‘NCIS’: Mark Harmon To Reportedly Make Very Few Appearances in Season 19

by Suzanne Halliburton

NCIS fans are going to hate this news. But Mark Harmon really will have a limited presence in season 19.

Harmon plays Leroy Jethro Gibbs on the hit CBS drama. He’s defined the role for 18 years. But this next season will be vastly different according to a report Monday from TVLine. The site, using several unidentified sources, said Harmon’s number of NCIS episodes could be in the single digits. For context, season 18, which was limited by the COVID-19 pandemic, featured 16 episodes. A typical season usually is more than 20 episodes.

CBS network executives didn’t comment for the TVLine story. The site said one NCIS insider revealed that Harmon’s presence is “going to be in the low single digits.” Another source told TVLine that Harmon would be making only “a few” appearances in season 19.

Earlier this year, reports indicated that Harmon wanted off NCIS entirely. But CBS threatened to cancel the show if Harmon wasn’t a part of it. So during contract negotiations, Harmon and CBS came up with an acceptable number.

“We take it year by year with Mark,” CBS entertainment chief Kelly Kahl told Deadline in May. “We’d love to have him as long as he’d like to be her.” Kahl said the network would be “happy to work around his schedule.”

NCIS Writers Started Prepping for Gibbs-less Season

In hindsight, the last few episodes of NCIS season 18 now appear to be a transition to a show without relying on Gibbs. On the show, he was suspended indefinitely for assaulting a man who abused dogs. During his suspension, Gibbs helped Marcie, an investigative journalist, find clues about a possible serial killer. Pam Dawber, Harmon’s wife, played Marcie.

In the finale, Gibbs talked about Rule 91 with Ellie Bishop (Emily Wickersham). He told Bishop Rule 91 was “when you decide to walk away, don’t look back.” Bishop did walk away from NCIS as the episode ended. But Gibbs’ future also was iffy.

Gibbs named his boat Rule 91. And as the episode ended, Gibbs took the boat out on a lake for the first time. Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream blasted in the background. We learned earlier in the episode that this Petty song was one of Gibbs’ favorites.

Then the boat blew up. As NCIS viewers were screaming, cameras banned the debris. You could see Gibbs slowly start to swim away. So he is alive. But no one knows whether he staged his own death or miraculously survived an explosion that would kill anyone else.

Earlier this month, news broke that NCIS producers were in talks with Gary Cole to add him to the show. No details were revealed about what character he would play. But the 64-year-old Cole has that same kind of Mark Harmon gravitas. He’s played in both comedies and dramas and can do both really well.

Stay tuned to Outsider for more NCIS news.