The Truth About Mark Harmon Leaving NCIS

Spoiler alert: the following article includes details from the October 11 episode of "NCIS."

It's the end of an era. Mark Harmon has left "NCIS," where he played Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, after more than 18 seasons. On Episode 4 of Season 19, titled "Great Wide Open," Gibs and Special Agent Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) traveled to Alaska to solve a case ... but McGee returned alone. After solving the murder, Gibbs told his partner and NCIS Director Vance (Rocky Carroll) that he would be staying in Alaska for good. 

"I'm not going back, Tim," Gibbs told McGee (per The Hollywood Reporter). "I'm not going back home." After the episode aired on October 11, viewers were disappointed to see Harmon's iconic character leave the show. "NO! I don't want Gibbs to leave," one fan tweeted, sharing the GIF of a woman crying."NCIS isn't ncis without him." Though Harmon's departure may have caught some as a surprise, the actor was rumored to be leaving the show after Season 18. 

In June, a source told TVLine that, on Season 19, episodes starring Harmon would be "in the low single digits." So, once Special Agent Gibbs officially left, some "NCIS" fans weren't that caught off guard. "Even thought we knew this was happening, it feels surreal and I still don't think #ncis will be the same," one viewer admitted on Twitter. Why did Harmon leave though? And, more importantly, will his character ever return from Alaska?

Is Mark Harmon gone from 'NCIS' for good?

Following the October 11 episode, "NCIS" showrunner Steve Binder expanded on Mark Harmon's bittersweet departure from the show. Posted on the official "NCIS" Instagram account, Binder's statement reveals that Harmon won't exactly leave the series altogether, as he will still retain his executive producer title. "As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show," the showrunner wrote. 

"Our north star has always been staying true to our characters, and that truth has always guided the stories we tell and where those characters go." He didn't rule out a possible return of Special Agent Gibbs, either. "So regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years... never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out."

In an interview from September, CBS entertainment president Kelly Kahl shared similar sentiments as Binder regarding Harmon's future on the popular series. "Mark's always been part of the show, Mark's always going to be part of the show," Kahl said (per Deadline). "In terms of his on-air appearances, we're just going to have to see how it plays out going forward." At the time of writing, Harmon hasn't spoken on his "NCIS" departure. Stay tuned for updates!