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How NCIS Pulled Off That Shocking Return in the Season 16 Finale

They will also guest-star in the Season 17 premiere!

Kaitlin Thomas

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Season 16 finale of NCIS. Read at your own risk!]

A familiar face returned in NCIS's Season 16 finale on Tuesday, and it threw many fans for an loop in the best way. In the final scene of season, Cote de Pablo's Ziva David stormed down the stairs to deliver a warning to Gibbs (Mark Harmon).

"Hello, Gibbs. No time for pleasantries -- you're in danger," she said. "Well, aren't you gonna say something?"

In order to keep de Pablo's appearance in the finale a surprise, the scene was never included in any script. Only showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder knew about it, and the actress arrived on set to film the scene with a skeleton crew via a back gate entrance more than an hour after the rest of the crew had wrapped.

Honestly, the secrecy was worth it in order to keep de Pablo's return a surprise for longtime NCIS fans. Ziva, a former Mossad agent who eventually became an NCIS agent, first appeared in Season 3 and quickly became a fan-favorite character before exiting the long-running CBS procedural in Season 11. And the character's return in the Season 16 finale isn't the end of the good news: de Pablo will return next season.

CBS's Fall 2019 TV Schedule

"This surprise moment is just the beginning," said showrunners Cardea and Binder in a statement. "We are thrilled to share that Cote de Pablo will guest star in the NCIS Season 17 premiere this fall as Ziva's warning to Gibbs unfolds."

NCIS returns for Season 17 this fall on CBS.

(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of CBS Corporation.)



Sonja Flemming/CBS