Producers took great measures to ensure secrecy surrounding the special guest appearance

By Matt McNulty
May 22, 2019 10:07 AM

Warning: The below story contains spoilers.

The season finale of NCIS welcomed back a familiar face for fans of the crime drama.

Cote de Pablo’s character Ziva David returned for the first time since her 2013 departure from the hit series, shocking longtime viewers of NCIS.

Ziva’s guest appearance comes at the end of the episode when Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon) helps Joe Spano’s character Fornell solve a case revolving around his daughter and her opioid addiction.

Gibbs is haunted by the ghost of his ex-wife Diane throughout the episode and expects to see her premonition once again upon hearing noises coming from his basement.

Instead, he’s confronted by Ziva.

“Hello, Gibbs. No time for pleasantries,” Ziva warns a speechless Gibbs. “You’re in danger.”

NCIS producers confirmed on Tuesday that de Pablo will make a guest appearance in the season 17 premiere. However, they revealed it was difficult to keep her appearance in the season finale a secret, with only executive producers Frank Cardea and Steven D. Binder having copies of those scene pages.

Filming of de Pablo’s scenes was done at midnight with a small skeleton crew, long after the rest of the crew wrapped for the day, according to CBS. De Pablo even arrived through a back entrance so her presence wouldn’t tip-off other cast members.

Maria Bello and Mark Harmon on NCIS
| Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty

Despite the fact that de Pablo’s last appearance on NCIS was six years ago, her presence has still been felt ever since. Ziva supposedly died in a mortar attack while living abroad, with fans of the show left to wonder whether or not she was still alive after her body was never found.

“This surprise moment is just the beginning,” Cardea and Binder said in a joint statement.

Season 17 of NCIS returns this fall on CBS.