How NCIS Delivered A Game-Changing Ziva Twist In The Season 16 Finale

MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD for the Season 16 finale of NCIS, called "Daughters."

Ziva David's story on NCIS seemed over and done with ever since it was stated that she died in Israel, leaving Tony to raise the daughter she'd never told him about. Comments from actress Cote de Pablo seemed to indicate that she would not be interested in reprising her role as Ziva, and fans had reason to give up hope when she didn't even appear in Michael Weatherly's final episode. The Season 16 reveal that Ziva is likely alive was exciting but hardly guaranteed a return.

Well, "Daughters" proved that NCIS fans didn't need to lose their hope for a Ziva return, as she turned up alive and in the flesh in the final moments. She simply walked down into Gibbs' basement as if she belonged there.

Given that Gibbs had spent the episode hallucinating his dead ex-wife, he seemed to believe at first that Ziva was just another hallucination, but she is very much real. She dropped the bombshell that he's in danger, and although there wasn't much time to show their reunion, it was an extremely loaded scene.

In case you missed it or already need to see it again, take a look at Ziva's shocking return to NCIS:

According to Ziva, there was no time for pleasantries, as Gibbs' life is in danger, but she was still taken aback when he didn't say anything. Finally, the emotional Gibbs said one word: "Ziva." And she smiled. Aww!

NCIS managed to keep a tight lid on the fact that Cote de Pablo would appear in the Season 16 finale. As it turns out, the team at the show went to great lengths to guarantee that this secret would remain a secret until the big moment came. The closing scene featuring Ziva's return was never included in any script or call sheet, meaning that nobody except for a select group knew of Cote de Pablo's guest appearance.

In fact, only NCIS showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder had copies of the scene pages, and the scene filmed at midnight with a skeleton crew. The full crew had wrapped over an hour previously, and care was even taken to guarantee that people couldn't easily spot Cote de Pablo arriving on set. She arrived at the stages via a back gate entrance.

And you don't need to worry that Ziva's brief appearance in the Season 16 finale will be all that you see of her! Showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder released a statement about what's to come on the Ziva front, saying this:

This surprise moment is just the beginning. 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.

Cote de Pablo evidently isn't joining back up as a series regular, but she will appear in the Season 17 premiere come fall on CBS. Unfortunately, that means NCIS fans have months to wait before seeing her again and finding out what she was talking about, what she's been up to, and hopefully how she feels about Tony and their daughter believing she's dead.

On the upside, the return of Ziva gives fans plenty to speculate about over hiatus! NCIS isn't the only show in the franchise that will feature at least one big guest star in the fall finale season. For what you can watch to pass the time until then, swing by our summer TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. Resident of One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and Northeast Ohio. Will not time travel, but will sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation.