‘NCIS’: Will Cote de Pablo’s Return Help or Hinder Ratings?

In what’s destined to be one of the most famous TV season finales of all time, Cote de Pablo appeared as Ziva David in the final moments of NCIS season sixteen. Arriving to warn Gibbs of imminent danger, Ziva came hurrying down the stairwell, eventually coming eye-to-eye with the agent she shared a heartwarming father-daughter dynamic with for nine successful seasons. 

NCIS star Cote de Pablo
‘NCIS’ star Cote de Pablo | Photo by Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

While the moment sent many fans into an uproarious celebration, others issued a sigh of disappointment and bowed their heads. Though Cote de Pablo was a fan-favorite while on the series, her return has been met with mixed reception. Many are happy to see Ziva back on the show, as they feel she needs to close our her story with Gibbs in a more fulfilling way. However, others feel she will take away from the narrative progress the show has been experiencing as of late.

Given Cote de Pablo’s impactful performance, it should come as no surprise that the showrunners approached the actress, and asked her to return to NCIS. Not to mention, while the show remains the most popular scripted drama on the air, its ratings have been steadily decreasing. Thus, her return is clearly intended to bring back some since-departed viewers. However, did the showrunners make the right move? Will Ziva’s return lead to a boost in ratings, or will the naysayers say sayonara and switch the channel? Let’s explore both sides of the argument.

Why Cote de Pablo’s return to ‘NCIS’ as Ziva David could benefit the show

When Cote de Pablo left the series, the showrunners offered her quite the sizable sum to stay, fearing that her departure would lead to a stark drop in ratings. She did not accept and later admitted that she would not return to the show unless something narratively “fantastic” was penned for her character; by the end, de Pablo felt that Ziva had lost the respect she previously retained (from the writers). 

If Cote de Pablo’s wish has been granted, the writers have developed an intricate and character-defining way to reintroduce the former Mossad Agent; meaning, some of the lazy writing that has taken over the last few seasons may disappear. 

With Cote de Pablo’s return, the writers will also be able to explore Bishop — separate from her connection to Ziva. They need to provide some strong character development for the formerly smart analyst — discovering clues in papers spread out across the floor – who quickly became “just another agent.” 

The pure excitement factor tied to Cote de Pablo’s return, paired with the likelihood of an intricate plotline (and an improved Bishop) would presumably increase ratings. However, if what many fans fear turns out to be true, the show may see an initial surge followed by a steady decline. 

Why Cote de Pablo’s return to ‘NCIS’ could hurt the show

Taking the aforementioned argument and flipping it, many fans feel that the new characters are slowly getting better, and the show is just beginning to improve. Fans agree that things were shaky for a bit (following all the major departures), but the series has begun to find solid ground once more. Thus, Cote de Pablo’s reintroduction could throw a wrench in everything the writers have so recently accomplished. One NCIS fan explained:

…I hope to christ she isnt coming back to the show full time. Its gotten so much better…since she left. The annoyingness of the characters is at an all time low, the show really doesnt need her back.

Reddit User 

Other NCIS enthusiasts note that it feels like a plot to satisfy all the Ziva lovers, which, while acceptable, will backfire if her character feels out of place among the new cast members, or receives too little (or too much) screen time. Bringing back Cote de Pablo may bring back those who stopped watching after she left, but her story will have to be exceptional to keep the ratings up. Nostalgia only goes so far.