After 18 seasons on NCIS, Mark Harmon, who portrayed Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, decided it was time to step away from the long-running show. The departure process began in season 18 but came to fruition in the fourth episode of season 19 when Gibbs, having completed a case in Alaska with McGee (Sean Murray), opts to stay in the 49th state, finding peace in its wilderness.

In an interview included in the season 19 NCIS DVD’s special feature “Being Gibbs,” Harmon explains his decision, stating that what drew him to NCIS was the challenge of keeping the character fresh. Plot-wise, it felt honest for Gibbs not to retire but instead live in Alaska. The show’s showrunner and executive producer, Steven B. Binder, faced the task of determining how Gibbs’ departure from NCIS would look, given the character’s longstanding connection to the job.

According to Binder, it didn’t feel right to depict Gibbs in a retired, mundane lifestyle, so they chose to have him venture into the wilderness, leaving his future open-ended. This departure episode, titled “Great Wide Open,” aligns with Rule 91: When you decide to walk away, never look back. The script was co-written by executive producer David J. North and co-executive producer Brendan Fehily, who found it emotionally challenging to write and shoot.

As NCIS moves into its 20th season without Harmon, with Gary Cole as Alden Parker leading the team, Harmon acknowledges that the show will go on without him. He expresses pride in the series, which has endured for 19 years, and commends the cast and crew as a remarkable family. While he won’t be a regular presence, Harmon hints at the possibility of a surprise drop-in visit.

Reflecting on the show’s longevity, Harmon compares it to his previous stint on Chicago Hope and expresses pride in NCIS’s enduring success. The DVD for NCIS: The Nineteenth Season includes all 21 episodes, 45 minutes of exclusive special features, and behind-the-scenes moments, available for purchase.

By chrysos