Why Every Main Character Left NCIS


NCIS is one of TV’s longest-running shows, currently approaching its 21st season. Over the years, plenty of characters have taken their leave.

NCIS has had a long run, but why did Abby leave NCIS along with a slew of other fan-favorite characters? As one of the longest-running shows on television, NCIS has seen plenty of turnover in its team of special agents. Though some fan favorites make an appearance on NCIS from time to time, other exits have been much more permanent. While most departures from the show were made on a high note, some farewells were less than amicable. Beginning in 2003, NCIS has become a staple in the CBS line-up.

The cast and characters of NCIS are a large part of why the series has become one of the most successful on television. Approaching its 21st season, it is still one of the most-watched scripted television series in history, pulling in millions of viewers every season. Starting as a spin-off of the hit show JAG, NCIS has launched successful spin-offs in Los Angeles, Hawai’i, and elsewhere. While the many plots and twists of NCIS have entertained fans for almost two decades, it is the characters that provide the true heart of the show. But why did Mark Harmon leave NCIS, and what about the other character departures?

Caitlin Todd – Sasha Alexander

Caitlin Todd left NCIS because she didn’t have the stamina to continue with the show. Todd (Sasha Alexander) was one of the first special agents on the NCIS team. As a former Secret Service Agent on board Air Force One, she was an expert psychological profiler who was frequently surprised by NCIS’ shirking of the rules. Todd’s exit from NCIS at the end of season 2 was one of the most shocking in the history of the series, as she was shot in the head by the Mossad double-agent and series antagonist Ari Haswari right in front of her team. Alexander was initially signed on to play Todd for a six-season stint.

However, she left the series as a regular character at the end of NCIS season 2. Then-showrunner Donald Bellisario cited that Alexander did not have the stamina to meet the filming demands of a 24-episode season, which Alexander told TV Guide spanned “10 1/2 months a year, 17 hours a day.” After leaving NCIS, Alexander ended up in another television series, Rizzoli & Isles, where she played one of the main characters, Dr. Maura Isles. She was able to withstand the schedule this time, lasting for all seven seasons of the series, finishing up her stint in 2016. Alexander doesn’t regret her decision to leave the hit series.

Ziva David – Cote De Pablo

Ziva David left NCIS because she felt her character wasn’t written well anymore. Israeli Mossad officer Special Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) was brought in to take the place of the recently deceased Agent Todd. Starting as a Liason Officer, David eventually resigned from Mossad to become a full-time member of the NCIS team alongside DiNozzo and McGee. Ziva’s romance with fellow agent Tony was one of the series’ greatest relationship arcs, culminating in the pair welcoming a daughter, Tali David-DiNozzo.

After the entire team resigned from NCIS in order to protect their team leader in NCIS season 1, David opted to return to her home country of Israel when her colleagues returned to their positions. Though viewers — and her team members — were led to believe that David died in an attack on her farmhouse in season 13, it was later revealed that Ziva had faked her death to go deep undercover and eliminate the criminals that had attacked her and her family. After the threat was eliminated, Ziva was able to retire to Paris in NCIS with her love and her daughter.

Cote de Pablo had a long run as Ziva David on NCIS, and leaving the series was not an easy decision for her. Despite being offered even more money to stay on, de Pablo chose to maintain David’s integrity. De Pablo ultimately cited that the scripts were no longer good enough for her character, revealing in a 2016 Q&A that her character “wasn’t being treated with the respect she deserved,” and that she told the show “until someone can write something really fantastic for Ziva I won’t come back” (via Hello Magazine). De Pablo has done almost no acting work since leaving NCIS, with only five credits since her departure, and nothing since her short return.

Tony DiNozzo – Michael Weatherly

Tony left NCIS because he was simply tired of the show. Tony DiNozzo was one of the defining members of the NCIS team. Starting alongside Gibbs from the beginning, Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo was known for his charm, humor, and playboy behavior. Just when it seemed like nothing could tear DiNozzo from his position, love ultimately won out. DiNozzo originally left to take care of his daughter after Ziva’s “death,” but his story didn’t end there. Having tracked down Ziva during her supposed death, DiNozzo was ready to settle down and raise their daughter in Paris once the dust had cleared.

Michael Weatherly was a staple on NCIS for 13 seasons — and, after such a long run, the actor was simply burnt out by NCIS. Weatherly was tired after so many demanding seasons, telling Hollywood Reporter that he was “ready for a new challenge.” He also greatly missed the on-screen chemistry between his character and Ziva David, who had already taken her leave. However, Weatherly’s real reason for leaving was getting to star in his own show, as he took on the lead in Bull in 2015 and remained there until the show ended in 2022.


Abby Sciuto – Pauley Perrette

Abby Sciuto left NCIS because the actor felt that she couldn’t work with Mark Harmon anymore. Though she was not a field agent, Sciuto was beloved both by her team and audiences alike. As the quirky, goth forensic specialist, there wasn’t a bit of evidence that could escape Sciuto’s keen eye — as long as there was enough Caf-Pow to fuel her, anyway. Though her methods weren’t always traditional, Abby always got the job done. After 15 seasons on NCIS, Sciuto left the series to start a charity in honor of her friend, Clayton Reeves, after he passed away saving her life.

But despite Abby and Gibbs’ close relationship on NCIS, Pauley Perrette and Mark Harmon had a falling out after Harmon’s dog attacked a crew member on set. When Harmon reportedly continued to bring the dog on set, the feud between the two grew so heated that they filmed on separate days, and the script was written to avoid having them on screen at the same time. Perrette would ultimately leave the series, stating (via Twitter) that she was “terrified of Harmon” and that she had nightmares of him attacking her. Though fans were hopeful she would eventually return, Perrette made her stance on this more than clear in her tweet.

Perrette got her own sitcom called Broke in 2020, but it only lasted one season before it was canceled. She hasn’t done anything acting-wise since that show.

Eleanor Bishop – Emily Wickersham
Eleanor Bishop left NCIS for unspecified reasons, but the news she was pregnant arrived just two months after her exit. Special Agent Eleanor Bishop (Emily Wickersham) joined the NCIS team in NCIS season 11, taking up the mantle of Ziva’s absence. As a former NSA member, Bishop was an incredibly capable and quick-witted member of the NCIS Major Case Response Team. Bishop ultimately left the series after almost a decade with the team when it was discovered that she had leaked an NSA document in her past career. This, however, was revealed to be part of a ploy for Bishop to enter an undercover operation after leaving NCIS in “disgrace.”

Though Wickersham never cited a reason for quitting NCIS, it seems as though the departure was amicable and was made in good spirits. Wickersham announced her exit in a 2021 Instagram post, thanking the cast and crew for the opportunity to appear on the show. Wickersham has not appeared in any projects since NCIS, but the actress welcomed a son with her partner shortly after her departure. Wickersham has not appeared in a movie or TV show since leaving NCIS.
Jacqueline Sloane – Maria Bello

Maria Bello left NCIS because she didn’t want to renew her contract for the series. Dr. Jacqueline “Jack” Sloane (Maria Bello), a former Lieutenant in the US Army, served as the team’s operational psychologist and profiler. The NCIS senior special agent had a close relationship with team leader Jethro Gibbs, to the point that the team would frequently rib the pair by hinting at a relationship between them. Though Sloane had hoped to retire to a peaceful life in Costa Rica, she ultimately decided to return to Afghanistan and further help those in need, continuing the work of a murdered friend.

Maria Bello’s exit from the show is another that seems to be in good spirits. After three years, the actress simply decided not to renew her contract, although she has never stated why. Bello expressed her love and gratitude for the cast and crew in a 2020 post (via Instagram), stating that she has “never worked with a kinder, more generous group of people.” Since leaving NCIS, Bello has appeared in the Netflix series Beef and was a co-writer on the award-winning movie, The Woman King​​​​​​.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs – Mark Harmon

Gibbs left NCIS because he decided to retire from the series. As the team members of the NCIS Major Case Response Team rotated out, Agent Jethro Gibbs seemed like a permanent fixture. Taking no nonsense from his agents, Gibbs ran his team like a well-oiled family, keeping them all in line with a series of his own rules while ensuring they always got their guy in the end. While it seemed like Gibbs would run his team forever, he made the surprising decision to retire to Alaska in 2021, where he finally found peace.

After 18 years on the show, Mark Harmon is stepping down from NCIS — in an acting capacity, anyway. Harmon will continue to serve as an executive producer on the show, working behind the scenes instead of in front of the camera. An on-screen return for Gibbs is not entirely out of the question, but nothing has been confirmed yet. Still, a large faction of NCIS fans is eagerly awaiting his return. Harmon has mostly stepped back from acting, as he has appeared in nothing since leaving NCIS​​​​​​. As for Harmon, he was happy with his exit from NCIS