After the departures of Cote de Pablo (Ziva David) in Season 11 and Michael Weatherly (Anthony “Tony” DiNozzo) in Season 13, the producers brought in new talent to fill the void, but it always felt like something was missing.
So when Ziva returned at the end of Season 16 much to Gibbs’ (Mark Harmon) surprise, and ours, viewers couldn’t help but hope that Tony will also make an appearance after finding out that the mother of his daughter is alive.
Here’s what we know about Michael’s exit from the show three years ago and whether he has plans to return.
Why did Michael Weatherly leave NCIS?
The 50-year-old, who currently stars on the CBS courtroom drama Bull, has been very open about his decision to step away from the series.
"It came about at the right time," he told reporters shortly after the Season 13 finale. "I was burnt out by NCIS and I was ready for a new challenge. Sometimes change is as good as a rest."
Michael added in an interview with TV Insider that losing Cote two seasons before changed things for him.
"[Tony and Ziva’s] great dynamic, the badinage and sparring and flirting between those two characters and how they would swing from siblings to near lovers and back to buddies, that was gone, and then I got to the point where I felt I’d stayed at the party for too long," Michael admitted.
"I would look around the room and other people were really in sync and having fun. The show was a huge success, but I just suddenly realized that I probably had other things that I should be doing."
Despite his decision to move on, Michael still has a lot of love for the charming goofball he portrayed. "Tony allowed me to do the widest range of acting I could ever imagine," he explained. "I’m forever grateful for that."
Is Michael Weatherly coming back for Season 17?
Though Cote is scheduled to appear in Episode 1 of Season 17, there’s been no word on whether Michael will join her. The actor previously stated that he wouldn’t rule out an on-screen reunion with his former love interest.
"I absolutely see worlds where DiNozzo and other characters could pop up [again]," Michael told Digital Spy in 2017. "It is something I'm very keen to explore when the time is right."
He continued, "[Cote is] one of my favorite people. For eight years, we got to have a lot of fun. Certainly, in terms of chemistry, I've never had anyone like that rattle my brain!" It’s crazy how much we still ship these two.
A quick Ziva and Tony relationship recap:
In case you haven’t had a chance to binge-watch the first 15 seasons of NCIS on Netflix, Ziva and Tony are one of TV’s most beloved will-they, won’t-they couples. Though the characters always had sexual tension between them, they never actually dated but did share a few intimate scenes.
The agents only kissed twice over the span of nine seasons, the first taking place in Season 3 when they went undercover as a married couple. They kissed again before Ziva’s departure in Season 11, Episode 2.
It was later revealed that the duo had slept together and that Ziva had given birth to a daughter named Tali. When Tony left NCIS in Season 13, he went to take care of the little girl after Ziva was seemingly killed in a mortar attack.
Now that we know Ziva is very much alive, we better see this family of three reunited in the near future.