We're about to learn the answer to a question that we never imagined would ever be asked:
What would NCIS look like without Mark Harmon as lead star Leroy Jethro Gibbs?
Indeed, in the wake of CBS confirming that its highest-rated drama would return for an incredible 19th season, we can also now confirm that the man most responsible for this show's enormous success will scarcely appear in 2021-2022.
Multiple insiders told TV Line this week that Harmon is scheduled to play a role in a scant number of episodes next season.
One source close to the CBS procedural reveals of Harmon’s Season 19 episode count: “It’s going to be in the low single digits.”
Another source, meanwhile, tells this same outlets that the veteran actor will make only “a few” appearances throughout the season.
What will actually become of Gibbs in that case?
On the Season 18 finale this spring,
In the episode’s final moments, Gibbs was taking his latest handcrafted boat out for a ride... when it suddenly was blown to smithereens.
However, the show didn't leave any viewers hanging off a cliff; it didn't pretend as if Gibbs had been killed off.
Instead, the beloved agent could be seen discreetly and purposely swimming away immediately before the screen cut to black and the season wrapped up, making it appear as if he had staged his death.
Just weeks prior to this on-air incident, Gibbs had been suspended indefinitely from his role at NCIS, after assaulting an abuser of dogs.
He eventually helped a local reporter investigate a possible serial killer.
“We take it year by year with Mark, we’d love to have him as long as he’d like to be here,” CBS President Kelly Kahl told Deadline last month.
“Even in this past season, he might have been light in a couple of [episodes], so we’re happy to work around his schedule.”
That said, NCIS is clearly making plans to move ahead without Harmon really on board.
Gary Cole and Katrina Law have both been cast on Season 19.
Deadline reports that the Emmy-winning actor will play a new character, FBI Special Agent Alden Park.
Law, meanwhile, will see far more time time Special Agent Jessica Knight, who was introduced in the final two episodes of Season 18 as a recurring guest star.
Knight is a formidable REACT (Regional Enforcement Action Capabilities Training Team) agent who specializes in hostage negotiations and handles daily high-risk operations with skill and precision.
She's sharp, athletic and tough -- and we've already enjoyed her dry sense of humor.
“We haven’t shot a single frame quite yet, but with the addition of Gary Cole and Katrina Law to the cast, this is already shaping up to be one of the best seasons yet,” NCIS executive producer/showrunner Steven D. Binder said.
“Going into season 19, we are excited to have new characters and stories to tell that adds to and reenergizes the world we’ve come to love over the 400+ episodes.”
News of Harmon’s status change comes as NCIS prepares to exit its longtime Tuesday-at-8 pm time slot.
As previously reported, the venerable series will relocate to Mondays-at-9 pm this fall.