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How NCIS Star David McCallum Really Felt About Cote De Pablo's Exit

Most jobs are difficult enough, but add the stress of a co-worker walking off without so much as two weeks' notice and you'll notice a marked tension on the sales floor of your local Menards.

Now imagine a job where dozens of creatives have spent weeks trying to weave a narrative around a decade's worth of previous stories, and the whole thing hinges on a specific coworker showing up with their lines memorized. It would be understandable for things to get a little heated if that long-time collaborator up and split without much warning. On the one hand, it's a dog-eat-dog business, and everyone should be allowed to do what makes them happy, but on the other hand, jumping ship last minute isn't a great way to make friends at any gig.

At least "NCIS" star David McCallum certainly seemed to feel that way when co-star Cote de Pablo left the long-running crime procedural at the top of its eleventh season. McCallum, who plays Donald "Ducky" Mallard on the program, spoke out on the subject of his personal annoyance regarding de Pablo's exit.

Ziva's NCIS exit was anything but ducky

"It was frustration and anger that someone should just walk out on us," McCallum recounted in an interview with Digital Spy. "I just don't understand how a leading lady in a show that's worldwide, who ostensibly wants to have a career as an actress, suddenly walks away from such a gem and just vanishes a couple of days before we start production."

Which isn't to say that the team behind the scenes missed a beat. "This business is merciless so right away the whole team of writers gets in and rewrites the first five shows," the actor continued. "When it happened, you think, 'This is a dangerous road to go down' – but they pulled it off."

The abrupt exit by Cote de Pablo, who played Ziva David for a full decade before leaving, would be a subject that her "NCIS" co-stars would have a hard time escaping in the following years. In January of 2016, McCallum hosted a Reddit AMA where he was asked about Ziva's departure. "At the time I was astonished when Cote left," he wrote, "but in retrospect, it seems that she was not up to handling the demands that the character put upon her. I still don't understand her deeper motives."

On the plus side, de Pablo would eventually return to the show in an unannounced surprise season 16 twist, and nothing upsetting has been associated with "NCIS" ever since.