Mark Harmon departed “NCIS” after 18-plus seasons in Monday night’s episode as Gibbs retired to Alaska after working a case there with Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray).
Harmon’s exit as a series regular ends a remarkable run as one of TV’s highest-profile actors on its top-rated drama — though it’s not totally unexpected.
In June, “NCIS” added TV veteran Gary Cole and Katrina Law as FBI Special Agent Alden Park and Katrina Law as Special Agent Jessica Knight amidst news that Harmon was cutting back on his on-screen appearances on the series, which premiered in 2003. (He’s also an executive producer.)
“As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show,” “NCIS” showrunner Steve Binder said in a statement. “Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go.
“So regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years … never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.”
In Monday night’s Season 19 episode, entitled “Great Wide Open,” Gibbs and McGee were in Alaska trying to solve a case about a contract killer hired by a company there. Afterward, Gibbs broke the news to McGee while he was fishing.
“I’m not going back, Tim,” he said. “I’m not going back home.” McGree then asked Gibbs what he hoped to find in Alaska. “I don’t know,” he said. “My gut’s telling me I’ll know when I find it,” and saying he was at peace there — leading to a bro-hug between the two.
Gibbs was suspended last season for assaulting a killer who also abused dogs; in the season finale, he was almost killed by a boat explosion.
“In terms of [Harmon’s] on-air appearances, we’re just going to have to see how it plays out going forward,” CBS president Kelly Kahl told Deadline last month.
“NCIS” premiered in 2003 as a spinoff from “JAG” and quickly became TV’s top-rated drama, eventually spawning its own spinoffs: “NCIS: Los Angeles,” “NCIS: New Orleans” and the new fall entry “NCIS: Hawai’i,” which was renewed by CBS Monday for the entire season with star Vanessa Lachey. Harmon has yet to comment on his departure.