Why Was Mark Harmon's Gibbs Still In The NCIS Opening Credits During Season 19? We Finally Have The Answer

Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs in NCIS
(Image credit: CBS)

When NCIS was renewed for Season 19 back in April 2021, it was also confirmed that Mark Harmon would return as Leroy Jethro Gibbs, the CBS series’ main protagonist. However, when the season premiered months later, Harmon’s Gibbs only stuck around for the first four episodes, and Gary Cole’s Alden Parker took over as the team’s new leader. The weird thing, though, is that for the remainder of NCIS Season 19, Harmon remained in the show’s opening credits despite being absent, and we finally have the answer for why this happened.

CBS Entertainment president Kelly Kahl cleared thing up to TV Line, explaining that Mark Harmon stayed in the NCIS opening credits past his exit in the episode “Great Wide Open,” which aired on October 11, 2021. As Kahl put it, this was a “transitional” year for the popular procedural, so evidently keeping Gibbs at the top of the opening credits was meant to keep a little extra familiarity. However, now that NCIS is returning for Season 20, will Gibbs continue to stay in the opening credits? Kahl simply said this: 

That’s something we might look at going forward.

NCIS spent Season 18’s back half laying the groundwork for Mark Harmon to potentially exit the series, namely through having Leroy Jethro Gibbs suspended from the law enforcement agency after he assaulted a suspect. A few months after the Season 19 renewal, it was reported that Gibbs would only appear in a limited number of episodes, and that ended up only constituting the season’s opening arc. When we last saw Gibbs in “Blood in the Water,” he decided to stay in Naktok Bay, Alaska, finally feeling a sense of peace that he hadn’t felt since before his first wife and daughter were murdered. There were some references to Gibbs later in Season 19, like when viewers learned about the Leroy Jethro Gibbs College Scholarship Club, but otherwise all we actually saw of him for the rest of the season was in those opening credits.

Since it doesn’t look like Mark Harmon will return as an NCIS series regular anytime soon, if at all, I suspect he’ll be taken out for the NCIS Season 20 opening credits, but Kelly Kahl isn’t willing to take a firm stance either way just yet. As for whether Harmon will return to NCIS at some point, Kahl said while there are no plans for that to happen at this time, it’s certainly a possibility. As she put it:

Everyone is aware that the door is open if he ever wants to pop in for an episode, or multiple episodes.

The NCIS Season 19 finale, a.k.a. “Birds of a Feather,” promised big things ahead for Season 20, including Alden Parker on the run, seeing more of Parker’s ex-wife, Teri Polo’s Vivan Kolchak, and Jimmy Palmer and Jessica Knight making great time with officially becoming a couple, as opposed to having their romance teased over multiple seasons. NCIS Season 20’s specific release date hasn’t been announced yet, but we here at CinemaBlend will pass along any major updates on the show’s future. Until then, our 2022 TV schedule is available for you to see what’s currently airing and what’s premiering in the near future.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.