Why Mark Harmon Was Absent in ‘NCIS’ Tribute Episode for David McCallum

While NCIS' tribute to David McCallum and his character Ducky brought back a major character, Mark Harmon's Gibbs was nowhere to be found. Harmon departed the long-running CBS procedural at the beginning of Season 19. There were rumors that he could come back for the tribute episode, but nothing was certain. Monday's tribute then confirmed that Gibbs would not be showing up, at least on screen.

Michael Weatherly's Anthony DiNozzo showed up in the final minutes of the episode to offer comfort to Brian Dietzen's Dr. Jimmy Palmer, but Gibbs was nowhere in sight. There's a good reason for the absence, as co-showrunner Steven D. Binder told TVLine that when they bring Gibbs back, they won't bring him back "for two minutes. It's got to be something special."

That's not to say that Weatherly's surprise cameo wasn't special because it was. And hopefully, this won't be the last time we see Tony. However, since Harmon was more or less the face of NCIS for 18 seasons and the beginning of Season 19, having him make a cameo that is more than two minutes is the least that fans deserve, as well as Harmon. Since he is staying in the NCIS franchise by continuing to serve as a producer on the Mothership series and is on board for the NCIS prequel series, maybe a Gibbs return is not too far off.

Meanwhile, the tribute episode was as emotional as ever. Details for the tribute were released in December and previewed that the team would be taking on a case Ducky had been working on up until his death. With the help of the late M.E. and each other, they closed the case. The episode also included some flashback scenes, references to sister shows Los Angeles, New Orleans, Hawai'i, and Sydney, as well as a goth-themed wreath that was presumed to be from the one and only Abby Sciuto.

Hopefully, Mark Harmon comes back to NCIS soon, but at least fans know that if and when it happens, it won't be for a brief appearance. His return would also have to make sense, character and story-wise, but there are many possibilities that could bring him back to D.C. In the meantime, there is much to look forward to in NCIS Season 21, with new episodes airing on Mondays at 9 p.m. ET on CBS' spring 2024 schedule.