For now, NCIS has bid farewell to Ziva David.
After Cote de Pablo abruptly decided to leave TV's most-watched drama this summer, producers had to find a way to tie up Ziva's narrative in short order. The result is Tuesday's episode, in which Ziva's will-they-won't-they partner-in-crime-solving Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) goes to Israel to find her. Once he tracks her down, he begs her to return to Washington with him, but to no avail. She leaves him on the runway with a tearful goodbye and a long kiss.
NCIS: What did you think of Ziva's goodbye?
How will Ziva's exit affect Tony, Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and the rest of the team? Is there a chance for her to return? And why was her exit arc so, well, Ziva-less? TVGuide.com turned to executive producer Gary Glasberg for answers.
I think many people were surprised by the lack of Ziva in this two-parter. She didn't appear at all in the premiere episode. What happened there?
Gary Glasberg: We had to really step back and change what this opening was going to be. We didn't see this coming, and part of the restructuring of this story line included sending Ziva off to Israel and Tony going after her. I think a lot of what people are reacting to in that first episode is honestly just the fallout. [There was] an uncertainty of the cards that we were dealt as writers and producers trying to make the show work. I'll absolutely admit that having them instant-message and text was something that we needed to do because that was all we had to work with.
How did you decide on this ending for Ziva's story? Was there ever any part of you that considered, as the show has done with other major characters, killing her off?
Glasberg: Like you said, the show has a history of doing that to characters upon their departure. I thought that Ziva deserved better than that. And this was an emotional thing off-screen and on-screen. We wanted to do this properly. Hopefully, [it will] give the fans what they've been waiting for, and let these two characters part ways in a satisfying manner. I like the idea that — specifically in terms of Tony and Ziva, how they connect and the romance that exists —she's still out there. For me, that really pulls at the heartstrings, and that was part of the decision as well.
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How much does it weigh on Tony that he wasn't able to convince Ziva to come back to D.C.?
Glasberg: I don't know if it weighs in a negative way, but it certainly resonates. There's a lot going on with Tony, and that'll continue as the season progresses. This really moves him forward in an interesting way. It acknowledges what that relationship really was and leaves the door open for what's next for him. He has to figure some things out for himself, and there's a maturing that's going to happen for Tony. I'm not saying that we're not going to see light moments for Tony DiNozzo anymore, but at the same time, he's moved on. It's on to the next chapter.
Will we see Tony dating again or do you think he will still pine for Ziva?
Gary Glasberg: We're really trying to handle this as realistically and organically as we can, and in the real world, it takes time to recover. It takes time to figure out what you want next in your life, and very often, the next person comes at the moment that you least expect. Is there anything that's going to happen in the immediate future? Absolutely not. Tony just went through a lot, and has a lot to think about, and then we'll be getting right back to work. Gibbs is going to want his team back together, and it's time to focus on the work of NCIS.
I'm sure fans appreciated that kiss on the runway. But since Tony lied to Gibbs about when he actually found Ziva, are we to assume they were shacking up for a while?
Glasberg: I don't necessarily feel like it was weeks or months. It may have been a couple of days, but we never really specifically say. I think it's clear that Tony and Ziva had some things to figure out on their own. Was it appropriate for them to keep that from Gibbs? Many of us believe Gibbs knew. Gibbs knows everything. He may have, and he may have recognized that they needed some time to themselves.
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Speaking of Gibbs, what do you imagine Ziva said to him in the phone call that we saw but didn't hear?
Glasberg: That was a very deliberate decision on our part. We would like to believe that every viewer and fan of the show has their own idea of what that conversation is, and I'm not going to even begin to try to second-guess for everybody what Ziva David would say to Leroy Jethro Gibbs in her farewell. I like letting everyone decide for themselves and savor that moment.
How much of an impact does losing Ziva as a team member have on Gibbs?
Glasberg: It means a lot. The fantastic part of Gibbs as a character is that he'll never really tell you how he feels. Those emotions are there, but he may not let you see them. And when he does let you see them, it's going to happen at a time when you least expect it and it'll happen without words. You're not going to hear from him how he feels, but hopefully you'll feel it.
And the rest of the team?
Glasberg: It's very much a family. Ziva's departure affects all of them, and they all comment on it. It resonates with all of them, and they all have different views on things and that'll get discussed, especially in the first couple of episodes without Ziva. But there reaches a point, too, where people have to regroup and they have to re-focus. If anybody's going to make that clear, it's going to be Gibbs, because that's the way he lives his life.
You've stated before that there's no replacing Ziva, but what can we expect from the people who will be sitting at her desk in the coming weeks?
Glasberg: In the next episode, we have some fun with Roma Maffia. She plays an agent on the verge of retirement who adds a unique energy to things and a lightness, and we have a terrific time with her. You've got Agent Borin [Diane Neal], a Coast Guard agent who comes back and fills that void in a really interesting, fun way. You've got McGee's new flame, Delilah [Margo Harsman], who steps up in one scenario and participates more. We have some fun with some guests, and I'm really excited about that, and I think it works really nicely. And then we get to November, and everyone gets to meet the NSA analyst, Eleanor Bishop [Emily Wickersham]. I'm really excited about what she's going to bring to this character, and we have big plans.
NCIS airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on CBS.
(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)