How 'NCIS' Pulled off That Surprise Major Character Return

NCIS surprised everyone with the big return of a beloved character, believed to be dead for a few years, and producers are opening up on how they pulled off the shocking cliffhanger.

Spoilers ahead for NCIS Season 16 Episode 24 "Daughters"

The show had hinted that Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) might be alive earlier this season, but seeing the character walk down the stars to Gibbs' (Mark Harmon) basement in the final seconds of the Season 16 finale will still hold fans over until the show's return in the fall.

"Hello Gibbs. No time for pleasantries. You're in danger," Ziva said to a stunned Gibbs.

After the pair stand quietly simply staring at each other, Ziva breaks the ice saying: "Well, aren't you going to say something?"

Gibbs stays in shock and simply says her name before the episode ends on the show-stopping cliffhanger.

Ziva previously left the series when she left Tony (Michael Weatherly) and her daughter after she presumably died in Israel. She was believed to be alive earlier this season after Bishop (Emily Wickersham) got a communication from the former agent, begging to keep her secret in order to keep her loved ones safe.

According to Cinema Blend, the CBS crime procedural managed to keep the secret of Ziva's return by keeping the contents of that final scene a secret from everyone. The scenes reportedly not included in any scripts or call sheets during producing of the episode.

The outlet reports showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder had copies of the scene and they filmed the scene at midnight with only a skeleton crew in order to keep the reveal under wraps.

The full crew reportedly wrapped production an hour before de Pablo arrived for her appearance and she entered the studio through the back entrance to avoid being seen.

Cardea and Binder also teased that Ziva's last second reveal will not be all we see of the beloved character.

"This surprise moment is just the beginning. We are thrilled to share that Cote de Pablo will guest star in the NCIS Season 17 premiere this Fall as Ziva's warning to Gibbs unfolds," the statement released by the writers read.

While de Pablo is not returning to the show as a series regular, she will be making an appearance this fall to explain the ominous announcement she gave Gibbs after her surprise return.


What did you think of Ziva's surprise return? NCIS will come back for Season 17 this fall on CBS.