[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 16 finale of NCIS, "Daughters."]
Well, all those Ziva (Cote de Pablo) mentions had to be leading somewhere.
Earlier this season, NCIS strongly suggested that Ziva is, in fact, alive (or someone was at least making Bishop think she was). Since then, we've gotten a few mentions of Ziva and her secret office here and there, as Bishop (Emily Wickersham) refused to let it go and tried her hardest to try to figure out if Gibbs (Mark Harmon) knew the truth or not.
Well, there's no wondering anymore after the Season 16 finale — though NCIS did choose to bring her back just as Gibbs was seeing dead people (specifically, one of his dead ex-wives, Diane).
In the final moments, just after Diane's ghost leaves Gibbs, he hears someone come in his front door. To his surprise, it's Ziva. "Hello, Gibbs. No time for pleasantries," she informs him. "You're in danger." He just stares at her, and she asks, "Aren't you going to say something?" The only thing he can say is her name.
"This surprise moment is just the beginning," NCIS showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder said 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."
The NCIS crew worked hard to keep de Pablo's return a secret. The scene was never included in a script or call sheet and only the showrunners had copies of the scene pages. The scene was filmed with a skeleton crew at midnight after the full crew had been finished for over an hour, and de Pablo arrived to the stages via a back gate entrance.
Ziva's return comes at the right time and in the right episode. After all, she is like a daughter to Gibbs. Furthermore, Gibbs has been struggling lately, especially after burning rule #10 ("Never get personally involved in a case") and telling his team he killed Pedro Hernandez, the man who killed his wife and daughter.
But he has to get personal with the finale's case, because it involves Fornell's daughter. Emily is hospitalized from an opioid overdose, and Fornell (Joe Spano) wants him to get the same kind of justice he did for his own daughter. Sadly, it turns out that Emily's drink wasn't spiked like they thought. She has a drug problem, and it's not until Fornell takes advice from "Diane" to "just be her father" that Emily admits she needs help.
As for the ones responsible, they do get the middle man, but he's not exactly eager to pass along the name of the person who gave him the counterfeit drugs. "You don't want to mess with this guy," he warns Gibbs. He's a dead man if he gives him up. "You are already dead," Gibbs informs him.
Before ghost Diane leaves, she offers up the revelation that he didn't make up rule #10 because getting personally involved leads to mistakes. He did it so he could shut himself off and not risk getting hurt again after losing his family. But now "those walls are starting to crumble," she says. "You're starting to let people in again, and it is scary. And for someone like you, dangerous."
And that happens just as one of the people he cares about quite a bit comes back into his life.
Sound off with your thoughts on the big Ziva surprise in the comments below.
NCIS, Season 17, Fall 2019, CBS