How NCIS' Latest Premiere Quietly Destroyed Fans' Hopes Of Mark Harmon's Return As Gibbs

Gibbs in cap on NCIS
(Image credit: CBS)

CBS celebrated a big night on September 19, with the Fall TV season kicking off in earnest with the first full-on crossover event between NCIS and its sunny offshoot NCIS: Hawai’i, with a fun mix of stars jumping between the dramas. But for any fans hoping that either of the much-anticipated premieres would feature a noteworthy return from Mark Harmon as former bossman Leroy Gibbs, those hopes went unfulfilled. Moreover, the flagship series effectively put the kibosh on any such expectations for Gibbs to have a recurring presence within the franchise, all thanks to the newly edited opening credits. 

As NCIS fans are aware, the show’s opening credits have featured tons of changes over the years as major stars like Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, and Emily Wickersham made their exits. But despite Mark Harmon’s fan-crushing departure four episodes into Season 19, the drama maintained its same credits sequence throughout all 21 installments, which allowed viewers the sliver of optimism that Harmon could pop back up at some point in a recurring capacity. Alas, the Season 20 premiere, “A Family Matter,” went the full nine yards and removed any and all visual traces of Gibbs.

Now, instead of the Summer School actor’s familiar face kicking the credits off, the honor has been passed to longtime star Sean Murray, as seen below. 

Sean Murray in opening credits of NCIS

(Image credit: Paramount+)

To be sure, Harmon does still pop up in the credits in name only as an executive producer, a behind-the-scenes role he continues to maintain, as noted at the time his impending exit was revealed. And as much as I’m playing the doom-sayer here, the actor’s excision from the opening bits obviously isn’t indicative of the CBS hit’s entire future. Anything could happen given enough time. 

Cote de Pablo was gone for years before making a game-changing return a few seasons back, after all. And showrunner Steven D. Binder has talked about continuing to keep Gibbs around through references, which is something he’d like to do more with Perrette’s Abby, so fans don’t ever have to worry about the characters forgetting their former colleagues existed. 

Hypothetically, I’d have to think that NCIS’ creative team would jump at the chance to tell a new Gibbs story if Mark Harmon would decide to re-enter the fold for however long. Considering the actor isn’t a very public person, and essentially only addressed leaving the show via a DVD featurette, I doubt the fandom would catch wind of any rumors before the producers do. Still, keep those fingers crossed that Gibbs will soon need a break from his current Alaskan existence. 

New episodes of NCIS air Monday nights on CBS at 9:00 p.m. ET, as followed by all-new eps of NCIS: Hawai’i, no doubt with more crossover action coming in the future. Head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see what other new and returning shows are set to debut soon.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.