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Will Cote De Pablo Return For NCIS Season 18?

Cote de Pablo shocked fans — and apparently her castmates, too — during season 17 of popular crime drama NCIS, when her character Special Agent Ziva David made an unexpected return to the series to save her former boss Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) from danger. Despite vanishing from the show five years prior, Ziva found a good reason to return, and has appeared in a number of episodes since.

After joining the cast of NCIS in season 3, Ziva disappeared from the show in season 11 when Special Agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) went looking for the missing agent in Israel. Despite finding her, he returned to the US alone, with Ziva presumably opting to stay in the Middle East. She was then presumed dead in the season 13 finale in 2016, when a mortar strike hit Tel Aviv, her last known location. Even the actress herself didn't think she would be coming back at any point in the future. "When I walked out, I thought it was over and that was it," she told USA Today in 2019.

David remained dead in the minds of the team — and the audience — until it was hinted in season 16 that she might still be alive, which was confirmed when she returned to NCIS in season 17. She has since guest starred, without much clarity as to whether she had any intention of making a permanent comeback, in a handful of episodes. But is de Pablo planning on sticking around this time?

Cote de Pablo is keeping her future on NCIS a secret for now

The actress spoke to Entertainment Tonight in late 2019 about her sudden return, and just what it took for her to make the comeback in the first place. "I hoped that at some point something like this could happen and it's just so the stars aligned and here I am with this guy," de Pablo explained, bear-hugging her co-star Harmon. "I said, 'Give me a really good reason to come back.'"

So what exactly does that mean for Ziva and her future on NCIS? Was De Pablo hinting that Ziva is coming back full-time to the team? It seems the actress is keen to keep that secret close to the vest for now. "We have no idea," de Pablo coyly responded when she was posed the question. "Really have no idea."

It certainly sounds like de Pablo is keeping her options open for now, but if it makes fans feel any better, she hasn't been confirmed for any other projects just yet, either.

A touching NCIS reunion still to come

Fans have been hopeful that they'd get to see a touching reunion between Ziva and Tony, who said farewell to the show at the end of season 13 after her presumed death. So far, though, the writers haven't obliged them. Another important thing Ziva must do: reunite with her daughter, something that executive producer Steve Binder has promised, but which hasn't yet materialized on screen as of her last appearance on NCIS in January 2020.

"We're very well aware of the Tony-Ziva connection and the fans' desire and response to it," Binder said, before addressing of the possibility of Ziva meeting with her daughter: "Speaking as a parent, it would be awful for that not to happen, and we're not an awful show. We deal with dead bodies in cases, but we try to have a little light at the end of the day. So I can't imagine that not being something we're going to see."

Hopefully that means that there's more to come from de Pablo, but whether that will be in either of the final two episodes of season 17 or left for season 18 is being kept under wraps at this stage.

Will Cote de Pablo return for NCIS season 18 by default?

Season 17, which was initially planned for the standard 24-episode run, was cut short to just 20 episodes due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The remaining four, which have been written but were not filmed before production had to be halted, will form part of season 18, according to Newsweek. This could mean that de Pablo will definitely be part of the next season, if there were plans for her to be involved with the final four episodes of the current season (and if there are no scheduling conflicts for the actress), even if she has no plans for a full-time comeback.

De Pablo's interview with Entertainment Tonight does seem to indicate she's gearing up to say her final goodbyes rather than make a permanent come back. "It's a different walk away and I'll leave it at that," she said. "It's a beautiful walk away."

The actress's first departure from the show remains shrouded in mystery for the most part, with de Pablo herself saying she's "not ready to talk about that yet." However, she's promised that she will "someday," adding, "I didn't leave because I wanted to go or because I was ready or because I was tired. I didn't really have an option."