How Much NCIS Will Feature Mark Harmon's Gibbs In Season 19 After The Premiere

ncis season 18 gibbs in a suit cbs
(Image credit: CBS)

Spoilers ahead for the Season 19 premiere of NCIS, called "Blood in the Water."

NCIS returned for Season 19 with an episode that not only revealed the aftermath of Bishop's seemingly permanent departure, but also set up what's next for Gibbs after he survived the explosive cliffhanger at the end of the Season 18 finale. The premiere being titled "Blood in the Water" didn't exactly bode well for Gibbs to escape unscathed, and he was indeed in pretty bad shape to start the premiere, but he survived to continue his investigation into the serial killer from Season 18 and who blew up his boat. So, how much will NCIS feature Mark Harmon's Gibbs after what happened in the premiere? Here's what we know so far.

Months before Season 19 launched, there were reports that Mark Harmon only signed on to return to NCIS because he learned that CBS would likely cancel the show without him as headliner. It was said that he would appear in far fewer episodes of Season 19 than usual, but still have a presence on the show. There haven't been any hard answers about an episode count for Mark Harmon in Season 19, and the premiere certainly set the stage for NCIS to potentially be able to write him out for weeks at a time, if necessary.

As for whether "Blood in the Water" was one of only a small number of Gibbs episodes this season, we can turn to what showrunner Steven Binder had to say on the issue more recently. Steven Binder addressed the reports of Mark Harmon's reduced presence to TVLine:

I’d say that a lot of things are reported on the show that aren’t necessarily true. We are focusing right now on telling the best stories we can with the characters we have, and Gibbs is a part of that world, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job with that. It’s a little more complicated under the COVID regulations we’re under again, but one of things that we felt was missing in the last half of last season was that we had broken our band up and we wanted to get them back together. That’s really what we’re focusing on now.

The showrunner didn't debunk the reports that Mark Harmon won't be around NCIS much compared to earlier seasons, but his comments were also pretty encouraging for any fans who were afraid that NCIS would more or less drop Gibbs' story. The situation is complicated both in-universe and from a production standpoint, and it's possible that Season 19 will handle Gibbs' story like it did Ziva's story back in Season 17: by putting the case front and center for certain episodes/arcs while mostly handling the cases of the weeks otherwise.

So, at this point, we have the early reports that Mark Harmon will be in a limited number of episodes and Steven Binder's recent comments about Gibbs as a part of the NCIS world of characters. What did "Blood in the Water" prove about Gibbs' presence in Season 19? McGee somberly addressed the meaning of Gibbs' Rule 91, which is "When you decide to walk away, never look back." McGee established what it could indicate for Gibbs' plans.

McGee: Because I don't think Gibbs is coming back.Torres: Back to NCIS?McGee: Back to anything. At least not until he finds this serial killer.

If the episode had ended there, then it might have seemed like NCIS was going to disappear Gibbs for a while to conduct his investigation off-screen, with less of Mark Harmon on camera, but that's not where the episode ended. McGee confronted Gibbs that "Rule 91 sucks" and that Gibbs needed to work with the team to catch the serial killer. Gibbs then admitted that he's proud of McGee, and implicitly agreed that they would join forces to hunt down the person responsible for the attempt on Gibbs' life.

And the preview for the next episode proves that NCIS is going to keep the action rolling on this plot for Gibbs. Check it out!

The serial killer strikes again, and that may have been a big mistake now that the NCIS team has joined Gibbs on the hunt. Some fisticuffs are evidently on the way for Gibbs, which may be pretty bad considering the injuries he sustained in the explosion, but it's clear that they truly are all working on this case, with Mark Harmon still in the thick of the action. That's not to say that his presence won't be reduced later in the season, but he'll at least still be around and going strong in the second episode. For now, that's what we can state with 100% confidence regarding how much NCIS will feature him after the premiere.

See what happens with new episodes of NCIS in its new time slot of Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS, followed by new episodes of NCIS: Hawai'i at 10 p.m. ET in the fall TV schedule. Another agent is coming to NCIS in Season 19 to fill the vacancy left by Gibbs, but fans don't need to think of the newcomer (played by Gary Cole) as a replacement!

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 and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).