When Cote de Pablo joined “NCIS” in Season 3, some fans struggled to stop comparing her to Sasha Alexander, whose character, Special Agent Caitlin ‘Kate’ Todd, had just been killed off in the Season 2 finale. Alexander had been on the show since the first episode and was well-liked by the audience. “I’m a few episodes into Season 3 now, and I know she’s popular… but I can’t stand Ziva. Partly because Kate was my favourite and I miss her, and the whole dynamic is off without her…” u/azulamazing wrote on a “NCIS” message board “Thread on Reddit.
When it became clear that de Pablo’s Special Agent Ziva David was nothing like Kate, “NCIS” viewers began to warm up to her, and Ziva’s personality was fleshed out and explored in ways that Kate’s had not. However, de Pablo decided to leave the show in 2013, and fans were surprised when Ziva was killed off. Later, on the “NCIS” Season 17 DVD (via cartermatt.com), showrunner Steve Binder admitted, “Killing Ziva off-screen, or making the audience believe that, was an error on our part.”
Cote De Pablo has spoken out about her departure from NCIS.
During a Q&A about her “NCIS” departure in 2016, Cote de Pablo stated that she left because she was unhappy with the direction her character was taking. “Unfortunately, because of political reasons and scripts that were not good enough, I chose not to [return to NCIS],” she explained, adding that she adored Ziva as a character but felt that her story arcs didn’t do her justice. The actor went on to say, “They planned to send [Ziva] back to Israel and make her a miserable woman… I didn’t think it was fair, so I told her, ‘I won’t come back until someone can really write something fantastic for her.'”
It’s worth noting that de Pablo has since claimed that her comments did not accurately reflect the reasons for her departure. “I think that was taken out of context at a certain point, and people start writing that to justify the idea of leaving,” de Pablo said in a 2019 USA Today piece about the character’s brief return to the series in Season 17. She said, after clarifying that she didn’t feel it was the right time to discuss the reasons for her departure, “But I didn’t go because I wanted to, because I was prepared, or because I was tired. I didn’t have much of a choice.”
As a result, it appears that fans are still waiting for an official response. It’s unclear whether she’ll return to the role on “NCIS” Season 20 or later.