Mark Harmon's Leroy Jethro Gibbs leaves 'NCIS' squad, but show says 'never count' him out
The "north star" of the law enforcement drama series made emotional goodbyes in Monday's episode of "NCIS" as he solved the case he calls "the most meaningful of all."
Harmon's Gibbs launched the series as the main character when the show first premiered on CBS in 2003 and now, 18 years later, he's taking a step back from the squad. But according to the show, it isn't goodbye forever.
"As an executive producer and dear friend, Mark continues to be an integral part of the fabric of the show. Our north star has always been staying true to our characters," the show posted on Instagram Monday. "Regarding the future of Gibbs, as long-time fans of the show may have noticed over the years…never count Leroy Jethro Gibbs out.”
During Monday's show "Great Wide Open, " Gibbs goes rogue after being suspended from the squad and secretly teams up with longtime right-hand-man Timothy McGee (Sean Murray) to solve a case involving murders surrounding sacred Alaskan land being used for corporate mining.
The episode included flashbacks of Gibbs giving imparting words ahead of his Alaska trip to his former team members McGee, Nicholas Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), Dr. "Ducky" Mallard (David McCallum), and NCIS Director Leon Vance (Rocky Carroll).
At the end of the episode, McGee gears up to head back home with Gibbs, but Gibbs insists on staying in Alaska with no plans to solve cases in Washington, D.C. again.
"I’m not going back home," Gibbs tells McGee while fishing in the same lake a plane was waiting for them. "This sense of peace, I have not had this since Shannon and Kelly died."
During Season 3 of "NCIS," Gibbs lost his wife, Shannon, and daughter, Kelly, after they were shot by cartel members.
At the beginning of this season, "NCIS" welcomed new cast member Gary Cole who plays FBI Special Agent Alden Park. Upon his arrival, speculation started stirring about Gibbs' level of involvement in the upcoming season . TV Line reported in June Harmon's Gibbs would appear in a limited number of episodes, citing multiple unnamed sources.
Gibbs' character started distancing from his NCIS team last season after being suspended for the assault of a man who abused dogs. In May's season finale, Gibbs appeared to narrowly avert being killed off the show after his boat exploded.
Fans of the show were emotional after seeing Gibbs' goodbyes.
"NO! I don’t want Gibbs to leave. NCIS isn’t ncis without him," @jayjay95a wrote.
"Even thought we knew this was happening, it feels surreal and I still don’t think #NCIS will be the same. Others can come and go but Mark Harmon/Gibbs IS the foundation of NCIS," another user wrote.
Contributing: Bill Keveney
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mark Harmon's Leroy Jethro Gibbs leaves 'NCIS' squad, but show says 'never count' him out