One can’t blame NCIS fans for hoping against hope that Michael Weatherly might return to the show to reprise his role of Anthony DiNozzo so they can have Tiva in all their glory. After all, fans wished really hard for Ziva (Cote de Pablo) to come back, and look at what happened there. Two and one-twentieth episodes down and two more to go with Cote de Pablo.
We have pointed out in the past that it would be difficult to get Weatherly back for a few different reasons, one of those being there’s been no verifiable information that he will be back. Then again, NCIS mounted a top-secret operation just to get de Pablo back to the studio. Who’s to say they couldn’t do the same for Weatherly?
‘NCIS’ is dropping hints left and right
The first two episodes of season 17 persistently teased the Ziva and Tony reunion. For one thing, Tony himself was seen in multiple flashbacks, most touching when Ziva went back to her old desk in the office and imagined Tony being right across from her. For another thing, at the end of the second episode, Gibbs held up his ringing cell phone to Ziva, and we got a close-up of the phone with the word “DiNozzo.”
This doesn’t explicitly promise that Tony will return. We’re willing to bet that the NCIS showrunners don’t know for sure yet if they’ll get Weatherly back. If they can’t, they could very easily have the reunion happen offscreen, just like the mortar attack that supposedly killed Ziva.
However, the showrunners are only too aware of the attachment that fans feel towards the couple. In an interview with USA Today, NCIS executive producer Steven Binder said: “We’re very well aware of the Tony-Ziva connection and the fans’ desire and response to it.” Being aware of it isn’t the same as being able to follow through, however.
Why did Michael Weatherly and Cote de Pablo leave ‘NCIS?’
De Pablo departed the show first in 2013. Although no concrete reason was given at the time, the actress later revealed she had been unhappy with how Ziva had been diminished in the scripts. She said she could be convinced to return if the writers came up with something compelling, and obviously, they did, in her estimation. She liked the opportunity of playing Ziva as someone traumatized by her past.
Weatherly left NCIS in 2016, later saying he was burnt out on the show after 13 seasons. He immediately got a new gig on the show Bull, which is now in its fourth season. He and CBS found themselves caught up in controversy when former Bull co-star Eliza Dushku accused Weatherly of sexual harassment, prompting the network to settle with Dushku for $9.5 million.
Weatherly apologized for his conduct, but a cloud now hovers over him — so much so that he deleted his social media accounts. While Weatherly specifically said he would like to return to NCIS, CBS might be wary of the unwelcome attention that could follow Weatherly back to his old show. NCIS has also endured an unrelated controversy when former NCIS star Pauley Perrette accused NCIS mainstay Mark Harmon of traumatizing her.
Some kind of reunion will happen, but what will it entail?
Despite all these issues, it may yet be possible for Weatherly to return in at least a small capacity. A proposed spin-off with Ziva and Tony isn’t completely out of the question. Weatherly and de Pablo are obviously fond of one another, even to the point that they had plans to co-produce a detective show called MIA for CBS, although they would not star in that show.
However, given all the uncertainty around Weatherly, this seems unlikely, unless maybe Bull ends after four seasons. It seems more realistic that Weatherly could come back for a season-ending cameo, just like Ziva did last May, and then the two could head off into a metaphorical sunset together. If that still couldn’t be worked out, the show plans to at least reunite Ziva with her and Tony’s daughter Tali.
Showrunner Steven D. Binder said: “Speaking as a parent, it would be awful for that not to happen, and we’re not an awful show. We deal with dead bodies in cases, but we try to have a little light at the end of the day…So I can’t imagine that not being something we’re going to see.”