blood, but he looks stunned. Whatever the case, fans have been going over these and other photos the way Star Wars fans have been analyzing the evil C-3PO and “Dark Rey” images from the Rise of Skywalker footage released at last weekend’s D23 event. 

Fan Jessica Carter said on Twitter, “I feel that (showrunner) Steven (Binder) is going to tell a good story for Ziva. He gave us such a good build up from feb to the finale that I feel really good about it going into the premiere …I don’t think Cote would come back if she didn’t believe in the story, so I’m feeling really good.”

A fan with the handle @NativSwan replied, “So well said, Jess. Cotes would not waste her time returning if she didn’t feel it would be mutually beneficial to both Ziva AND her fans. She has always considered her fanbase in her decision making. I for one greatly appreciate that.”

Ziva will appear in at least 4 episodes

NCIS initially said that de Pablo would return in the season premiere to play out her storyline, but it was not clear how long the return would last. We now know that there will be two episodes in the first half of the season, and two in the second half, so presuming that de Pablo isn’t coming back full time, this at least spreads out her return and gives fans something to look forward to.

“We knew from the get-go how long we were going to have her for, at least a minimum,” co-showrunner Steve Binder told TVLine.

Co-showrunner Frank Cardea says that arranging de Pablo’s comeback “started about two months before it happened. We contacted her and she was agreeable, and it really worked out well.”

De Pablo had input into Ziva’s return

After de Pablo left the show in 2013, she revealed that she had been unhappy with where the scripts were taking her character.

She said in an interview, “They were going to send [Ziva] back to Israel and make her a sad, miserable woman. I said, ‘What do I leave all the women that are watching and following the show?’ And I didn’t think it was fair. So, I said, ‘Unless someone can really write something fantastic, I won’t go back.”

So when NCIS approached de Pablo about making a return, they made sure that she had some say over the story. Frank Cardea said she had specific ideas about what Ziva had been up to in her absence, and it was the actress who came up with her pithy, no-nonsense warning to Gibbs.

Cardea said the danger at hand “has to do with what has happened to [Ziva] and where she has been for the past four or five years,” ever since she ‘died.’ And make no mistake, she and Gibbs are “both in jeopardy.”