NCIS Season 21: Returning Original Character’s Future Gets A Disappointing Update


NCIS season 21’s Ducky tribute episode features the return of an original cast member, but their future in the show gets a disappointing update.

An original NCIS cast member returns in season 21 for Ducky’s tribute episode, but their future in the show is currently bleak. Once Torres’ personal crisis was averted, the team was faced with another challenge — losing Dr. Mallard, who died in his sleep. The character’s death reflects David McCallum’s passing in 2023, and the episode, “The Stories We Leave Behind,” honors him and his legacy, not just by the current roster of active agents in the squad, but also his former co-workers.

While there was an expectation that Ducky’s long-time friend, Gibbs, would be the original character to appear in the outing, NCIS season 21, episode 2 brought in Michael Weatherly’s Tony DiNozzo instead. The “Very Special Agent’s” cameo happens towards the end of the story, but it’s clear that he remains close with both Palmer and McGee. Unfortunately, Weatherly’s appearance is a one-off, Brian Dietzen confirms in a new interview with USA Today. Read his full quote below:

(Michael) was eager to help out with what was essentially an in-person flashback. It was a shoutout to the previous iterations of this ‘NCIS’ team as Michael too was an original cast member. But there are no plans for a return.

Will DiNozzo Return In NCIS Season 21?
There is another opportunity for a DiNozzo cameo

Dietzen’s comment is especially disappointing, considering Weatherly’s recent comments about wanting to revisit his role as DiNozzo in NCIS. Now that his TV show, Bull, has ended, he has the time to return to his old project full-time — something that he wasn’t able to do while his headlining procedural was still on the air. The actor explained that he feels like there are still stories left to tell for his character, and he wants to navigate all of that in case he is invited back.


While Weatherly’s return isn’t going to be a proper comeback for the “Very Special Agent,” DiNozzo can still return in NCIS season 21. The CBS police franchise is set to celebrate its 1000th overall episode, and since he was a pioneering member of the universe, it would only make sense if he’s involved in whatever the writers are coming up with to celebrate the occasion. It’s worth noting that NCIS didn’t feature any returning character in its groundbreaking 20th year, something the show can make up for in its upcoming milestone.

If DiNiozzo returns for episode 1000, he may even be able to cross paths with his former boss. Gibbs’ unfinished NCIS storyline sets up his eventual return, giving the show the narrative opportunity to bring him back. If CBS handles its storytelling right, a reunion between Gibbs and DiNozzo may be in the cards for season 21.

Why NCIS Needs Weatherly’s DiNozzo
An original NCIS character returning full-time would be great

While Dietzen is clear about not having any plans on bringing back Weatherly, it doesn’t guarantee that he will never be in NCIS again, especially after he publicly expressed his desire to return. In light of Ducky’s death, season 21 is the first year that the police procedural will not have any more original characters in its active roster, with both Palmer and McGee only joining the show later in season 1. As great as Agent Parker’s team is, there’s something special about seeing some of the pioneering characters back, especially DiNozzo, who was a fan favorite.

Only time will tell if Weatherly makes another appearance in NCIS moving forward. That being said, it’s great to know that it shouldn’t be difficult to recruit him back if the story calls for DiNozzo’s involvement.