Spoilers for Episode 24 of NCIS, “Family First.” Please stay away if you still need to catch up.

As we all know by now, NCIS will be without one of its most likeable characters from now on, seeing as how actor Michael Weatherly has taken his Tony DiNozzo off the canvas. What may have surprised many fans, though, is exactly how and why DiNozzo decided to leave his beloved colleagues and career behind. Really, what could make Tony take off but Ziva? If you guessed the secret love child he had with Ziva, well, you’d be right. So, how did the NCIS producers decide to drop this bombshell as a way to usher DiNozzo off into the sunset? It turns out that after some heavy thinking it was a pretty easy choice.
And the only thing that we could come up with was this idea of someone for whom he was suddenly responsible. Even if it was a relationship or being in love with someone, that reason wasn’t enough. It literally had to be a child. We started talking about that very early on, and we started to do a little research and have conversations with agents, law enforcement officers who are single parents. We asked them, “Does it change your perspective when you go to work and strap on your sidearm every day, knowing who is waiting for you at home?” And it absolutely does. So it started to make sense to us. And then in talking to Michael, talking with the other writers, the other producers, this was the direction we decided to go.

NCIS showrunner Gary Glasberg spoke to TVLine about the choice to make Tony DiNozzo a proud, but totally unsuspecting papa, for the the character’s final episode. It looks like, when the show got down to the brass tacks of creating DiNozzo’s swan song, the writers and producers felt like there was only one real direction to go in that made sense for the character. He needed a big, life changing reason to leave, and they sure gave him one.

DiNozzo found about about his young daughter with Ziva, Tali, after the David’s farmhouse was bombed in Israel. Tony was about to take off to check on Ziva when he was stopped at home and told that she was, in fact, killed during the bombing. He returns to work the next day and is greeted by the Mossad director, who introduces him to his child. DiNozzo immediately starts to rethink his career, but it’s not until tiny Tali sees a photo of he and Ziva and she points them out as her mom and dad, that DiNozzo can’t help but step back so he can be there for his daughter, especially since her mother is now gone.

So, serious though it was, DiNozzo’s final episode helped to give the audience a chance to see another side of the quippy character. Even though he’ll probably never get over really losing Ziva, at least he has a part of her, and their love story, that will endure.

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