‘NCIS’ Season 17: Why Ziva David Must Die Saving Gibbs

Cote de Pablo returned to NCIS as Ziva David and, in the final moments of the season finale, warned Gibbs of the formidable threat coming his way. The conclusion was both emotionally stirring and suspense-building, as it laid the groundwork for the character’s purpose in season 17 and the upcoming season’s narrative.

Cote de Pablo and Mark Harmon of NCIS
Cote de Pablo and Mark Harmon of ‘NCIS’ | Photo by Vera Anderson/WireImage

While all remained hazy at the end of season sixteen, a recent teaser trailer provides a little more insight. The threat: a woman named Zahar. Who is she? Ziva doesn’t know, but showrunner Steve Binder wants us to know that this threat will be related to Ziva’s elaborate history. And, based on Binder’s words, as well as what we know about the show, all signs point to Ziva sacrificing herself in the end. Let’s break it down. Binder shared the following with Parade:

…So when we came up with this backstory, we laid a little pipe ourselves once we knew we had Cote, but the initial genesis of this story was — and this is a clue — it’s something that has been part of the fabric of the show, her character and the introduction of her character from the very beginning. So, we’re playing with the DNA of Ziva David in terms of this jeopardy. This isn’t some newly created arch nemesis conspiracy theory or conspiracy that she’s tried to get out from beneath. This will tie into the lore and history of the show.


Steve Binder provides fans a significant insight here: the new threat will tie into the lore and history of the show. What else could he be referring to other than Ziva’s introduction to the series via her step-brother, Ari, who she was forced to shoot and kill to save Gibbs? Ziva later grappled with the truth, struggling to come to terms with the fact that her brother was involved with Al-Qaeda. So, what does all this have to do with Ziva, and why will it ultimately lead to Ziva sacrificing herself? 

The narrative reason Ziva must sacrifice herself to save Gibbs in ‘NCIS’ season 17

Ziva and Gibbs’ bond forged as Ziva came to terms with who her brother was and what he did. The father-daughter dynamic grew, as a result of her display of morality and loyalty. Trust was built. Now, trust has been broken; Ziva has been gone, and she must rebuild a relationship with Gibbs. What better way to bring these two back together than to reintroduce the very thing that catalyzed their relationship in the first place? 

The whole situation is quite fatalistic, despite the darkness hovering over the narrative; the threat that brought them together, and then divided them, will bring them together once again…proving loyalty always remains. Ziva and Gibbs also never got a chance to say goodbye. 

While Ziva was able to close her narrative with DiNozzo, many fans yearned for her to speak with Gibbs one last time — to speak with the man who became a father to her. Proving her loyalty after all these years, Ziva has emerged to fight a threat that could now hurt her former boss, and she is willing to lose her life along the way.

If the former butt-kicking, quick-thinking Mossad agent went into hiding, Zahar must be one formidable foe. And this time, both cannot emerge alive. Aside from the narrative depth and emotional pull Ziva’s sacrifice would have, it also makes the most sense logistically.

The logistics: the other reasons Ziva must die 

Ziva is set to appear in two episodes at the onset, and two towards the close. Unless all the rumors that Mark Harmon is prepping to retire are true, he will not be going anywhere, and Cote de Pablo will not replace him as the leader. Not to mention, the position belongs to Sean Murray’s McGee. 

If Cote de Pablo’s Ziva was to live, she would want to see her daughter who is with DiNozzo (as stated in the teaser). And, unless DiNozzo has signed on for an episode or two, such a reunion seems improbable.

While the showrunners may have worked out a way for a happy ending, with Tali and DiNozzo reuniting with Ziva, Ziva’s death seems the most likely. If she dies saving Gibbs, the show doesn’t have to work in DiNozzo’s appearance.

A lot of behind-the-scenes work would be required if Ziva were to emerge alive. Where would she go after the threat was destroyed? If she went back to live with her family, DiNozzo’s appearance would be mandatory, and such an appearance — while hinted at and desired — has not been leaked. Furthermore, Weatherly is the lead in his own show! It’s easier to give the actress the enticing “fantastic” narrative she always wanted, and bid her farewell.