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NCIS Star Mark Harmon: It's Up to Us to Stay No. 1 After Cote de Pablo Leaves

NCIS Mark Harmon Cote de Pablo Exit“Boss” has spoken.

For the first time since Cote de Pablo‘s exit from NCIS was announced, star Mark Harmon has shared his thoughts on how the show must move forward without her and the character of Ziva David.

PHOTOS | Fall TV Spoiler Spectacular: Exclusive Scoop on NCIS and 44 Other Returning Faves

Assaying NCIS‘ longevity and success — it enters Season 11 again as TV’s most watched drama — Harmon said on Thursday night’s Arsenio Hall Show, “We’ve had a lot of changes, and we’ve managed to get better with the changes both in front of the camera and behind the camera.

“We have another change this year, with Cote leaving,” he continued, “and it’s up to this highly professional group to use that as a springboard, to improve and stay No. 1 [in total viewers].”

Alas, Arsenio being Arsenio, he asked zero follow-up questions.

RELATED | NCIS Boss Laments Cote de Pablo’s ‘Shocking’ Departure, Teases ‘Heart-Wrenching’ Exit

But, fun fact: Prior to Harmon coming out on stage, Arsenio featured a montage of scenes from NCIS’ season premiere, including a moment where Ziva sure seems to be leaning in, eyes closed, to kiss Tony (goodbye?).

RELATED | Michael Weatherly on Ziva’s Exit: NCIS Has a ‘Remarkable DNA’ That Withstands Change

Just this week, NCIS showrunner Gary Glasberg shared an open letter about “the elephant in the room,” reiterating his shock in de Pablo’s decision to leave yet promising “amazing resolution” for Ziva via a “pretty damn heart-wrenching” storyline.

“Prepare yourselves for a moment in television history. Images that will end up in the archives,” Glasberg wrote. “I couldn’t be happier with how my NCIS family stepped up and did some of the most emotional work we’ve ever done.”

Want more scoop on NCIS, or for any other show? Email insideline@tvline.com and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.