Mark Harmon Finally Reveals The Truth About His NCIS Exit

For 18 years, Mark Harmon led the titular investigation team in "NCIS" as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Portraying the Naval Criminal Investigative Service's Gibbs since his 2003 introduction on "JAG," Harmon's most iconic role contributed to him earning a place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012. It was a shock, then, when — following months of speculation — The Hollywood Reporter confirmed that Season 19 Episode 4 of "NCIS," which aired in October 2021, was Harmon's last. 

With Gibbs retiring to go fly-fishing in peace, executive producer and showrunner Steve Binder reassured fans at the time that Harmon will remain "an integral part of the fabric of the show" and to "never count Leroy Gibbs out," per THR. Understandably saddened still, one fan tweeted upon the news of his exit that Harmon was the "main reason I watch NCIS," with another saluting the veteran actor for "his performance thru 18 years as Gibbs." 

With Season 19 of "NCIS" airing its season finale in May, Harmon recently broke his silence on his much-discussed departure.

Mark Harmon teases that a NCIS return is always possible

Mark Harmon feels Leroy Gibbs has reached the natural end of his character arc on "NCIS." In a Season 19 DVD feature, via Entertainment Tonight, Harmon opened up for the first time about his character's bittersweet departure from the CBS procedural last fall.

"What has always drawn me here is the character I play and to keep it fresh and to keep it challenging," Harmon divulged of his decision-making process, adding that, "plot-wise," Agent Gibbs' story seems to have run its course. After a near-death experience at the end of Season 18, Gibbs found peace in living isolated in Alaska — a conclusion for the widowed character that Harmon found "honest." Furthermore, Gibbs isn't actually retired per se. "The character is living in Alaska as far as I know," Harmon teasingly said.

Harmon's devotion to "NCIS" is certainly not to be underestimated. As a longtime producer on the show, Harmon only negotiated his one-episode appearance in Season 19 to ensure the show was renewed by CBS, per Screen Rant. As executive producer and show-runner Steve Binder told TV Insider after the Season 19 finale in May, fans should never rule out a return for Harmon and Gibbs. "There's always head space for him to come back. It just has to be the right story," Binder dangled to the fanbase at the time.