Mark Harmon Exits NCIS After 18 Years

Since 2003, Mark Harmon has played Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS. But during the fourth episode of season 19, his character revealed he wasn't returning to the job.

By Elyse Dupre Oct 12, 2021 12:47 PMTags
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NCIS fans are saying goodbye to Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

According to Deadline and The Hollywood ReporterMark Harmon ended his 18-year run as the character during the Oct. 11 episode of the CBS drama.

In season 19's fourth episode titled "Great Wide Open," Gibbs and Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) headed to Alaska to work on a case involving serial killings. But at the end of the episode, Gibbs told McGee he wasn't returning to his job in NCIS.

"I'm not going back home," he said while fishing, noting he wasn't sure how long he'd stay. Gibbs explained he'd been feeling a "sense of peace" he hadn't felt since the deaths of his wife Shannon (Darby Stanchfield) and his daughter Kelly (Mary Mouser) and that he was "not ready to let it go." 

But before McGee left, Gibbs told him, "I could not have hoped for anyone better to watch my back for the past 18 years than you, Tim."

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Gibbs' exit comes after his season 18 suspension for assaulting a dog abuser and a boat explosion that almost killed him. And while NCIS Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll) said he tried talking to him during the Oct. 11 episode, Gibbs ultimately didn't want his badge back.

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Viewers were first introduced to Gibbs on JAG in 2003, and Harmon's character joined NCIS later that year. But is this really the last fans will see of him?

"As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show," executive producer and showrunner Steven D. Binder told Deadline and THR in a statement. "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 of the show may have noticed over the years…never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out."

CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl shared similar comments in a statement to Deadline last month.

"Mark's always been part of the show, Mark's always going to be part of the show," he said. "In terms of his on-air appearances, we're just going to have to see how it plays out going forward."