‘NCIS’ Boss Explains Ziva’s Farewell, Reveals What’s Next

by | October 7, 2013 at 11:18 AM | Fall TV 2013, NCIS, TV News

Roma Maffia (with Mark Harmon) guest-stars on this week's episode of "NCIS" -- the first without long-time cast member Cote de Pablo (inset). (Photos: CBS)

“NCIS” returns on Tuesday night minus long-time team member Ziva David (Cote de Pablo), and the special agents have to put their emotions aside and get back to the business of solving crimes involving the military.

While no one can take Ziva’s place, Vera Strickland (Roma Maffia) joins the “NCIS” team Tuesday for an episode that requires the team to rely on Twitter for a case involving a missing Navy lieutenant.

“One of the ideas we had was introducing a character on the verge of retirement, who Gibbs [Mark Harmon] has history with, and she steps back in and helps on this one last case before she is done,” executive producer Gary Glasberg told XfinityTV.

Then things get complicated for McGee (Sean Murray), who has lost his NCIS credentials, and withholds the information from Gibbs and the authorities.

Glasberg also opened up about why Ziva’s exit was handled the way it was, why there were no bedroom scenes between Tony (Michael Weatherly) and Ziva, and a special upcoming Christmas episode, featuring NCIS Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll).

Watch last week’s episode of “NCIS,” featuring Cote de Pablo’s final farewell:

XfinityTV: It was interesting. I thought Ziva’s final episode would boost the show’s numbers, but not so much. Did that surprise you?

Glasberg: The fact that we did 20 million people and our DVR number will go up another 2 or 3 million after that, I am not going to scoff at that in any way. It is extraordinary. It is remarkable. Our Facebook friends are now up to 17.5 million and change. I am just happy that we are doing what we are doing and continue to be as successful as we are.

I was surprised that you didn’t use Ziva more in these last two episodes. She was really only in the final half-hour of Episode 2.

I have said before, too, the first episode was in flux for quite a while. I wasn’t planning on her departure, so when I got the call that it was happening, I basically had to take the Gibbs story, the sniper story, and the terrorist story that I was already playing with and then add this whole other element of Ziva’s departure on top of it. I knew I couldn’t do that in one episode. So that is how the two-parter came about.

In the planning of it, because we were already starting to be in prep for the first one, there were tricks and things we had to do in order to incorporate Ziva’s character because I literally didn’t have her. So that is why you got texting and instant-messaging to make her a part of the episode [instead of her being] onscreen.

I knew that we were going to have her significantly for the second one, but the reason that you don’t see her significantly until the second half of the second one is that I wanted to give Tony the time to search, to really invest in looking for her. I felt like the audience really needed to feel what he was feeling. That was our decision for structuring it the way we did.

I think, for me, I wanted to see them more intimate — like a bedroom scene — not just a kiss. Of course, they spent time together and who knows what they did, but I wanted to see it. Why did you decide not to take it farther?

I am a big believer in less is more and let people’s imaginations run wild. Whether it is a moment of intimacy, or imagining what that conversation was at the end of the episode, we have an amazing fan base who follows the show. So, I think every person out there has an idea of what that conversation would have been. I was very happy with the idea of letting people imagine for themselves.

That said, will we ever find out what Ziva said to Gibbs on their phone call?

No. Like I said, let people have their own idea of what that conversation was. That is between Gibbs and Ziva. I like the idea [of letting] people think for themselves a little bit.

So, now we’re back to business as usual, and I see that Roma Maffia is joining the team on Tuesday’s night episode. How long will she be staying and what affect will she have on the team?

Roma came and just did one episode with us, the idea being that there are a number of episodes following Ziva’s departure, where, as we are dealing with her absence and as we are dealing with that empty desk in the squad room, we are also experiencing and returning back to a lightness and fun and all the reasons why people like to watch “NCIS.”

Roma was fantastic. Then that goes on for another few episodes, where we have some fun and have some guests who come through, like Agent Borin [Diane Neal] from the Coast Guard. It is a fun assortment of characters that will, hopefully, help us reset and get back to the traditional reasons why we watch the show.

This episode seems to be geared more for McGee what with Twitter and his lost badge. Is the focus on him and why is the lost badge so important? Is it how he lost it? Or maybe the fact that he had resigned not too long ago?

“Under the Radar” is the name of the episode. It is not really a McGee-centric episode. He plays a big part in it, but it is really about resetting our team and getting back to the stories that we like to tell. The badge storyline is true. It is not a good thing to lose your creds. You don’t want to lose your credentials as a federal agent. If those are out in the ether, if those are found by someone, they can enter buildings. It gives them access to things people shouldn’t have. When you misplace your creds, it is a serious, significant issue. We have known about that for a long time and we wanted to have some fun and tell that story. So that is where it came from.

The team is kind of shell-shocked. Vance lost his wife, Ziva is gone. Are we going to see the emotional ramifications of all these things through the entire season? Or is it back to basics?

People have a job to do. There is a terrific scene coming up in Tuesday’s episode, where Gibbs says just that: “There’s work to be done.” They’ll get back to the cases, of course, but the realities of what they’ve been dealing with will continue. That includes a really terrific Christmas episode that is coming up, where we will revisit everything that Vance has been dealing with in his personal life with his kids and figuring out how he is getting his life back on track after the loss of his wife. Those things are still present. Just as we always do, we will step away and handle whatever situation comes up.

The “Under the Radar” episode of “NCIS” airs Tuesday, Oct. 8, at 8/7c on CBS.