'NCIS' Season 17: Mark Harmon Exits, Cote De Pablo Takes Over? Theory Buzzing With Fans

Mark Harmon
Mark Harmon has led the cast of "NCIS" on CBS for 17 seasons. (Photo: Angela George/Wikimedia Commons/Cropped)

WARNING: This article contains spoilers for NCIS that may influence your enjoyment in discovering the plotlines. Read at your own risk.

Is Cote de Pablo (as Ziva David) returning to NCIS season 17 to replace Mark Harmon (as Leroy Gibbs) as the lead? An emerging theory has fans abuzz on the possibility that things could change in the upcoming season.

The speculation was posted on Reddit which pointed out that with Gibbs becoming older -- and perhaps primed to retire -- Ziva could assume the role as the team's leader in NCIS season 17. Meanwhile, the writers may also play it out and imply that Tony DiNozzo (played by Michael Weatherly), father of Ziva's child, is caring and protecting their little one. 

Some fans of NCIS season 17 can't help but support the theory. They believe that if Harmon does leave the show -- as it has been rumored for years -- then De Pablo would be the only fitting replacement.  

"I believe Ziva's character is the only one beloved enough by fans to carry the show after Gibbs/Ducky leave," one fan wrote. "Otherwise it's time to end it in my opinion."

As it is, Harmon has only signed on to continue with NCIS season 17. However, he has not yet optioned in a possible season 18 appearance, which leaves the show's future open-ended. 

However, other viewers said that they might not bother watching NCIS season 17 if Ziva is taking over for Gibbs. They also suggested that Gibbs shouldn't leave completely but perhaps become the agency's director so that he can still have some contact and association with the current team. 

Other fans also insisted that it's not in Ziva's nature to succeed Gibbs. 

"Ziva also wouldn't take on that role. Letting go of the badge was her main reason for leaving," one fan wrote.

De Pablo made her surprise guest appearance in the NCIS season 16 finale last May. Only a handful of people knew that she worked on the set as her character warned Gibbs that he's in grave danger.

NCIS season 17 producers confirmed that Ziva would be part of the first episode back this coming September. This will finally answer whether Ziva's appearance is just in Gibb's hallucination. 

"This surprise moment is just the beginning," NCIS showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder said in a shared statement, per TV Line. "We are thrilled to share that Cote de Pablo will guest star in the NCIS Season 17 premiere this fall, as Ziva's warning to Gibbs unfolds." 

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