NCIS Season 11 is set to begin on Tuesday, September 24 with a premiere that is one of the most anticipated episodes of the series in a while. Not only are there a ton of burning questions left over from last season, but Cote de Pablo‘s departure to speculate over. Well, you’re in luck because we’ve got spoilers to cover it all. 

Ziva’s Departure: Good News for Tiva Lovers

he NCIS fandom was rocked last month when news dropped that Cote de Pablo (Ziva) would be leaving the series. The news caught the executive producer/showrunner Gary Glasberg a bit off-guard as well. Glasberg told Xfinity that de Pablo’s decision caused changes in the premiere episode. “What was originally a one-part season opener for us became two parts,” Glasberg said, adding, “Ziva’s story, along with everything we are dealing with Gibbs, starts in the first one and continues all the way through to the second one.”

In an interview with Inside TV, Glasberg spoke more about the challenges of writing around Ziva’s exit. “I literally had to lock myself away and everything I was planning on had to be blown out and I had to start all over again,” Glasberg revealed. “It’s not what we had hoped for. This family – this NCIS family that exists between [the characters] – is so special and so unique, and this was Cote’s decision and we have to respect that. but some really fantastic work is going to come out of what occurred. We have some really terrific stuff planned for the year.”

What will this mean for all the Tiva lovers out there? “There are some really lovely fantastic moments between Tony and Ziva that I hope pay off for all the Tiva fans and provide the closure that they are looking for. They’re funny and heart-wrenching and give us a little bit of what people have been waiting for between them. I am going to tell people to watch. They should watch and see where we go with it and, hopefully, they will be satisfied with what they get,” Glasberg revealed. 

Tony Moving On?

How is Tony going to deal with Ziva leaving? Glasberg told Xfinity that it won’t be easy for the man who Gibbs once said likes to hide behind the face of a clown. 

“That is a big gaping hole that is going to be left. I think we have to give Tony time to figure out what he wants from life, let him heal, let him move on and let change happen. Then we will see what Tony wants next. That is something that Michael is very involved with. There is a lot of talk and communication going on. It is actually an interesting process for us to think what the next step is for the character and how we are going to move forward,” Glasberg said. 

Will Cote de Pablo Ever Return? What About Ziva’s Replacement?

It’s hard to think about the show without Cote de Pablo or Ziva, but the truth is that the show must go on. Could de Pablo ever come back someday to reprise her role? I am not going to say the door is closed,” Glasberg told Xfinity. “We have lots of things planned for the future, lots of things planned for this season. So we will have to see where everyone is. I don’t know where the show will be. I don’t know where our cast will be. I don’t know where Cote will be.”

Finding Ziva’s replacement can’t be an easy prospect, but it looks like the writers have found a fun way to do it. 

“We are going to have fun for some episodes and let some guests come in and fill that space. I don’t necessarily mean literally the space in the squad room, but have some fun with the dynamic of the team and, in Ziva’s absence, who can help us out?”

That means lots of great guest stars to come. 

“We have a terrific role coming up right away with an agent who is on the verge of retirement, a woman who comes in and helps us out, named Vera Strickland Roma Maffia). That was a blast. We had a lot of fun with that episode. We’ve got agent Abigail Borin (Diane Neal) from the Coast Guard coming back in. It is certainly with the idea floated out there: Could she be the one?” Glasberg said. 

In an interview with TV Line, Glasberg spoke more about the Strickland character. “And then in the third episode we introduce, for instance, a woman in her 50s who is a few days away from retirement and just needs to fill the desk time. She, in theory, knew Gibbs all the way back to the days of Mike Franks.”

Rotating in new characters will also give the show a chance to get back to doing the humor that it does so well. 

“We are going to play with this idea of a rotation of characters coming through. We want to remind people that after going through this very difficult period at the beginning of the season, there is still fun and lightness and some smiles to be had with the dynamic of this group. Hopefully, when people least expect it, someone will walk through the door and surprise us.”

Team Dynamics and Ziva’s Departure

After so many years working together, Ziva’s departure is sure to affect the rest of the team. Glasberg spoke to Xfinity about how it will specifically affect Tony and McGee’s friendship and partnership. 

“You have to remember, these agents are very, very close and they are used to working in a certain way. That is part of the fun we are having in the episodes that follow. There is a definite void that exists, yet these guys have to keep working. Sometimes that void is filled by a guest actor, and other times it is Tony and McGee working with Gibbs and putting in overtime to make it all work.”

It will also affect the rest of the team as well. “Ziva’s absence certainly resonates all the way through the department,” Glasberg said. “It affects Abby, Ducky and Palmer. Everyone understands what this means and has an attachment to her. You have to remember. This isn’t the first time this has happened for that group. There is reference to Kate. They have been down this road before.

Palmer Baby News!

One team member is leaving, but someone on the team may be getting ready to welcome a new family member. Fans will remember that Palmer revealed last season that he and his wife were planning to adopt a baby and Glasberg told Xfinity that that storyline will definitely be explored in Season 11. 

“There is a significant storyline that is going to continue throughout the season and really take some emotional twists and turns,” Glasberg revealed. “It is a nice little story that we are threading through, and, eventually, probably later in the season, it will have a more significant turn that we will deal with. It is definitely something that is going to get discussed for quite a while.

Frank’s Return! More Tony Flashbacks!

In more great news, Glasberg also revealed to Xfinity that fan-favorite Mike Frank will be back in a very special storyline. “Mike Franks comes back in an eye- opening, touching storyline that has some real resonance. These are flashbacks this time around. This is a story that took place in the past and resonates to something that is happening today. I think it is going to be a very impactful season.”

Tony lovers will be happy to hear that more flashbacks are coming for everyone’s favorite Senior Field Agent. “Then there is a terrific episode – sort of a Part 2 to “Baltimore” – when we went back and learned about Tony. We are stepping back again and seeing a young Tony DiNozzo in a Baltimore-related episode.”

Whew! That is a whole lot of information to take in, but luckily we’ve still got a couple weeks before the NCIS Season 11 premiere. Which bit of news are you the most excited about?

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(Image courtesy of CBS)

Michelle Carlbert

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV