Movie Reviews

NCIS History Makes Suggests This 1 Character Will Pull Gibbs Out Of Retirement


  • Mark Harmon’s return as Gibbs in the
    NCIS Tony & Ziva
    spinoff is expected.
  • Ziva’s unique relationship with Gibbs could be the compelling reason for his return.
  • A return to the main
    series might be too much fanfare, making the spinoff a better fit.

NCIS history hints that a certain character could pull Gibbs out of retirement. The former Special Agent in Charge hasn’t been seen in the franchise since Mark Harmon’s character retired from the Major Case Response Team (MCRT) in NCIS season 19. As the face of the series for the 19 years he was featured on the original show, Mark Harmon is an integral thread in the fabric of the NCIS tapestry, and his return feels imminent. While the Gibbs actor will return to the franchise to narrate the NCIS: Origins spinoff, the actor has yet to reprise his role on-screen.

Since Mark Harmon stepped down from the character to pursue other endeavors, other NCIS characters have stepped up to fill the void his departure created. Returning Leroy Jethro Gibbs to any NCIS spinoff shows should be done carefully. Mark Harmon’s reprisal of his character in the franchise would require the same purpose-driven plot as other significant events, such as Tony DiNozzo’s departure. A compelling reason for the character to create flux in the NCIS universe will be crucial to Gibb’s return, and I think one could be made in the latest NCIS spinoff.


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Ziva David Pulled Gibbs Out Of Retirement In NCIS Season 4

Gibbs Retired At The End Of NCIS Season 3 But Returned To Save Ziva

Ziva David in the NCIS elevator in Truth or Consequences

History suggests Ziva is the original NCIS character who can pull Gibbs out of retirement. In NCIS season 4, episode 1, “Shalom,” Ziva was driving a red Mini Cooper to work when she witnessed an explosion. The Mossad-style assassination killed a Syrian colonel and two FBI agents. Ziva quickly responded to the crime scene, finding the person responsible. But when she found out it was someone from her past who she thought was dead, she let him go. Ziva is then framed for the deaths at the scene of the explosion and is forced to go into hiding.

At the beginning of
season 4, four months have passed since Gibbs retired.

While initially held by Mossad, Ziva escaped so that she could begin to exonerate herself. Ziva turned to the only people she could trust, and the episode revealed that Ziva trusted Gibbs and NCIS over Mossad. She contacted Abby at NCIS, who agreed to help Ziva get Gibbs’ phone number. The team had not heard from or talked to Gibbs since he retired at the end of NCIS season 3 after the team failed to stop a terrorist attack aboard a Navy ship. Ultimately, Ziva called Gibbs and confided in him that she needed him to save her.

Why Gibbs Retired At The End Of NCIS Season 3

Gibbs Experienced Major Trauma In “Hiatus” Parts One And Two

He initially implied that he could not help Ziva because Gibbs was in Mexico. The team leader retired to a tropical getaway on the beach after he nearly died in an explosion in season 3, episode 23, “Hiatus Part I,” that knocked Gibbs into a coma and caused him severe amnesia for the better part of the double episode. While Gibbs struggled to regain his memories, the team attempted to figure out who was responsible for the explosion to prevent another one from happening. When Gibbs recovered his memory and was able to act, it was too late.

The team failed, and a bomb exploded on a Navy ship. Gibbs was so devastated by the loss that he retired from his position at NCIS, leaving Tony as the team’s new leader. After reuniting with NCIS Special Agent Mike Franks in “Hiatus,” Gibbs finally understood how his former partner and mentor could walk away from the job where he could otherwise be saving lives. Gibbs was so devastated by reliving the loss of his wife and daughter, as well as his failure to stop the attack, that he joined Mike at his beach house in Mexico.

What Makes Ziva And Gibbs’ NCIS Relationship Unique

Ziva Is Gibbs’ Equal And Like A Daughter To Him

Mark Harmon as Gibbs with his arm around Cote de Pablo as Ziva in NCIS

The beginning of NCIS season 4 established Gibbs as content with his life in Mexico with Franks, despite bickering about what repairs must be made to the house. Like Franks at the end of season 3, Gibbs doesn’t want to hear from his former colleagues or be involved in NCIS work anymore. When he got the call from Ziva that would prompt him to come out of retirement, Gibbs was very dismissive of the request. But almost instantly, Ziva’s emotional appeal to Gibbs instigated a change of heart, which makes sense when considering Gibbs and Ziva’s history.

Gibbs and Ziva have a unique relationship because she saved his life in season 3, episode 2, “Kill Ari Part II.” It’s one of the best episodes of NCIS because Ziva was skillfully introduced to the series in the wake of Caitlin Todd’s murder, and she went through a complex character arc that ended with her killing her half-brother, the NCIS antagonist Ari Haswari. While she was initially involved with NCIS to protect Ari, Ziva ultimately learned that Ari betrayed Mossad. When she killed Ari to save Gibbs’s life, Ziva instantly earned the respect of the team leader.

Gibbs has a history of protecting Ziva at all costs. You can see in
season 7, episode 1, “Truth or Consequences,” Gibbs and the team followed Ziva to Somalia after she departed the team.

Ziva’s bravery immediately established her as Gibbs’ equal early in her stint at NCIS, which he acknowledged in season 3, episode 4, “Silver War,” when Ziva joined the team as a Mossad liaison officer. Gibbs had a conversation in the elevator that signified he saw Ziva as his equal. He implied that, while he would have to treat Ziva similarly to the other team members, he acknowledged her in a different regard. This likely established the foundation of Ziva and Gibbs’ relationship, which develops into Gibbs caring for Ziva as his daughter.

The Tony & Ziva Spinoff Would Be The Best Opportunity For Mark Harmon’s NCIS Return

It Would Be Less Involved Than His Return To The Flagship But More Meaningful

Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Ziva (Cote de Pablo), and Tony (Michael Weatherly) stand in a line in black NCIS gear

Gibbs hasn’t been featured in the series since his departure in season 19. The character parted ways with the MCRT after a chase took him to Alaska, and the agent decided to stay in Alaska and retire in episode 4, “Great Wide Open.” Since the time away has been permanent thus far, a return to the original series could suggest that Gibbs is coming out of his retirement, and it may be more fanfare than the Gibbs actor cares for at this point. The Tony & Ziva spinoff would be the ideal platform for Mark Harmon’s NCIS return.

Mark Harmon’s return to NCIS in NCIS: Tony & Ziva is more fitting. It would suggest that his character is returning to help an old friend, rather than introducing him back to the main series and implying that he is needed for the new MCRT to function. After such a substantial exit, it makes sense that Leroy Jethro Gibbs hasn’t returned to NCIS on a whim. Something as simple as a request from Ziva is a believable way for Harmon to return, and it’s less involved for both the character and the actor.

The cast of NCIS season 20 walks forward above show title in promotional poster


NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) focuses on the sometimes complex and always amusing dynamics of a team forced to work together in high-stress situations. Special Agent Alden Parker, a quirky former FBI agent who solves his cases with calm professionalism and sharp, sarcastic charm, leads the NCIS team, which includes NCIS Special Agent Timothy McGee, an MIT graduate with a knack for computers who has now graduated to senior field agent; the charismatic, unpredictable and resilient NCIS Special Agent Nicholas “Nick” Torres, who has spent most of his career on solo undercover assignments; and sharp, athletic and tough NCIS Special Agent Jessica Knight, a formidable REACT agent who specializes in hostage negotiations and high-risk operations. The naïve Jimmy Palmer is assisting the team, who graduated from assistant to fully licensed medical examiner and now runs the morgue; and forensic scientist Kasie Hines, Ducky’s former graduate assistant. Overseeing operations is NCIS Director Leon Vance, an intelligent, highly trained agent who can always be counted on to shake up the status quo. From murder and espionage to terrorism and stolen submarines, these special agents investigate all crimes with Navy or Marine Corps ties.

sean murray , Wilmer Valderrama , Katrina Law , Brian Dietzen , david mccallum , Mark Harmon , Rocky Carroll , Gary Cole , Joe Spano

Release Date
September 23, 2003


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