When Gibbs swam away from his boat in the 18th season of NCIS, viewers thought that was the final curtain. Of course, it wasn’t, but he didn’t stick around for much longer after that. Why did Mark Harmon leave the show in such a dramatic fashion, though? And what was going on behind the scenes to cause his exit?
There had been rumors about a departure during season 18, and fans could have been forgiven for thinking that Harmon would be leaving when his boat blew up. But Gibbs turned up again for the first few episodes of the 19th season before rapidly leaving again. So you can see why fans thought there could have been more to the situation than met the eye.
Rumors circulated for a good while that Harmon would be leaving the show. When Cote de Pablo came back — and we started to see a bit more of Ziva David — the idea got loose that she would fill Gibbs’ boots. Harmon had made no secret of his desire to spend more time on his ranch in Montana.
So, perhaps it wasn’t entirely a surprise that producers wrote Gibbs out of the show. In the fateful episode, he finally finishes his business with Paul Lemere and disappears from view on his boat. And the opening episodes of the season certainly make Gibbs’ exit seem almost inevitable.
Harmon has been involved with NCIS since it first aired in 2003. He’s appeared as Gibbs in more than 400 episodes! And it’s fair to say that he has been central to the show’s success. Only Law & Order: Special Victims Unit has aired for longer than NCIS. But will it survive the departure of Gibbs? Rumor has it that there’s a lot of angst on set, so maybe more people will follow in Harmon’s footsteps...