Why Has Cote de Pablo Returned to ‘NCIS?’

In an epic season finale – a moment destined to go down in history as one of Network TV’s most legendary conclusion – Ziva David appeared at the top of Agent Gibbs’ staircase in NCIS. Cote de Pablo portrayed Agent David from 2005 until her departure in 2013. However, six long years later, and the prodigal daughter returns.

Cote de Pablo
Cote de Pablo | Photo by Jacopo Raule/Getty Images

Citing personal reasons for her exit, before going to on to claim a lack of “respect” on behalf of her character, Cote de Pablo left to explore other opportunities. She starred in The Dovekeepers and The 33 before returning to the show responsible for catalyzing her career. 

Fans across the globe jumped from their seats when de Pablo returned, for her reprisal was one of the best-kept secrets CBS has ever pulled off. Though the show began hinting at a possible Ziva return, many fans felt this was a pipedream…until the former Mossad Agent came hurrying down Gibbs’ steps to warn him of imminent danger. 

While we are all thrilled Cote de Pablo has decided to reprise her role and is set to appear in the season seventeen premiere (at the least), fans are wondering why the star has chosen to come back.

Why Cote de Pablo left ‘NCIS’ may provide a clue as to why she has chosen to return

Cote de Pablo, while discussing Ziva David, once explained:

“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.’”

If Cote de Pablo left for narrative reasons, it’s very likely she has returned for narrative reasons. The writers may have promised her character a more compelling storyline, heightened internal turmoil, and more intricate interpersonal relationships. Given that Ziva had to fake her death, it’s likely that her storyline will unfold in a suspense-driven and traumatizing manner, lending way to the actress appearing in more than one episode. 

If the actress appears in more than one episode – with a familiar, but “fantastic” spin, to use her own words – she will bring a unique perspective to Ziva, and gain the very attribute that was formerly lacking, offering what she wanted to provide fans when she departed. Not to mention, she will be back in front of the camera on the most popular scripted show on the air (bringing us to our next possible explanation for her return).

Did Cote de Pablo’s career need a boost? 

Though Cote de Pablo left NCIS, going on to star in a TV miniseries and major motion picture, she failed to separate herself from Ziva. Both The Dovekeepers and The 33 opened to poor critical and audience reviews. When you leave a show, and your new projects are critically panned, you do not rise to the top of casting directors’ lists.

Cote de Pablo may need to, once again, use NCIS as a springboard. If her character is granted the intricate complexities she desires, she will be able to show fans, and moviemakers alike, just how competent an actress she is. 

The writers may give her a chance to burst into tears. They could give her a chance to save the day. They can portray her as resilient but vulnerable, strong but afraid, brave but hesitant, etc. A woman on a mission with a past threatening to get in the way may provide the foundation she needs to, once again, rise from NCIS and take a shot at becoming the lead star.