NCIS' surprise return was an emotional twist for fans, as well as for those behind the scenes. Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) made a triumphant return in the final moments in the Season 16 finale to warn Gibbs (Mark Harmon) about a threat, more than five years since the character left the series.
"Hello Gibbs. No time for pleasantries. You're in danger," Ziva said to a stunned Gibbs in his basement.
After the old friends stood in silence staring at each other, Ziva broke the ice adding: "Well, aren't you going to say something?"
Gibbs continued to be in shock at seeing his former colleague before simply saying her name at the end of the episode.
The actress behind the elusive Ziva, Cote de Pablo, opened up about the experience of filming the surprise moment.
"It was so great," she said in an interview with WUSA9 Friday. "I walked in. It was very late, I think we shot it at almost midnight, and I had not been to that set for years since forever, for years since I left."
Series show runners Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder previously revealed they filmed the scene with a skeleton crew late at night, and kept the scene out of the scripts in order to ensure the secret return would be a surprise for everyone.
"I walked in and everyone was standing. They clapped and it was such an emotional moment," de Pablo said of her return to the set. "You haven't seen so many of these people for a really long time, many of them haven't changed at all. It was so pleasant to be held and hugged, and told 'Hey, we're so happy you're back.'"
"It was such a wonderful, refreshing thing," she added. "And then we shot that scene in no time and it was like old times. It was very easy to connect with Mark. It's very easy when you've worked with somebody for a long time to go back in that groove."
The actress will return for four episodes of the CBS crime procedural's 17th season with answers to where she has been all these years, as well as an action-packed new mission for the team.
"We and other cast members are in scuffles. It's very active," Harmon told TVInsider of the season opener recently. "Ziva and Gibbs have different ideas for how to go from point A to point B. The driving is contested."0comments
"Gibbs takes the keys," de Pablo joked at the time, adding how she got back in the groove of the show's fight sequences. "In the fight sequences, I was a little rusty, but you start working on something and go, "Oh, my God, that's right. I really like this." The choreography comes back into your body incredibly quickly. It's fun!"
NCIS premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.
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