NCIS Hits 450 Episodes This Week. Of Course, That Means The Showrunner Is Getting Asked About Mark Harmon's Gibbs Possibly Returning

Gibbs in jacket and hat in NCIS
(Image credit: CBS)

Amid all the too-soon cancellations and projects being shelved in mid-production, CBS’ long-running NCIS is seemingly showing no signs of primetime fatigue more than a year after its former star Mark Harmon made his highly publicized exit as Leroy Gibbs. The spinoff-sparking drama is celebrating the rare hallmark of reaching 450 episodes with Monday night’s installment, which naturally means the showrunner has been tasked with addressing the possibility of Gibbs making a stoic return in some way, shape, or form. 

Season 20 kicked off last September with a major blow to viewers who were holding out hope for Gibbs to recur, with its newly revised opening credits sequence taking Mark Harmon out of contention after he’d remained in the mix throughout the prior season. Despite that, showrunner Steven D. Binder was asked about the actor’s potential to return at least one more time before the flagship drama is wrapped for good. Here’s how he answered, according to TV Insider:

I don’t see how we don’t see him one more time at some point. Gibbs has, in my mind, advanced to a higher plane of existence for now—I don’t want to place him in an apartment in Anchorage or anywhere. We left him smiling on a river happy, and that’s the image I want people to have until we’re really ready to blow that out of the water or truly embrace it in some way.

The NCIS creative team wisely chose to send Gibbs off into the sunset in a non-fatal way, which not only allowed for appearances down the line, but also avoided what would likely have been a huge fan backlash. The character was sent off to Alaska with McGee, where he chose to stick it out as opposed to heading back to Washington D.C. It may not have been the resolution that everyone wanted, but it’s the one that clicked with Binder and Harmon, since it gave the long-stressed character a new setting, a new life, and a newly established peace of mind. 

As such, bringing the character back into the fold so soon would run the risk of cheapening his decision to leave his duties as an agent behind. That might not be such a big deal to the average fan who doesn’t care in the slightest how it would happen, so long as it happened. But for everyone involved with setting that exit up, from Steven D. Binder to Mark Harmon himself, it will presumably take a big and unexpectedly meaningful idea to convince them to either bring Gibbs back from the Last Frontier, or to send the team up to Alaska. 

Not one to spend oodles of time taking part in press interviews, Mark Harmon has remained more or less silent on leaving NCIS ever since it happened, speaking about it in general terms for the show’s Season 19 DVD set, but not much elsewhere. That’s possibly to avoid addressing the negative publicity that came about years prior when his former co-star Pauley Perrette shared shocking allegations about the actor and others after she chose to leave the CBS drama. Of course, he may just not like doing interviews. 

Speaking of Perrette, NCIS fans have also wondered if Abby Sciuto could ever make a return, with Binder having previously shared the creative team’s desire to reference Abby more through other characters’ conversations. So far, there’s been no sign of either her or Michael Weatherly’s former agent Tony DiNozzo, but here’s hoping we don’t have to wait until Episode 500 to see that happen.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.