‘NCIS’ Season 18: Wilmer Valderrama Hints Mark Harmon’s Gibbs May Finally Be Ready to Pass the Torch

The cast and crew of NCIS is finally back to work after a six-month hiatus. They started shooting season 18 in early September. But CBS has remained tight-lipped about details, including a premiere date. For updates, fans have turned to cast members’ social media feeds and interviews. Some fans believe that Wilmer Valderrama just dropped a clue that Mark Harmon is finally ready to pass the torch.

‘NCIS’ stars Mark Harmon and Wilmer Valderrama | Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

‘NCIS’ has confirmed that one of Gibbs’ mysterious disappearance will be explained

During season 17, fans witnessed Gibbs (Harmon) go through a significant character change. The hardened leader finally revealed a more vulnerable side to his co-workers, especially McGee (Sean Murray).

According to Express, the upcoming season will continue to explore this change. And, they could possibly reveal that the event which sparked it occurred during one of Gibbs’ mystery disappearances. In Season 17, Episode 8, titled “Musical Chairs,” Gibbs temporarily went AWOL. When he returned with a black eye, he shared very little information about his absence.

Co-showrunner Steve Binder says that fans are finally going to get some answers about that mysterious disappearance. He revealed that the season 18 premiere will pick up “back in time”  in a “pre-COVID world” when Gibbs was on that secret mission.

There will be a multi-episode arc exploring the mission, and during that time his team will be back in Washington D.C. By the time Gibbs returns, Binder says they will “be in a COVID world at that point.” But, those episodes might not air until February.

The CBS procedural will reach a major milestone during season 18

Because the pandemic cut season 17 short, they weren’t able to shoot the final four planned episodes. This means that the NCIS season 18 premiere will be episode 399. For their special 400th episode, NCIS will jump back about two decades to when Gibbs and Ducky (David McCallum) first met.

RELATED: ‘NCIS’ EP Confirms 1 Fan-Favorite Will Pop Up in Season 18

Adam Campbell is expected to return as young Ducky in the episode. And, Mark Harmon’s son Sean will be playing the role of young Gibbs in the one-off special. This isn’t the first time Sean is taking on the part, as fans have seen him a half-dozen times before.

Delilah Fielding will also be returning to the role of Margo Harshman this season after skipping season 17. Maria Bello (Jack Sloane) is expected to be in eight episodes before her exit. She announced earlier this year that season 18 would be her last. Although, it isn’t clear when and how she will be leaving.

Will Mark Harmon pass the torch after 18 seasons on ‘NCIS’?

Harmon has been a mainstay on NCIS since day one. Not only is he the star of the show, he’s also the executive producer. His character has guided the NCIS team through hundreds of cases. And, rumors have been swirling for a while now that the 69-year-old is ready to move on.

As Express points out, Valderrama’s character Nick Torres works closely with Gibbs, and he would seem to be a prime candidate for his replacement. However, Harmon made it clear in 2019 that he’s not “calling it a day” just yet.

Valderrama says Gibbs is going to be a major influence in how Torres evolves as a leader. And, his hints about the upcoming season have some fans believing Gibbs is grooming Torres to take over.

“In the last season, you saw a lot of them come together as the veteran wolf coming in with the young wolf,” Valderrama explained. “You’re going to see that play out a lot this season. How Gibbs is going to seem a little bit and feel a little bit responsible for the restructuring of Torres’ morality.”

CBS has not yet announced the NCIS season 18 premiere date.