NCIS Boss Spills Secrets Behind Ziva's Exit: What Changed? Was a Kiss Cut? Could She Return?

Past, Present, and FutureWhen all was said and done (and being watched by 20 million viewers), NCIS showrunner Gary Glasberg says he was “very pleased” with how longtime cast member Cote de Pablo‘s final episodes unfolded. That said, there were wrinkles to be ironed out as he rejiggered his original Season 11 launch plan to accommodate this important goodbye, sprung on him, as it was, late in the process. Here, Glasberg answers TVLine’s burning questions about Ziva’s exit.

RELATED | NCIS Recap: A Kiss Before Goodbye-ing — What Grade Do You Give Ziva’s Exit?

HOW DID COTE DE PABLO’S EXIT CHANGE THE ORIGINAL SEASON 11 PREMIERE STORYLINE? | Most simply said, “There is no comparison,” Glasberg asserts. “My intention was to pick up where we left off and tell the story of Gibbs and where we left him, with the sniper rifle, and set up some of the Parsa/terrorist storyline that is going to follow through this season.” Once it became clear that the actress and show would be parting ways, Glasberg says, “I realized very quickly that we couldn’t [write Ziva out] in one episode — there was no way — and do it properly, and that’s why it turned into a two-parter. And that’s why the significant second half of the [Season 11 premiere] became about her.”

WAIT, SO ZIVA WASN’T EVEN ‘OFF THE GRID’ IN THE ORIGINAL VERSION…? | “No, not at all,” Glasberg makes clear. As originally laid out, DiNozzo, McGee and Ziva “all went off and were doing their separate things [during the four-month time jump], and I had a sense of something that I wanted her to be doing. But while she was separated from the group, it was not to the extent that you saw.”

RELATED | Cote de Pablo Mum on NCIS Exit Details: ‘I Left Under My Terms, and That Was Wonderful’

WAS THERE A SECOND TONY/ZIVA KISS THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT? | In the two-part premiere, no. But in an episode from a previous season, Glasberg shares, “There was a kiss that existed at one point that was a last-minute addition to a sequence that never got used. It was something we had toyed with once before. And if there’s an opportunity at some point to dig it up out of the archives, maybe I will.”

DID THE GOODBYE SCENE EVER FEATURE AN OUTRIGHT CASABLANCA REFERENCE FROM FILM BUFF TONY? | Noting the similarities to [spoiler alert] the acclaimed Bogart film’s ending, Glasberg says, “We had been talking about visually what we wanted this to be, and there was a lot of talk about being out on an airfield and putting that plane in the background” — but that’s where the Casablanca similarities ended. “There was some joking about [Tony saying, ‘We’ll always have Paris’], actually. But it was never scripted.”

RELATED | NCIS Planning New Orleans-Based Spin-Off, Exec-Produced By Mark Harmon

WHY WERE COTE DE PABLO’S FINAL EPISODES RATHER, WELL, COTE-LIGHT? | Glasberg says, “I understand that reaction to the first [Season 11] episode,” which did not feature de Pablo at all, “but that was stuff that literally had to be written at a time when there were still issues being figured out. Devices and decisions like having them Instant Messaging each other were put together because I had to.” As for “hiding” Ziva until midway through Episode 2, “We just wanted the story to build and ramp properly,” he explains. “We wanted to feel Tony’s search appropriately, and the only way you feel that is, for a little while, to have him looking for her. To not have him connect with her just yet. The only way we can do that is to have her not be present, and then have her appear when we least expect it.

IS THE PROVERBIAL ‘DOOR OPEN’ FOR ZIVA/COTE’S ONE DAY RETURN? | To that obvious inquiry, Glasberg can only note at this early stage, “”Ziva’s not dead! She’s not dead.”

NEXT WEEK ON TVLINE: Gary Glasberg previews life at NCIS after Ziva, reveals what her successors will bring to the empty desk and weighs in on battling those Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

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  1. Jean says:

    I don’t think we will really know what it is because Mis de Pablo refuses to talk about it. I was right about her husband/boyfriend making a film in Chile around that time.

  2. Annette says:

    Well, we just miss Ziva! That is all there is to it. Tonight’s episode was disjointed. We never watched NCIS before Zivai. But, I find it disconcerting that she felt it necessary to leave. How do you just move on. No one says her name. Why is that?

  3. Cathy says:

    I’ve watched NCIS from the beginning. At first, did not go for the addition of the Character of Ziva, but the action and charisma this actress has kept me loving it. I’m trying to keep watching it, because after all, I’ve always been a fan of the show. But, I am ready to quit unless you can tell me Ziva is coming back – and it needs to be soon. I can’t believe a number one ranked show would mess with its success like this with so many shows faltering.

  4. Ann says:

    My husband and I have been watching NCIS for years, but we started after Kate died, so all we’ve really known has been Ziva (Kate we caught up on through reruns on another channel, flashbacks, and the occasional NCIS marathon). We have never watched NCISLA. So, I suppose that means we’ve been watching NCIS for 7or 8 years.

    While it is true that the show moved on relatively easily after Kate died, the viewers only had Kate for what, 2 years? Versus Ziva for 8 years? Big difference in exposure, character development, emotional attachment to the story line, etc. If the actress had died in real life (god forbid) viewers would have an easier time coping, which is not to say that the show would not also possibly have insurmountable ambiance problems. Obviously, what is most frustrating here is that CDP is available, but just no longer on the show. Therefore, Ziva “could” come back, she just isn’t going to.

    It is a little difficult to believe that CDP could have had personal problems that could not otherwise have been dealt with, ie, less mystery. Sean Connery, my absolute favorite James Bond, didn’t want to get type cast, and he said so. When he quit playing the part, no one ever wondered why. Sick relatives don’t stay sick forever. A leave of absence from the show could have been written into the story line in an acceptable fashion. As someone else said, pregnancy has been successfully dealt with many times before, most recently on “Bones”.

    In any event, my husband almost refused to watch NCIS last night. I forced him to because it was a Tony episode (shades of Baltimore PD), and I love watching MW. My husband figured it would be some weird BPD flashback with no connection to NCIS, and he hates those backstory episodes. In fact, the flashback made sense with current events and the episode worked.

    What really intriqued me was Delilah (sp?). Seeing her at Ziva’s desk almost felt right. What a quirky little actress and character! So different from the other subs. And when Delilah and Abby got all girl-geeky on Gibbs? Awesome! Don’t know what this “Bishop” person is going to be like, but maybe going off in an entirely new direction with the team might be better than just “replacing Ziva”. Frankly, after 8 years, I don’t think you can pull that off. The show will suffer, the numbers will tank, everyone will lose interest. Adios, amigos.

    In real life the job vacancy gets filled and you move on. However, even in a real office, personalities matter, teams have their own dynamics, and it’s often hard to get the right “fit” so that the work gets done efficiently. Unlike a real office, this is a tv show, and if the team doesn’t “fit”, the viewers don’t have to stick around waiting for management to fix it.

  5. Larry Tracey says:

    I watched the latest episode of NCIS, there is a BIG hole in the show !!!!!!!!!!! Bring Cote back please….. thank you.

  6. Whatshername says:

    I actually preferred Kate over Ziva as I enjoyed the different group dynamic with Kate. The show will go on without Cote and it will be interesting to see what type of character will fill her shoes.

    For Cote’s sake I hope the speculation about her leaving to spend time with her ailing father isn’t true. Actors move on from projects all the time and in my opinion it’s better to move on while things are going well than to hang in there until the dying end just to collect the massive paycheck (ie: Friends cast). I wish her all the best.

    • Kikoerm says:

      I agree with this. I also hope her family is well and it is not a health reason that compelled her to leave. I really enjoyed both Kate and Ziva, they were both very different and but I appreciated both of their dynamics and what they each brought to the show. I don’t’ think I preferred one to the other, but I know I would have loved to see Kate stick around for longer so I could have seen her evolve as the show evolved, two seasons really isn’t enough for me when it comes to characters I enjoy. I always loved the brother-sister dynamic she and Tony had and it would have been interesting to see them grow together, plus jockey for top spot as the years progressed (as no doubt they would have). Oh well… sadly that was not to be. We got Ziva instead, and I’ve always liked her, and I like the background they chose for her, so that worked for me.

      I would be disappointed when any character I’ve grown to like moves on, and I miss seeing Cote on the show, but so far, I think they’re doing a pretty good job (after the real clunkers of the premieres, I would hasten to add). Everyone else is still there that I’ve always enjoyed so for me the show is still the same, just with one less person. Plus, the guest spots with first, what-was-her-name who was retiring, and then the younger lie detector gal were really well done, funny, and sweet, I thought. I’m having fun with these “temporary” extra team members, and I’m looking forward to who the permanent replacement is going to be. The things about NCIS I have always loved are its heart and its humor, so as long as those two elements are kept in the show, then no matter who rotates through, I’ll probably be watching until it’s done.

  7. Marta says:

    Now, this is very unfair to us, people, who are watching and enjoying the show. Producers just simply decide not to follow the flow. Cote is NCIS. She is the reason this show is so intriguing. I can not see the repleacment for her. Her story is inflitrated too deep into the serial. I’m watching NCIS because I want to know what will happen next….her role is funny, serious, tricking…I think you will loose the audience.

  8. MDHolden says:

    Bring ZIVA BACK NOW! the dynamics are not the same and oddly not “macho” enough. Ziva creates a better point of comparison than Pauley because she is an agent. God we miss her! All ages in this family miss her.

  9. Lavinia says:

    I want Ziva back!

  10. linda says:

    Show is no good without her the money shes worth it and you guys know it.when you replace her i will stop watcing the show if for nothing else but to support the cause.its a shame it was the one show my husband and i made a date to watch weekly.

  11. Ashley says:

    Anyone else think that NCIS is getting boring now?

    • tejasjulia says:

      God no. It’s better than it’s been in years.

    • Robert Supuy says:

      I do support your opinion. She was the Tabasco sauce of NCIS!! Without her, NCIS is just a boring CSI alike series. I think Cote deserves the salary increment and the writers have failed to give her more scenes. A full hunting for ghost of her past would have a rich source of stories, for example her missions with Ms Shepherd, the former and late NCIS Director.

  12. Robert Supuy says:

    Could be at least a chance to see Ziva back to some NCIS episodes when they need brave and courageous israeli Mossad female agents?

  13. Can’t understand the fascination with NCIS or any of the characters. They are all, including Ziva, one dimensional. The plots are shallow and contrived and the writers can’t seem to decide whether this show is a farce or “serious” drama. NCIS Los Angeles is at least consistent in this arena. The worst developed character is Gibbs, who is as predictable as death and taxes, and never changes or grows in any direction – good or bad. I can only imagine the sexual harassment people at CBS cringing every time Gibbs pecks Abby on the cheek. There is also too much catering to a sense of national pride in the military establishment at the expense of the other paramilitary organizations like the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security. NSA, the worst offender in terms of invasion of personal privacy, gets the least attention. I attribute most of this nonsense to Harmon who, as a producer, calls the shots in plot creation, or is it destruction? Get a life, viewers. How many hours could you spend in an elevator with Cote de Pablo (you men) or Michael Weatherly (you women) without even a single reference to your sexual natures? And as for Ziva and Tony, foreplay has taken on an entirely new meaning given their relationship on the show. I am talking about measuring the time in years! One word to sum up the entire show: boring. (Instead, watch “Elementary” where Tom Stoppard must write the dialogue for Sherlock. I wish the scripts were in print – the lines are delivered so quickly that I am still processing one while two more flit past. Now here are characters growing before your very eyes with a depth that is rarely seen in television drama.)

  14. I hope... says:

    Ziva was the reason why everyone watched NCIS. NCIS needs to get her back, or lets hope Criminal Minds takes her on and gets ride of the new women that took Pertness place. Or maybe what will happen they will make something happen to Elli and Ziva will be back. Is not the same with out her.

    • No. She was NOT why people watched NCIS. People watched before she came and they’re still watching now that she’s gone. Given how she walked at the last minute I doubt she’ll be working much in Hollywood any time soon.

  15. Geoff says:

    Bad move CBS letting Cote leave NCIS. A lot of viewers in OZ are now turning off without Ziva. Apart from being a very beautiful woman, she is a very accomplished actress and takes number one spot with a lot of viewers. She was worth a hell of a lot more than you were paying.

  16. salma says:

    so saddened to hear that zivas not going to be there. loved ncis but don’t think I have the heart to watch after this. utterly heartbreaking. actually if u guys take away any of the usual team , , you’re asking for trouble. This was the only show I followed so religiously. heartbroken.

  17. I have always enjoyed the electric currents between all of the characters on NCIS, but with Ziva now gone, that electricity no longer flows thru them or the script and Tony seems smaller and lost now. He was really maturing and becoming more interesting as he became closer to Ziva. Now, that’s all gone. Also, she was the only person who did kowtow to Gibbs and I loved that.

  18. Bonnie says:

    Please bring ziva back

  19. Gail says:

    If any of the characters, Ziva, Gibbs, Tony, McGee left the show, it would never be the same for me. I have stopped watching NCIS since Ziva left. Just watched my first NCIS since she left and was not impressed. I predict this show will be going down hill. Give it some time, and the show will lose its ratings.

  20. Susan says:

    Bishop cannot take Ziva’s place. The sizzle is gone this season. I love all the characters but the team together was what made it special. It would be the same if they tried to replace Gibbs or any of the main characters. I hope Cote and the producers see this as the mistake it is ..
    With so many of us fans expressing our discontent with Ziva’s abrupt departure, one can only hope that both Cote and the producers will stop and think about their decisions.
    PLEASE bring Ziva back ! I hate the idea that this may be the end of NCIS .
    This season just does not measure up in a lot of fans eyes .

  21. Tom Charters says:

    Cote De Pablo did not leave the show due to money negotiations. She has not been replaced because it was determined to write around her absence and when she returns after resolution of her medical issue. Hoping to have her back for the final two episodes in 2014 but for sure she will be back next season.

    • Susan G. DeVan says:

      I certainly hope you are right about Ziva’s possible return. The show is a bomb without her. I don’t know why her absence makes such a difference, but we no longer care if we miss seeing NCIS or not. The best episodes are still the reruns with Ziva. The network should fork over a big check to Coty de Pablo just to keep their viewers interested. Putting Marg Helgenberg’s show (Intelligence) in the following slot won’t pick up the slack – it looks very violent, and we don’t plan to watch it.

  22. Lillian says:

    I have watched the show since the beginning. When Ziva came along I didn’t like her, at first. Then she grew on me. So, the same thing can happen with another person in her place. I still like all the other characters and won’t desert them for just one person. There’s still the same group of people who also make the show work the way it does.The show is excellent, and character replacement happens. To me, NCIS is about more than just one person.

  23. Ruud says:

    Holland miss her also. NCIS without Ziva is taking off Gibs familiy for the second time. Let her come bach or find another touch lady ( annie wersching ) 24 (renee walker)

    • Lola says:

      Miss Ziva……..and Gibbs is starting to get on my nerves…always with his coffee, running about all the time,to MTAC… down to see Ducky and when there he goes somewhere else in a hurry,always running.And he seems to never have a kind word for McGee orTony, just Abbey.Since Ziva is out I just don’t have that urge to see the show anymore.I know she can’t be NCIS but it was good fun seeing her and Tony together.Just hope to see her once in a while.

  24. terr says:

    this show has lost it’s star, I so looked forward to watching Ziva & Tony interact, any chance you will bring her back, by the way the new blonde is very annoying and I might stop watching because of her.I still do not undersand why you let Ziva get away.

  25. Lee Rosen says:

    I have gone to watching reruns, just so I can see the real NCIS!

  26. Linda Bellvance says:

    How about adding Mark Rolston to the cast? He’d make a great agent and has enough sass to interact with the others.

  27. says:

    I promise and will take ANY bets, that IS the end of the show – NCIS!

  28. Mark says:

    After 11 seasons, the shows creators and producers realize they have made their money. After season seven, NCIS, went into repeats and this is where they make the money. They could care less now whether the show has the same chemistry or if it survives, everything else is now Gravy!

  29. I would really like to see Ziva back on NCIS. all those people trying to replace her are not Ziva period. I will discontinue watching if she is not back by Feb. 2014. I really love Mark Harmon and the rest of the stars, but Ziva made the show very interesting. I am not interested in wasting my time watching replacements.

  30. JBond says:

    Simply Fact – without Ziva the show is just not the same – Tony and the rest of the cast are just lost without her. Hope Ziva returns and soon – the new girl at Ziva’s desk just does not cut it anyway shape or form.

  31. Maxine Love says:

    Bring Ziva back, I’ve stop watching NCIS sense they brought in this new person that knows everything, I’ve lost interest. There is No chemistry at all.

  32. Jose says:

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  33. Larry Eich says:

    WOW Ziva was just as important as all the women who played in NCIS what was her last episode in NCIS

  34. frances manickchand says:

    I believe that bcuz is not the same, I truly miss ziva. I hope that writers can bring her back. The show needs her. Please bring her back.

  35. Sasha Whillams says:

    I will miss ziva I have been waiting for the day when Tony and ziva are together. I will still watch the show. Hopefully ziva will come back and Tiva can be reunited. I just hope Tony can finally have a girl and keep her. He deserves to be happy and settle down. Long live Tiva!

  36. betty medrano says:

    i still watch ncis its my favorite show and maybe hopefully she will return. i like all of them.

  37. bob says:

    I don’t watch NCIS any more since ZIVA left.I watch Agents of sheild not the same bring ZIVA back.

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  39. Sandy says:

    I have been watching NCIS for the past month and it’s just not the same without Ziva. Must get her back! The show does not have the appeal as before with the four having fun but getting the job done.

  40. Rebecca says:

    I totally agree! Tony, McGhee and Ziva brought some fun in the show, it wasn’t all doom & gloom! Love Abby, Duckie and of course, Gibbs! The best cast ever for NCIS!

  41. charmaine says:

    I liked Kate, I did not think Ziva would do as well but she was awesome, The new replacement, Bishop is not what is happening, character is not there or upto par. Bring Ziva back before ratings start to fall or is this gonna be the last season, because if you keep that new character who does not fit with the team. It’s a done deal

  42. Mindy hunt says:

    Get ziva back

  43. payday loan
    Do you have any video of that? I’d like to find out more details.

  44. Duane Hunt says:

    I just finnily so the one of the shows without ZIVA. New girl should never been put in the show. The show has lost its zip. Won’t be watching anymore. I started watching from episode 1. Why do exec’s think they always know best. This another case the show’s
    The don’t.

  45. Tom C says:

    I was unhappy when Kate got killed off. She was a classy female to offset dingy Abby. Ziva replaced Kate and brought a sharper personality to the show. I’m not sure whether it was the writing or her acting ability, but Ziva somehow just works. Honestly I have not seen any of the episodes post Ziva, so I don’t know if the show will survive or not.

  46. DEBBIE L says:


  47. Ive lost interest in ncis since zivas. departure. The chemistry is no longer there. Bring ziva back. As the top rated show i cant see how her staying would have broken the bank. Many people do not watch now that shes gone. Without her i do see the bank breaking. I can only speak for myself and pretty much everyone i know as they were loyal loyal fans also. Bring back ziva!

  48. Char Irish says:

    Bad choice to x Ziva out. Her replacement is less than engaging. I will not be watching
    NCIS much anymore.

  49. Carol says:

    What about McGee!!! He is part of the team too but everyone seems to just pass him over. I think he s a great actor and puts so much expression into his face doesn’t just rely on shouting and a clever script.

  50. Rebecca says:

    All I can say is”bring Ziva back”, I don’t watch the new shows anymore, no more spunk, all doom and gloom! There has to be the comedic antics of Ziva & Tony! It’s always good to have a mixture! The girl that replaced Ziva is boring!