'NCIS' Season 17: Cote de Pablo Returning for More Episodes Than Expected

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Ziva David is sticking around.

After NCIS fan-favorite Cote de Pablo surprised viewers when she reappeared as the beloved character in the season 16 finale, the question became: Will de Pablo be back for more than just an episode or two? Now, we have the answer.

The actress, who originally left NCIS in 2013, will be returning for four episodes in the upcoming 17th season, ET has confirmed. In addition to two episodes early in the season (including the premiere), de Pablo will appear in two episodes slated to air in late fall and early winter. And yes, Ziva is very much aliveParade first broke the news.

In the finale, Ziva, who was once presumed dead from a mortar attack, returned to issue a warning to Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) in season 16's closing seconds. 

"Hello, Gibbs," Ziva said, as she bounds down the stairs in Gibbs' basement. "No time for pleasantries. You're in danger."

Gibbs' shocked expression said it all, as words escaped him. "Well, aren't you going to say something?" Ziva asked, with Gibbs only able to muster a surprised "Ziva?

How did producers pull off the stunning season-ending shocker? Only a handful of people knew about the de Pablo surprise, including Harmon, de Pablo, and showrunners Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder. The scene was never actually included in the final script or call sheet, which lays out the day's scenes for production, with only Cardea and Binder holding physical copies of the script pages.

Secrecy was so high that when de Pablo arrived on set to film her special cameo, she entered through a back gate in order to arrive at the NCIS stages. And the scene, which was filmed well after midnight, was completed in front of a skeleton crew after the full crew wrapped for the evening. 

“This surprise moment is just the beginning,” Cardea and Binder said following the May finale. “We are thrilled to share that Cote de Pablo will guest star in the NCIS season 17 premiere this fall as Ziva’s warning to Gibbs unfolds.”

De Pablo played Ziva for nearly nine seasons. Though the season 13 finale revealed that Ziva had died following an explosion in Israel, a body was never found, thus leaving the door open that the beloved character was still living and breathing. That would prove to be true in the 16th season, when field agent Eleanor Bishop (Emily Wickersham) discovered evidence that Ziva was still alive and in hiding.

NCIS returns Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

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