When actress Cote de Pablo decided to leave “NCIS” after eight seasons in 2013, her fan-favorite character was written out as having moved home to Israel. But that didn’t stop the writers from using Ziva to drive future episodes and tease viewers by hinting she might return.
Fans hoped to see de Pablo again at the end of Season 14 when Michael Weatherly, who played her fellow agent and love interest, Anthony DiNozzo, left “NCIS.” They didn’t – Ziva was killed offscreen in a terrorist bombing.
“NCIS” got fans’ hopes up again earlier this month when it teased her return in a Super Bowl ad. Once again, Tuesday’s episode gave them fan service in place of Pablo Ziva, while leaving the door open for yet more Ziva story lines.
In the much-anticipated episode, titled “She,” the current team reopens one of Ziva’s old cases after they discover a young girl named Lily at a storage facility. She is believed to be the daughter of Morgan Burke, a Navy recruit who disappeared while pregnant almost a decade earlier. Because Burke had not begun her service when her car went over a cliff, local law enforcement took the case and ruled her death a suicide. You can imagine how control freak Gibbs (Mark Harmon) felt about that.
While examining Burke’s case file in the archives, Agent Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham) discovers that the investigating agent (Ziva) kept secretly pursuing the case, and considered Ben Ramsey, the victim’s boyfriend, her prime suspect.
“For whatever reason, Ziva wanted to keep this thing a secret and I’m gonna honor that,” she tells fellow agent Nick Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), who tells her it’s a bad idea not to tell Gibbs or McGee (Sean Murray) what she learned. He also doesn’t get why she’s protecting someone she never even met.
“People are afraid to talk about her in front of me because they think I’ll never measure up,” Bishop tells him. “That’s not even the part that gets me. The part that gets me is that I feel cheated – like there are things I could’ve learned from her that I couldn’t get from anyone else.”