Spoilers below for the latest episode of NCIS, so be warned!
With the fourth episode of its 19th season on CBS, NCIS finally delivered an answer to the big question that's been on fans' minds since Mark Harmon's imminent exit was first revealed: when and how will Leroy Gibbs say goodbye? The big reveal in "Great Wide Open" was perhaps an unexpected one in its specifics, with Gibbs officially retiring after the mission in Alaska, where he apparently intends to stick it out for a while as a way of embracing peace and serenity. (Assuming he's not on another super-secret case that's going behind everyone's backs, of course.) In true Gibbs-esque fashion, it wasn't an overly maudlin or emotional affair, and kinda sorta ended on a good note, if such an exit can do so.
But even though this was confirmed to be Mark Harmon's final episode as an NCIS lead, with Gibbs settling in far away from the rest of the team, I think it's safe to say that won't be the last time fans see Gibbs in action before the longtime crime drama wraps up its run. And if we're being optimistic, it will probably even happen before Season 19 is over.
NCIS Didn't Kill Gibbs Off
The biggest and arguably most obvious piece of proof here is that NCIS' creative team went with the exit option that did not involve putting Leroy Gibbs into the ground near his wife Shannon and daughter Kelly. I mean, even if they did kill him off, the conversation would then become "But did they actually kill him off?" In any case, the simple fact that Gibbs made it through intact is reason enough to cement the idea that he could return. Even if other still-living characters' portrayers opted to never return under certain circumstances, it's easy to think that Harmon will be game to reprise the role after spending a few months away from it.
Mark Harmon's Season 19 Episode Count Remains Unknown
Months after first learning that Mark Harmon was stepping down and would only appear in part of Season 19, it was reported that the actor was contracted to show up in fewer episodes than expected, with the number being in the "low single digits." The same report also cited a source saying he'd be in a few eps throughout the season.
While none of those claims can currently be proven true or false, at least when it comes to official statements from CBS or Mark Harmon himself, it would still match up with everything reported if Harmon's four-episode stretch to start off Season 19 did not account for the entirety of his commitment. Not that I'm saying Gibbs will show up again after the winter finale, donning the fur of a bear that he had to kill with his bare hands, set to stick it out for the rest of the season. But I can foresee Harmon agreeing to return for one or two episodes later on to provide updates and other feel-good moments.
The Showrunner Basically Sorta Already Teased It
NCIS showrunner Steve Binder released a statement (via Deadline) to coincide with Episode 4 that inspired a bit of optimism for when we might see Mark Harmon's Gibbs back in our lives. Check it out below:
Again, nothing to sink one's teeth into for hard, confirmed facts. But by bringing up the fact that Mark Harmon remains an executive producer for NCIS, Steve Binder makes it clear that the actor is still a piece of the puzzle even if Gibbs isn't present and accounted for. So even if the character followed his north star to the northern state of Alaska, the story may very well come back around with a reason to return to Gibbs' life.
And I don't think anyone can look at the phrase "never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out" and think to themselves, "We're never seeing this character again." Even if NCIS' core fanbase isn't as theory-obsessed as those of other shows, it doesn't take an overload of guesswork to get to the idea that Gibbs is destined to return. Now we just have to hope that the reason for it is more connected to another character's personal storyline, as opposed to the team stumbling across another killer or criminal that only Gibbs can take down because of their past together. We've seen that before, and if that episode made anything clear, it's that Gibbs wanted to be completely done with the Special Agent life.
How amusing would it be if NCIS brought Gibbs back as early as Episode 5? That almost definitely won't happen, but be sure to tune into new episodes airing on CBS every Monday night at 9:00 p.m. ET, just ahead of new episodes of freshman spinoff NCIS: Hawai'i. And be sure to check out all the new and returning shows yet to premiere with our 2021 Fall TV schedule.
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.
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