‘NCIS:’ Why Cote de Pablo’s Return as Ziva Would Spell Drama

Cote de Pablo starred as the former Mossad agent Ziva David on NCIS until her departure in 2013. While she has been off the show for nearly six full seasons, as she stayed to finish her character’s narrative arc at the onset of season eleven, fans have been hoping for a Ziva return ever since.

Cote de Pablo
Cote de Pablo | Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage

Cote de Pablo had incomparable on-screen chemistry with Michael Weatherly (Tony DiNozzo) while on the show, and her character boasted a sweet father-daughter dynamic with Agent Gibbs and a sibling-like relationship with McGee. While many fans were initially skeptical concerning her casting, as she was brought on to replace agent Kate Todd after Sasha Alexander left the show, the character – virtually overnight – became a fan-favorite.

While Cote de Pablo’s return as Ziva, and her presence on CBS’s Tuesday night lineup, initially felt like a pipe dream, the writers behind NCIShave made her return seem all the more likely, if not inevitable. Now that Eleanor Bishop (Emily Wickersham) knows she’s alive and kicking, what’s next? Will Ziva magically appear during the season finale? Or, will she jump in at the start of season seventeen?

Though imagining Cote de Pablo’s return may make for quite the exciting daydream, it’s important to note that she would likely lay down a few ground rules before signing on the dotted line. Ground rules that could spell drama for those behind the production and lead to major changes on the show.

Cote de Pablo left ‘NCIS’ because she felt her character was not being treated with the “respect” she deserved

While initially failing to provide specific reasoning behind her decision to leave, aside from personal matters she chose not to disclose, Cote de Pablo later revealed what many believe to be the truth during a Q & A. She stated:

“Look, I love this character. I worked eight years crafting this character and loving her. And so when I felt or I perceived that the character was not being treated with the respect that she deserved, no money in the world [would suffice]. They were going to send her back to Israel and make her an unfortunate, miserable woman. I said, ‘What do I leave all the women that have watched and followed the show for so long?’ And I didn’t think it was fair. So I said, ‘Unless someone can really write something fantastic for her, I won’t go back”

So, what does this mean? If Cote de Pablo agrees to come back to show, she’s going to require a storyline boasting more impact and more complex characterization. Meaning, she may want her character to be as vital, and as important to the NCIS saga, as Agent Gibbs.

Why Cote de Pablo’s “request” for Ziva would likely lead to major changes on ‘NCIS’

“Something fantastic” may be vague, but it’s definitely not to be downplayed, for it implies a level of narrative importance that would likely supersede that of the other show members.

NCIS thrives because the many supporting characters are all equals. Would the show continue to operate smoothly if one of the characters, working under Gibbs, was painted as more important than the others? This would likely lead to audiences perceiving an incongruous tonal shift.

Cote de Pablo’s reason for departure comes down to “respect” in the end; meaning, she would probably arrive with the expectation that her story, and her time on NCIS, would be different than before. If this failed to be true, or decisions regarding her character wound up not meeting her expectations, heated conversations could quickly ensue.

Would Cote de Pablo expect to make decisions regarding her character? Would she require the writers to pass their ideas by her first?

While the extent of a possible arrangement cannot be determined, it’s likely that those behind NCIS, if choosing to bring back Cote de Pablo, will have to meet a few tricky demands first.