I must confess that it came as quite a shock when NCIS fans learned that “Very Special” Agent Anthony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) would be leaving the show at the end of season 13. Characters have been written off the show before, but not one of the original core members.
This poses a headache for the writers. Can NCIS survive without Tony? Let’s take a look at what the show’s writers are facing, and what fans may be feeling as we head toward Tony’s exit.
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One of the Original Fab Four
There are four original characters that have been on NCIS since the beginning: Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, medical examiner Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, forensic goddess Abby Sciuto, and handsome Special Agent Tony DiNozzo. We have had 13 seasons to get to know, and dare I say, love Tony. Special Agent Caitlin Todd (Sasha Alexander) left after the second season, and NCIS Director Jenny Shephard (Lauren Holly) departed after the fifth season.
Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) wrapped up her storyline at the beginning of season 11. Fans have had a lot of time to become invested in Tony and his back story. Tony fulfills so many roles: he is like the son Gibbs never had, and like a smart-aleck big brother to Abby, McGee, and Bishop. His departure leaves a gaping hole in the team.
Very Special, Indeed
Tony is both the sexy and charming leading man and the class clown. His witty nicknames for McGee (like McGossip), and his encyclopedic knowledge of movies make him interesting. He has pet goldfish named Kate and Ziva, and lives in a swanky and spotless bachelor pad. Underneath that surface layer is a man who loves the ladies, yet has a deep fear of commitment. There is great chemistry between all of the characters, and finding someone to fill Tony’s shoes will be impossible.
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Adding a new character to a long-running show like NCIS can be polarizing for viewers. Eleanor “Ellie” Bishop is a perfect example of this. Bishop is intellectual, shy, and quiet, while Ziva was a powerful, kick-ass agent with a penchant for butchering the English language. Fans would not accept a Ziva clone, but many were upset about Bishop joining the team. Bishop has been a member of the NCIS team for three years, and some fans still grumble about everything from her physical appearance to her personality. It’s a no-win situation for the writers. They need to fill the void in the team, but in a way that feels organic and believable. Only time will tell if fans will accept the NCIS newbie.
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“Tiva” No More
Alas, with Tony leaving NCIS behind, that means the end of the complex relationship between Tony and Ziva. There were lots of “will they or won’t they” moments, along with “I think they must have” conjecture. These two characters cared deeply for each other, and Ziva’s odd and stilted exit left the door open for a reunion in the future. Many NCIS fans wanted them to finally confess their love and have a relationship. This may still happen, but only after Tony leaves the show, possibly with Ziva. This leaves the show with nearly no romantic heat, aside from McGee and Delilah. That is a definite issue that needs to be fixed.
Can NCIS Go On?
While Michael Weatherly leaving NCIS might not spell the immediate end of the series, I think that it is safe to say that NCIS will never be the same. There won’t be head-slaps from Gibbs, and no more movie quotes and impressions of film icons. I think that it will be incredibly tough to create a character that with gel with the other team members and resonate with viewers at home. Farewell, DiNozzo. You will most certainly be missed.
NCIS season 13 airs Tuesdays at 8pm on CBS.
(Image courtesy of CBS)