NCIS has been no stranger to significant cast turnover in its long history, with many previously left wondering if the show would be able to sustain itself. In a single season, Sloane, Bishop and Gibbs all left the hit police procedural, necessitating the addition of several new faces to the cast. 

This was a particularly tumultuous time but, with NCIS now in its 20th season, it has survived major shake-ups before. The death of Special Agent Todd and the departure of Tony DiNozzo were two key changes to the cast of characters. However, the most shocking change to the cast came when Cote de Pablo’s Ziva left the show. Details on why the character was written out were never fully confirmed but quotes from de Pablo and lack of confirmation from production have led to conflicting rumors.


Who Was Cote de Pablo’s Special Agent Ziva David on NCIS?


Ziva first appeared in the premiere episode of Season 3 as an agent of the Israeli Mossad. She was introduced in a tumultuous time on the show, because Kate had just been killed by the terrorist Ari Haswari in the Season 2 finale. Things were slightly awkward because as it turned out, Ziva was Ari’s half-sister, but it didn’t take long for Ziva to declare her allegiance. In order to save Gibbs’ life, she shot and killed Ari in Gibbs’ basement.

After that, Ziva became a liaison officer between Eli David – her father and the director of Mossad – and NCIS’ Director Jenny Shepard, serving in that role for four years, which amounted to three seasons. Then, she returned to Mossad but was captured in Somalia while on assignment, and was eventually rescued by Gibbs, Tony and McGee. Following that, she resigned from Mossad and became a probationary NCIS agent and a US citizen.

Ziva’s time at NCIS came to an end in Season 11. She, Tony and McGee resigned from NCIS to protect Gibbs from a political vendetta, but when the issue was resolved, Ziva chose to not rejoin the agency. Rather, she returned to Israel and was supposedly killed offscreen in Season 13 during an attack on her father, Eli David’s, farmhouse. It was also revealed during that time that she and Tony had a daughter, named Tali. After finding out the news, Tony also chose to leave NCIS.

Why Did Ziva David Leave NCIS?


Known for her inability to grasp American idioms – much to Tony’s amusement – and her general badassery when it came to a fight, Ziva was a big part of the show here and overseas. So, it hit the NCIS community hard when CBS announced that Ziva would be leaving the highly successful series. Details are still kind of shady following her departure.

In a 2013 interview with TV Guide, Cote de Pablo indicated that she left because of a personal issue: “As far as my decision to leave, that’s a personal thing, and I’d rather leave it at that.” However, in a 2016 Q&A about her departure, she told a different story, which involved how her character was going to be treated going forward. She said, “They were going to send [Ziva] back to Israel and make her a sad, miserable woman. I said, ‘What do I leave all the women that are watching and following the show?’ And I didn’t think it was fair. So, I said, ‘Unless someone can really write something fantastic, I won’t go back.’”

Even with all of that, a fuller answer has never been given, although some cast members, including David McCallum were markedly disappointed by her sudden choice to leave. Regardless, fans were not happy with how Ziva was written off and clamored for a cameo appearance for years. Then, in Season 17, it finally happened. Cote de Pablo reprised her role as Ziva for four episodes. During that stretch, it was revealed that Ziva had survived the bombing attempt and had gone deep undercover to find the perpetrators. With the help of Gibbs, she accomplished her goal, killed the woman who had been hunting her and was finally able to reunite with Tony and Tali offscreen, thus, giving Ziva’s character a more fitting send-off.