Who was Ziva on ‘NCIS’? Cote de Pablo’s Ziva role and departure, explained

NCIS is one of those shows that seems to have always been on television. The procedural drama and its various spin-off series have been entertaining fans for nearly two decades now, and throughout that time we’ve seen plenty of different characters come and go. If you’ve been an avid watcher for years, you’ll remember Ziva David, a character who was on the show for nearly fifteen years. Played by Cote de Pablo, Ziva was a series regular until season 11, but has since returned for a few guest episodes, most recently in 2020. But who was Ziva on NCIS?

Who was Ziva on NCIS?

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Ziva David was an Israeli citizen and specialist Mossad agent who was also the daughter of the director of the Israeli spy agency. Her first appearance was in season three, replacing Caitlin “Kate” Todd, who was m******d by Ziva’s half-brother Ari in the second season’s finale.

Ziva was originally assigned as a liaison officer to NCIS thanks to an arrangement between her father and NCIS director Jenny Shepard, and this was her role in the service until she returned to Mossad at the end of season six. However, a new storyline had her being captured by terrorists in Somalia while on assignment for the Israeli agency. She was presumed dead at first, but was eventually saved by some of the NCIS crew, who then brought her back to America. Once in the States, she applied for (and received) U.S. citizenship and became a full-time NCIS agent.

Ziva has two siblings, the aforementioned Ari and a younger sister named Tali, who was k****d in a terrorist incident as a teen. Her parents separated when she was a teen thanks to her father’s inability to stay faithful, and it is revealed her mother d**d before her introduction to the show. As a child, Ziva took ballet while also learning how to fight, and upon her high school graduation joined the IDF for her military service. So far, so Israeli.

One of her first major acts on the show was to m****r her half-brother Ari with a shot to the forehead, mirroring how Ari had killed Kate Todd. At the beginning of her time in the agency, she had a hard time fitting in, especially thanks to her relationship with Ari. However, through hard work and some important, life-saving interventions, Ziva managed to win the crew around, becoming a vital and loved member of the team.

There were plenty of other ups and downs during her time in the show. She was framed by Iranian agents for m*******g two FBI officers and had to go into hiding in Mexico, and was also terminated after Director Shepard d**d and was replaced by Director Vance. At the end of season seven, she was kidnapped in Somalia, but then found in the season seven opener “Truth or Consequences.” For the next few seasons, her hard nature softened, and while she remained able to take care of herself, she became much more open and expressive, even showing a more playful side.

In the middle of season 10, her estranged father, Eli, made an appearance, hoping to fix his relationship with Ziva. However, his visit to the States had an ulterior motive: he was secretly meeting with a friend who had an unclear connection to the Iranian government, in an attempt to start a dialogue between the two countries that would hopefully lead to peace. Tragedy struck, though, as Eli went for dinner at Director Vance’s house, and ended up being shot to d***h by an unknown assailant, who sprayed the home with bullets before eventually k*****g himself. Ziva discovered her father’s body and broke down, before going on a revenge mission. Despite being told she couldn’t work on the case because of her connection to the victim, she discovered a childhood friend named Ilan Bodnar organized her father’s m****r. After she tracked him down, he nearly k****d her, but he failed and escaped.

The rest of season ten saw Ziva become more unhinged as she chased Bodnar, eventually m******g him. At the end of the season, she resigned from her post and returned to Israel. However, that wasn’t the last we were to see of Ziva.

When did Ziva return?

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From season 11 onwards, Ziva had sporadic appearances in the series. After Detective DiNozzo (a former colleague of hers) travels to Israel, we see the pair share a kiss. Two seasons later, we discover they did more than that, as Ziva is pregnant. She gives birth to a child, who she names Tali, for her deceased younger sister. However, during season 13, Ziva’s house is destroyed, and while Tali survives it appears that the former Mossad agent is dead — but her remains aren’t found.

In season 16 it’s revealed Ziva faked her d***h to protect herself and her family from a former friend of her half-brother Ari, who is desperate for revenge. After the team neutralizes the threat, Ziva is able to reunite with DiNozzo and her daughter in Paris — and that episode (season 17, “Into the Wind”) is the last we see of her.

What was Ziva’s impact?

Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images

As one of the most prominent Israeli characters on U.S. television, Ziva has been noted as having a big impact on American impressions of the country. Todd, whom her character replaced, was also a fan favorite, so she had a lot to live up to, but de Pablo did that and more, receiving plenty of praise from critics and audiences alike. Her status as an immigrant was also vital to her characterization, and many of her lighter moments came from her misunderstanding of American slang. Although de Pablo is not Israeli, many praised her accent work, and she was even described as Israel’s most important ambassador by cultural critic Mark Vogl.

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