NCIS said goodbye to Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs in the fourth episode of Season 19, and the number one question fans have since is simple: When will he return..? He is, after all, still alive and was last seen fishing in Alaska in “Great Wide Open.”
“There’s always head room for him to return. “I think it just has to be the right story to get him and us excited about it,” executive producer Steven D. Binder tells TV Insider. “It’s a playable card, and I don’t think we want to play it cheaply.” I believe that when we do play it, we must do the right thing. And we follow a different schedule than other shows. Other shows may only have a year or two, or they may not know how much time they will have. We just operate on a much longer time scale for these things than other shows, for better or worse.”
While he hasn’t been seen since his departure, his influence is still felt on the show, with multiple mentions of his rules. “Gibbs put his stamp on the team in a big way, and it’ll take more than a year for that to fade,” Binder, a writer, showrunner, and fan, says. “I don’t want it to fade because even if I can’t have Gibbs, I enjoy having his presence in there.”
And, while he wonders what Gibbs is up to now, there’s a reason we haven’t heard from him in a while. “I want to know, but I don’t want to know,” admits the EP. “I feel like we abandoned Gibbs in this magical place, and as this magical being who — I don’t want to think of Gibbs in an apartment, a house, or with another woman.” I almost don’t want to consider him in that light. I saw him in a river, smiling with a knife in his pocket and fish in the boat, which I never see him do.
That’s how I picture him, and that’s how I intend to keep picturing him. So, when we do bring his memory back to life, it’s always the ghost of Gibbs at NCIS, not necessarily where he is now.”
Harmon is also keeping Gibbs’ memory alive by continuing to lead the opening credits. Will this be the case for the rest of the series? “Those are issues that we haven’t resolved yet, so the answer is that we’ll have to wait and see,” Binder says. “That was due to the fact that, while the season had ended and Mark would not have appeared in any more episodes, that was not something that was decided, so he remained in the credits because we didn’t k1ll him.” He’ll appear in a certain number of episodes.
He’s in the same number of episodes that I believe David McCallum was in, and we just kept going because Mark could have easily been in another five or six episodes. It didn’t end up that way because it was just a really difficult season, and that would’ve been just another thing to do to make it happen.”
“Everyone has to talk to everyone and see how people are feeling about, do we want to make a more definitive step one way or the other?” he continued. I’ll have a more definitive answer once we have to build the title sequence, which is our real deadline, and we don’t do that until July or August.”
NCIS also revealed that Gibbs established a college scholarship fund in honor of his late daughter, sending agents’ children to college, when Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) and Dr. Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) received $10,000. That came up on NCIS: Los Angeles after Eric Beale (Barrett Foa) sent the team $10,000 in checks. “Perhaps he was influenced by Gibbs,” Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen) speculated. But how did he become aware of the fund?
NCIS: LA executive producer R. Scott Gemmill says, “I think it’s sort of common knowledge within the world of our NCIS.” “He did it on the mothership.” It was more of a nod to the mothership for fans of both shows than anything else. It was very subtle, and I’m surprised you noticed it. But when we can, we give a shout-out.”
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