‘NCIS’: The Biggest Clues Why Ziva’s Return Isn’t Just a Ghost

If you’re an NCIS fan, then you’ll probably be debating with your friends all summer whether Cote de Pablo’s Ziva David’s return at the end of the 16th season was real or imagined. To understand whether this is true, you have to go into the mind of Jethro Gibbs and decide whether he’s hallucinating seeing Ziva walk into his basement.

Or, is Ziva just a ghost who might haunt Gibbs throughout next fall’s 17th season?

Cote De Pablo
Cote De Pablo from NCIS | Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

Let’s not assume NCIS writers are going to become this contrived. The show has always been about crime reality. That being said, let’s look at a few clues showing the Ziva you saw is the real deal.

The biggest clue comes from seeing Ziva open a door and walk down steps

As you may remember watching NCIS’s 16th season finale, Jethro Gibbs happened to be in his basement when Ziva opened the door and descended down the steps to confront him head-on. We also hear her speak a few lines, making her appearance all the more vivid.

The fact that we hear her footsteps as she descends, we should assume this really is Ziva. Unless she has a doppelganger out there who happened to usurp her identity.

Gibbs’ response was one projecting only mild surprise, which may be a unique form of Mark Harmon’s acting style. It almost seemed he had one side of himself that wasn’t surprised, considering evidence indicated he knew she was alive for the last six years.

Then again, with some fans contending Gibbs had a breakdown, maybe he’s just projecting delusions.

Cote de Pablo likely wanted a chance to give Ziva some respect in life

How great would it have been to be an indiscreet fly on the wall in the writing room while Cote de Pablo negotiated her comeback? Since she originally left due to the writers not respecting her character. We have to wonder if she had a true say in how Ziva will be depicted after faking her death.

Bringing TV characters back from death is already a risky undertaking. Making them a ghost is even worse, and something she no doubt nixed if there was any insinuation.

Having her truly there gives a chance to add some new depths to the character, particularly since she won’t be the same person after hiding out from terrorists for six years.

Fans want her to at least have the same appealing traits she had before she left. No doubt de Pablo demanded they keep her the same so fans won’t rebel against this return.

Filling in those missing years

Most returns of past TV characters (after being thought dead) were usually surreal and far over the line in acceptability. Most of those examples were on comedies or tongue-in-cheek dramas. In some cases, there wasn’t any explanation and just assumed a dream–as in the case when Dan Conner (John Goodman) returned to the Roseanne reboot after dying in the previous series.

Bringing a sense of logic to Ziva’s story will make all the difference in whether people keep watching through the 17th season or give up on it as an assumption of a gimmick.

Filling in Ziva’s backstory and what happened to her since 2013 could be a truly interesting character study. With that, we’ll likely learn Ziva has changed at least somewhat, hopefully without having an overhaul of her familiar personality.

Plus, we’ll realize Gibbs is still mentally sound knowing Ziva is really there. Not that we don’t solidly believe Ziva couldn’t take his place if it’s found out the alpha Gibbs truly had a breakdown to a point of no longer functioning in his job.