NCIS has had a long run, but why did Abby leave NCIS along with a slew of other fan-favorite characters? As one of the longest-running shows on television, NCIS has seen plenty of turnover in its team of special agents. Though some fan favorites make an appearance on NCIS from time to time, other exits have been much more permanent. While most departures from the show were made on a high note, some farewells were less than amicable. Beginning in 2003, NCIS has become a staple in the CBS line-up.
The cast and characters of NCIS are a large part of why the series has become one of the most successful on television. Approaching its 21st season, it is still one of the most-watched scripted television series in history, pulling in millions of viewers every season. Starting as a spin-off of the hit show JAG, NCIS itself has launched several successful spin-offs based throughout the U.S. While the many plots and twists of NCIS have entertained fans for almost two decades, it is the characters that provide the true heart of the show. But why did Abby leave NCIS, and what about the other character departures?
Caitlin Todd left NCIS because she didn't have the stamina to continue with the show. Todd (Sasha Alexander) was one of the first special agents on the NCIS team. As a former Secret Service Agent on board Air Force One, she was an expert psychological profiler that was frequently surprised by NCIS' shirking of the rules. Todd's exit from NCIS at the end of season 2 was one of the most shocking in the history of the series, as she was shot in the head by the Mossad double-agent and series antagonist Ari Haswari right in front of her team.
Though Alexander was initially signed on to play Todd for a six-season stint, she left the series as a regular character at the end of NCIS season 2. Then-showrunner Donald Bellisario cited that Alexander did not have the stamina to meet the filming demands of a 24-episode season, which Alexander told TV Guide spanned "10 1/2 months a year, 17 hours a day." Alexander doesn't regret her decision to leave the hit series, explaining that she would not have the family and creative liberties she has now if she had stayed.
Ziva David left NCIS because she felt her character wasn't written well anymore. Israeli Mossad officer Special Agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) was brought in to take the place of the recently-deceased Agent Todd. Starting as Liason Officer, David eventually resigned from Mossad to become a full-time member of the NCIS team alongside DiNozzo and McGee. Ziva's romance with fellow agent Tony was one of the series' greatest relationship arcs, culminating in the pair welcoming a daughter, Tali David-DiNozzo.
After the entire team resigned from NCIS in order to protect their team leader in NCIS season 1, David opted to return to her home country of Israel when her colleagues returned to their positions. Though viewers — and her team members — were led to believe that David died in an attack on her farmhouse in season 13, it was later revealed that she had faked her death to go deep undercover and eliminate the criminals that had attacked her and her family. After the threat was eliminated, Ziva was able to retire to Paris in NCIS with her love and her daughter.
Cote de Pablo had a long run as Ziva David on NCIS, and leaving the series was not an easy decision for her. Despite being offered even more money to stay on, de Pablo chose to maintain David's integrity. de Pablo ultimately cited that the scripts were no longer good enough for her character, revealing in a 2016 Q&A that her character "wasn't being treated with the respect she deserved," and that she told the show "until someone can write something really fantastic for Ziva I won't come back" (via Hello Magazine).
Tony left NCIS because he was simply tired of the show. Tony DiNozzo was one of the defining members of the NCIS team. Starting alongside Gibbs from the beginning, Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo was known for his charm, humor, and playboy behavior. Just when it seemed like nothing could tear DiNozzo from his position, love ultimately won out. DiNozzo originally left to take care of his daughter after Ziva's "death," but his story didn't end there. Having tracked down Ziva during her supposed death, DiNozzo was ready to settle down and raise their daughter in Paris once the dust had cleared.
Michael Weatherly was a staple on NCIS for 13 seasons — and, after such a long run, the actor was simply burnt out by NCIS. Weatherly was tired after so many demanding seasons, telling Hollywood Reporter that he was "ready for a new challenge." He also greatly missed the on-screen chemistry between his character and Ziva David, who had already taken her leave.
Abby Sciuto left NCIS because the actor felt that she couldn't work with Mark Harmon anymore. Though she was not a field agent, Sciuto was beloved both by her team and audiences alike. As the quirky, goth forensic specialist, there wasn't a bit of evidence that could escape Sciuto's keen eye — as long as there was enough Caf-Pow to fuel her, anyway. Though her methods weren't always traditional, Abby always got the job done. After 15 seasons on NCIS, Sciuto left the series to start a charity in honor of her friend, Clayton Reeves, after he passed away saving her life.
But despite Abby and Gibbs' close relationship on NCIS, Pauley Perrette and Mark Harmon had a falling out after Harmon's dog attacked a crew member on set. When Harmon reportedly continued to bring the dog on set, the feud between the two grew so heated that they filmed on separate days, and the script was written to avoid having them on screen at the same time. Perrette would ultimately leave the series, stating (via Twitter) that she was "terrified of Harmon" and that she had nightmares of him attacking her. Though fans were hopeful she would eventually return, Perrette made her stance on this more than clear in her tweet.