How NCIS’ Big Promise About Mark Harmon’s Gibbs Return Could Still Pay Off

How NCIS’ Big Promise About Mark Harmon’s Gibbs Return Could Still Pay Off

When “NCIS” actor David McCallum passed away in 2023, fans knew shake-ups would happen during the show’s following season. McCallum played the lovable Ducky since the series premiere, and the Season 21 installment — “The Stories We Leave Behind” — saw the character die in-universe, with the team reacting to the tragic event. The episode brought tears to many people’s eyes, and the only way it could’ve been sadder is if Gibbs (Mark Harmon) had swung by to honor his fallen friend. Sadly, he is nowhere to be found.

“NCIS” showrunner Steven D. Binder addressed this before the episode aired, speaking with TV Line in January (the interview was later published in February). Scheduling issues were the real reason Harmon couldn’t appear in the Ducky tribute episode, but Binder clarified that “the door is always open” for a Gibbs return. He continued, “When we bring him back, we’re not going to bring him back for two minutes. It’s got to be something special.”

Gibbs was the main character on “NCIS” for nearly two decades. While fans wanted him to return, it’s possible they would’ve felt short-changed if he popped up for only a few seconds. Harmon could always come back another time, maybe to help the team with a case, and in the process, he could say a few kind words about his old colleague.

NCIS fans criticized Gibbs missing the Ducky tribute

Audiences would welcome Mark Harmon back on “NCIS,” and an episode dedicated to the memory of a longstanding cast member would seem to be the place to do it. Many fans complained about Gibbs missing the Ducky tribute. Some even found it out of character, as Gibbs worked alongside Ducky for years and should’ve been there for his final goodbye. Of course, many factors dictate what a TV episode can and cannot do, and Steven D. Binder discussed the creative team’s ambitious plans for “The Stories We Leave Behind.”

One idea would’ve given “Avengers: Endgame” a run for its money, as he told TV Line, “What we first imagined was what the Marvel Cinematic Universe did when Tony Stark died … Our original thought was, ‘Can we get everybody?'” That plan proved too unwieldy, so they scaled things back. Naturally, Gibbs’ return was on the table, as both Gibbs and Ducky had been on “NCIS” since the beginning. However, what materialized on “The Stories We Leave Behind” was all in service of who was most impacted by Ducky’s death — Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen). 

Binder elaborated, “It was Jimmy who was there, so it was [about] who Jimmy would connect with, and also bring some levity … And that was Michael Weatherly.” Tony DiNozzo (Weatherly) is the big cameo for the special episode, giving fans a respite from the dour proceedings. But Gibbs is still out there, and for now, fans can only wonder how he reacted to the news.

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Martinx Martinx

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