‘NCIS’: When Does Season 18 Return With Episode 8?

Season 18 of NCIS hasn’t been an easy one for fans. It began two months later than normal due to the pandemic. CBS also cut their order down to just 16 episodes because of the production delays and new COVID protocols.

This has caused a ton of gaps in the broadcast schedule, forcing fans to go weeks without new episodes. NCIS just aired episode seven on February 9. But now fans are asking, when will the show return with episode eight?

Maria Bello and Mark Harmon on the set of NCIS on Tuesday, April 9
Mark Harmon and Maria Bello on the set of ‘NCIS’ | Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images

Fans have only seen four new episodes of ‘NCIS’ in 2021

Season 18 of NCIS didn’t start until November, two months later than its normal September premiere. But just three episodes into the season, the series took its usual winter break that lasted six weeks.

The CBS procedural returned on January 19 with two episodes in one night – episode 4 “Sunburn” and episode 5 “Head of the Snake.” In the second episode that evening, fans finally got answers about the season 18 cold open that saw Gibbs (Mark Harmon) shoot McGee (Sean Murray).

Fans got two more episodes, with number six airing on January 26 and number seven on February 9. But unfortunately, NCIS has now taken another break after just four new episodes in 2021. On February 16, CBS will air a repeat of the “Head of the Snake” episode.

For fans who need to catch up, this episode shows Gibbs and Fornell (Joe Spano) finally catching up with the head of the drug ring who was responsible for Fornell’s daughter’s overdose.

Will episode 8 be Maria Bello’s last?

Before season 18 began, Maria Bello (Jack Sloane) announced she would be leaving the series after three seasons. However, she isn’t going to finish out the season. Instead, Bello will only appear in eight episodes before her exit. That means that Season 18, Episode 8 “True Believer” should be her last.

The episode synopsis reads, “When Sloane’s name is discovered in Afghanistan at the site of an abandoned bus with a dead driver, Gibbs accompanies her on a trip to find a group of girls who were kidnapped from the bus. Also, McGee, Bishop and Torres track down a hacker who emailed compromising information to the Taliban.”

RELATED: ‘NCIS’: All the Signs That Maria Bello’s Jack Sloane Is Headed for a Deadly Exit

It’s not certain, but the expectation is that this will be Bello’s last episode. And it will be quite an emotional hour. Some fans believe that the episode synopsis indicates that they will kill off Bello’s character. But again, that’s just speculation and isn’t set in stone.

When will ‘NCIS’ return with episode 8?

According to Express, the cast and crew are still filming season 18, and this could be the reason why there have been so many breaks. As a rule, February is sweeps month and broadcasters air a ton of new content to bring in ratings for ad sales. But not this year, since the pandemic has wreaked havoc on various productions and the broadcast schedule.

When the cast and crew returned to the set after production delays, Murray said everyone was wearing masks and face shields.

“You’ve got 17 or 18 years of associations in your head — how you walk from the trailer to the set, how you get breakfast — and everything is completely changed,” Murray explained. “It really threw us off for a big loop. We had to adjust; there was a lot of just nodding and pretending that we could hear each other.”

Along with releasing the episode synopsis, the network also revealed that NCIS would be taking a three-week break. The long-running series will return to CBS with episode eight on Tuesday, March 2.