Why Did Mark Harmon’s Gibbs Leave NCIS? Will He Return in Season 20?

Image Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

Since the premiere episode of CBS’ thriller series ‘NCIS,’ Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs leads the agents of NCIS in several astounding cases and predicaments. Personally and professionally, Gibbs’ stands up for his subordinates and guides them in the face of dangers and obstacles. However, Gibbs’ journey with the NCIS comes to an end in the nineteenth season as he decides to live his life ahead without being a part of law enforcement. Gibbs’ decision also marks the exit of Mark Harmon from the legendary show. As the series returns for its twentieth installment, the viewers must want to know about the reason behind Harmon’s departure and the prospects of seeing him again as Gibbs in the future. Well, here’s everything we know about the same!

Why Did Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs Leave NCIS?

Mark Harmon’s exit from ‘NCIS’ was confirmed after Gibbs decided to stay back in Alaska upon experiencing a sense of peace at the place. According to Harmon, his departure from the show was influenced by his character’s journey. “What has always drawn me here is the character I play and to keep it fresh and to keep it challenging. […] Plot-wise, this character has taken the path that it did. I thought it was honest and OK with,” Harmon said in one of the special featurettes of ‘NCIS’ Season 19 DVD release.

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In an interview, Harmon also indicated how his character is continuing to “evolve” and getting older, indicating the reason behind Gibbs’ decision to stay back in Alaska, which paved the way for the actor’s exit. Showrunner Steve Binder also explained how integral it is to accept the character’s “evolution” with regard to Gibbs’ decision. “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,” Binder said in a statement.

Since Gibbs parted ways with the NCIS, Harmon’s departure became a necessity to honor the character. “It just didn’t feel right to see him [Gibbs] retired and shopping at the grocery store, working in his basement, and playing checkers in the park,” Binder told Parade. “It just didn’t seem right to put him actually anywhere, so we ended up putting him nowhere. He went off into the wilderness, into the wild,” he added. Since Gibbs is alive, the viewers must be expecting Harmon’s return to the twentieth season. Here’s what we can share about the same.

Will Mark Harmon Return in NCIS Season 20?

Although neither Mark Harmon, Steve Binder, nor CBS has announced the actor’s return to the twentieth season of ‘NCIS,’ a door is indeed open for the same. “[…] regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years… never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out,” Binder said in a statement, confirming the possibility of Harmon’s return at some point in the show’s future. But only time will tell whether we will see such a return in season 20.

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Having said that, Binder had revealed that Harmon’s return will depend upon a storyline demanding Gibbs’ return. “There’s always head space for him [Harmon] to come back. It just has to be the right story, I think, to get him excited about it and to get us excited about it,” Binder told TV Insider. “It’s a card to play, and I don’t think we want to play it cheaply. I think when we do play it, it really needs to be the right thing,” he added.

Along with Binder, CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl had also confirmed that Harmon may return to the show. “Mark’s always been part of the show, Mark’s always going to be part of the show. In terms of his on-air appearances, we’re just going to have to see how it plays out going forward,” Kahl told Deadline. “Everyone is aware that the door is open if he [Harmon] ever wants to pop in for an episode, or multiple episodes,” Kahl told TVLine as well. Since Harmon is still one of the executive producers of the show, his return as Gibbs to boost the performance of the show cannot be ruled out at all.

Even in the absence of Gibbs, his former colleagues are motivated by his principles. When the Raven frames Special Agent Alden Parker for murder, Timothy McGee and other NCIS agents step up to help Parker as Gibbs would have stepped up for him. Considering the words of Binder and Kahl, we can await Harmon’s return as Gibbs. Until we get a confirmation regarding his possible return in season 20, we may need to settle with the references McGee and others make concerning Gibbs while following his teachings.

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