Last night’s episode of NCIS was the last for its lead actor, Mark Harmon. After 18 years of playing Gibbs on the show, the idea of Mark Harmon leaving NCIS may seem unreal, but it is unfortunately true. Harmon is stepping down from the show’s top spot. According to a story from The Hollywood Reporter, Harmon signed a deal to return in a limited capacity for the procedural show’s 19th season, which is currently airing weekly on CBS.
In the earlier season 18 finale, Harmon’s character Gibbs was almost killed in a boat explosion. This near-death experience changed Gibbs perspective on life and his position in NCIS. He expressed this to Special Agent Timothy McGee, played by Sean Murray, in last night’s episode, saying, “I’m not going back, Tim.” Instead, Gibbs chooses to remain in Alaska, where he and McGee tracked down a hitman.
Although Harmon is leaving the show after appearing in four episodes of season 19, the executive producer and showrunner, Steven D. Binder, has left the door wide open for Harmon to return to NCIS at some point. In a statement, Binder addressed Mark Harmon leaving NCIS, saying:
As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show. Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go. So regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years… never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.”
With Mark Harmon leaving NCIS for at least the rest of the season, it allows the rest of the cast to step up. NCIS recently added Katrina Law and Gary Cole as regulars for this season, who star alongside many of the staple cast members: Sean Murray, Brian Dietzen, Rocky Carroll, David McCallum, Wilmer Valderrama, and Diona Reasonover.