Mark Harmon played the lead role of Agent Gibbs on “NCIS” for eighteen years, making the revelation that he is leaving the show quite the shocker.
Is Mark Harmon leaving “NCIS” for real? In October 2021, CBS confirmed that Harmon, who played Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on “NCIS,” was leaving the long-running series. Prior to that, speculations about his exit swirled for months, with the question “Is Mark Harmon leaving NCIS” topping search engines.
About a year later, the answer to that is finally out in the open, with the actor himself finally breaking his silence on the issue. Furthermore, he discussed the reason behind his decision and his expectations for the CBS show, which is the second longest-running scripted non-animated series, and most-watched on CBS.
Is Mark Harmon Leaving NCIS?
Yes. Mark Harmon is leaving the CBS crime investigation show after nineteen seasons. The 70-year-old said goodbye to his beloved on-screen character following his climactic appearance in Season 19, episode 4 titled “Great Wide Open.”
However, even after his last appearance, the show kept including his name in the opening credits throughout the 21-episode season. This created the impression that he might return to the show in later episodes after all.
But that was not to be the case. Reports showed Mark Harmon signed a limited episode deal with CBS, to appear in only a few select episodes on season 19.
How “NCIS” Explained The Departure of Harmon’s Character
Being the lead character in the series, Mark Harmon’s “NCIS” departure couldn’t have gone unnoticed. Hence, it fell on the show creators to come up with a creative means of explaining away Agent Gibb’s absence.
They came up with the perfect one, which played out in Season 19, episode 4, Gibbs’ official last case. This episode, which aired in October 2021, featured Gibbs and his longtime on-the-job partner Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) tracking down a hitman hired by a mining company in Alaska.
After nabbing the target, the detective made the tough decision to stay back. In the concluding scene, Gibbs, who nearly lost his life in a boat explosion in the Season 18 finale, broke the news to his partner with the now-iconic lines:
“I’m not going back, Tim. I’m not going back home.”
Although broken, McGee understood his friend’s newfound connection to Alaska, especially after an eighteen-years rough career. Ultimately, staying back in Alaska removed Harmon from the NCIS major case response team.
“NCIS” Left The Door Open For Harmon’s Return
In case you are wondering if Mark Harmon is leaving NCIS for good or has the chance of a return, here’s the thing. While the actor is quitting the series in his capacity as an actor, he remains a part of the “NCIS” family, having served as executive producer on the show for years.
Additionally, major stakeholders in the series, including showrunner Steven D. Binder, have reiterated that in addition to retaining his behind-the-scenes role, the floor was always open for him to return as Gibbs. In a statement confirming Harmon’s exit, Binder divulged:
“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 may have noticed over the years… Never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.”
CBS entertainment president Kelly Kahl, also implied the possibility of Mark’s return, saying they looked forward to seeing how things played out.
Mark Harmon Finally Addressed His “NCIS” Exit
Nearly a year after dropping his role as special agent Gibbs, Mark Harmon stepped forward to address the decision. In an August 2022 interview, the icon divulged:
“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. Although it was honest and okay with.”
However, Harmon failed to address whether or not he planned to return in the future. Rather, he pointed out that his character was not retired, but simply living in Alaska for all he knew. Perhaps that’s something fans could hold on to.
Season 20 Premiered Without Harmon’s Name In The Opening Credits
The reality of Mark Harmon leaving the show finally struck for real following the premiere of “NCIS” season 20 in September 2022. Viewers were quick to observe the absence of the actor’s name from the opening credits, proving he had moved on for good.
Yet, he remains active in the industry, manning his production company, Wings Productions, while appearing in notable onscreen gigs. He has also enjoyed a blissful marriage with his wife of 35 years Pam Dawber, with whom he shares two children.