The events during the latter portion of NCIS Season 18 called into question whether or not Mark Harmon would reprise Leroy Jethro Gibbs in the then-hypothetical Season 19. However, upon the hit CBS series being officially renewed this past April, it was confirmed that Harmon would also return. That being said, word’s come in that Harmon won’t appear in NCIS Season 19 nearly as much as the 18 prior seasons.

Multiple sources have informed TV Line that Mark Harmon will only appear in a limited number of episodes in NCIS Season 19. One source described this amount as being in “the low single digits,” while another source simply said the actor would have “a few” appearances over the course of Season 19. CBS did not comment on the veracity of this information.

Assuming Mark Harmon is indeed sitting a lot of NCIS Season 19 out, this obviously is a huge deal for the CBS series. Harmon has been an integral part of NCIS since its inception, first playing Gibbs in the JAG episodes “Ice Queen” and “Meltdown,” and appearing in every NCIS episode since the show launched in 2003. But now his streak is reportedly coming to an end, with Gibbs reportedly only appearing a handful of times during Season 19. Now I can’t help but wonder about if NCIS is renewed for a 20th season, will Harmon be part of it at all?

To be fair, NCIS Season 18 laid the groundwork for Mark Harmon’s smaller workload in Season 19. First, Leroy Jethro Gibbs was suspended from the law enforcement agency in “Watchdog” after brutally beating a dog killer during an investigation. For the remainder of the season, Gibbs divided his time between working on his new boat and helping investigative reporter Marcie Warren track down a serial killer. The fact that Gibbs named his boat Rule 91 (which means “When you decide to walk away, don’t look back”) indicated he might be ok with never returning to NCIS.

Unfortunately, while traveling to a location where this serial killer might have visited in the Season 18 finale, Gibbs’ boat exploded, although he was seen in the episodes final seconds swimming away from the wreckage. While it’s reasonable to assume that we’ll eventually see Gibbs apprehend this killer, the news about him not having a heavy presence in NCIS Season 19 means fans should prepare for the possibility that he won’t resume his duties for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. This would also explain why Gary Cole has been brought aboard for a “major role” in Season 19.

This is just one of the many ways NCIS Season 19 is shaking things up. Let’s not forget that Maria Bello and Emily Wickersham both left in Season 18, with the former’s departure (which had been announced ahead of time) happening in “True Believer” and the latter surprisingly exiting in Season 18’s finale. Along with Gary Cole in talks to join NCIS Season 19, it’s also possible we’ll see Katrina Law, who appeared as Jessica Knight in “Blown Away” and “Rule 91,” become part of the main cast.

NCIS Season 19 will air on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET, though a specific premiere date hasn’t been announced yet. Keep track of which of your favorite shows are currently airing with our 2021 summer TV premiere schedule.

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