NCIS marked the end of Ziva's big return in the second episode of Season 17. The fan-favorite character left town after teaming up with Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and the rest of the team to stop a possible terrorist attack related to Sahar, the woman set on killing Ziva (Cote de Pablo).
Spoilers ahead for NCIS Season 17, Episode 2: "Into the Light"
Sahar's terrorist threat claims lead to a twist-heavy investigation that at one point hints Ziva might be working alongside the mysterious woman, rather than working toward killing her. It is then revealed Ziva made a deal to help Sahar get information from NCIS to secure her safety and freedom.
However, Sahar betrays Ziva and orders her dead, just as NCIS arrives to arrest all of them — including Ziva. After she reveals she did not indeed betray the team but she was deceiving Sahar, the terrorist's reaction is to enact "Plan C" and kill herself and her goons, knowing that the information she needed already reached partners.
At the end of the episode, Ziva prepares to head out to continue her investigation when she finally has a heart-to-heart with Gibbs and he apologies for not trying to find her. She says she needs to do the rest of her mission on her own. When Gibbs gets a call from DiNozzo, she promises to tell her love everything once she is safe.
Ziva fans should not fret Ziva leaving town. The actress will reprise the beloved role for two more episodes in Season 17, as previously revealed by NCIS showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven Binder. While they wouldn't say exactly when Ziva will return, they teased it would be sometime in the late fall or winter.
The storyline that marked her anticipated return will also be a "bookend" for the beloved character, who was previously presumed dead for five years.
When asked if they are "looking at Ziva's journey this season as a full-circle moment" in a conversation with Entertainment Tonight, Binder replied, "Yes, as a matter of fact. There will be a very large full circle when all is said and done. It will be emotionally obvious. It will be for a lot of characters, not just Ziva. There's a big bookend here. When you see the B-side, you will know instantly what the A-side was."
The pair were also asked if "the door open where [Ziva] could appear in more episodes this season," or if they have "had conversations about" that.
"Many times we're cruising to the last four episodes and creating our world because things have changed and we're changing what we're doing," he added. "We have a plan right now and it could change. Or it may not. We'll see how the reception is and what our writers come up with if... watching [these episodes] sparks new ideas. But, we're a fluid, nimble show for sure."