Why Mark Harmon Missed ‘NCIS’ David McCallum Tribute: We’re Not Bringing Him ‘Back for 2 Minutes’

Why Mark Harmon Missed ‘NCIS’ David McCallum Tribute: We’re Not Bringing Him ‘Back for 2 Minutes’

When NCIS said goodbye to Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard — and paid homage to the late actor David McCallum — fans were quick to notice Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs was nowhere to be found.

“When we bring him back, we’re not going to bring him back for two minutes,” coshowrunner Steven D. Binder told TVLine of Harmon’s absence in the Monday, February 19, episode.

Binder teased that Harmon’s comeback has “got to be something special,” noting that the “door is always open” for the actor to resume his duties as Gibbs. (Harmon, 72, exited the series in 2022 after 19 seasons but remains an executive producer on the show.)

During the tribute episode, Gibbs wasn’t there in person to mourn the loss of Ducky, but he was there in spirit. A package from Alaska, where Gibbs was last seen during season 19, was sent to Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray), featuring a Polaroid of Gibbs, McGee and Ducky from seasons past.

There were also flashback clips of Gibbs working alongside medical examiner Ducky during their time at NCIS.

While Ducky didn’t die on the show until Monday’s program, McCallum — who portrayed the quirky ME beginning with NCIS’ 2003 premiere — passed away in September 2023 at the age of 90. CBS promised to honor the late star during season 21, which was pushed back after the WGA and the SAG-AFTRA strikes over the summer and fall.

Although Harmon didn’t reprise his role for the sendoff episode, fellow NCIS icon Michael Weatherly did make a brief cameo in the final moments. Weatherly, 55, exited the series in 2016 after 13 seasons as Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo.

“Are we here to celebrate a great man, or what?” DiNozzo said on the show as she joined current medical examiner Jimmy Palmer (Brian Dietzen) in the coroner’s office before the funeral. “I figured Duckman would want a little DiNozzo magic at his party.”

DiNozzo then helped Jimmy fix his bowtie, a nod to Ducky’s iconic clothing staple, and did an English accent while imparting wisdom to Ducky’s protégé. He reminded Jimmy that it’s not just the “stories we leave behind” that people remember, but the people’s “lives we touched.”

The episode ended with an In Memoriam card that read: “In Memory of Our Dear Friend and Colleague David McCallum — We Will Miss You.”

Binder told TVLine that the NCIS team “gave a lot of thought to who Ducky is connected to most, which on one level would be Gibbs.” However, he noted that Jimmy, who is still on the series, was the closest to Ducky and it would be impossible to bring “everybody” who has left the drama back.

“It was [also about] who Jimmy would connect with, and also bring some levity. … And that was Michael Weatherly,” Binder explained. “It’s really a no-brainer.”

Coshowrunner David J. North added that Weatherly fit back in with the cast seamlessly. “He’s DiNozzo again, there’s nothing rusty [about him],” he said. “As soon as he walked into that autopsy room, I thought, ‘DiNozzo’s back.’”

NCIS airs on CBS Mondays at 9 p.m. ET.

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Martinx Martinx

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