Will 'NCIS' Season 18 see Tony DiNozzo's return? Michael Weatherly's reason for quitting show could answer this
While Weatherly didn't exactly leave because of Cote de Pablo quitting the show, his decision to exit came shortly afterward and was just as shocking as Pablo's
After seeing them together for the last time all the way back in Season 13, 'NCIS' answered fans' longterm wishes of seeing special agent Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) back in action. Fans hoped and pined to see the aftermath of her relationship with Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly), and their daughter Tali, but unfortunately, those aspects were addressed only in conversations.
Cote de Pablo reprised her role of Ziva exactly in three episodes of the 20-episode run of Season 17, but that was enough to raise hopes for Michael Weatherly to reprise his role as Tony. Now, as we stand fresh after the wrap of the 17th season cut short due to the ongoing pandemic, it's always a good time to weigh in on the possibility of Season 18 giving us the Ziva and Tony reunion we have ached for, by bringing back Weatherly's character. And something tells us that's not quite possible, given Weatherly's real reason to quit the show four years ago.
Tony's significance on the show was not just surrounding his very popular, fan-favorite romance with Ziva, but also because of the great lengths, the character went to establish himself as an unputdownable part of the core team - with undercover operations to take down terrorist organizations back in Seasons 4 and 5. Yet shortly after Pablo's bombshell exit which came out of the blue, Weatherly announced he was quitting the show too, despite being in love with the franchise immensely. Right after Pablo's exit Ziva was believed to have died on assignment, Tony learned the two had a daughter together and quit the team to take care of her. And based on what Weatherly has shared in the past, Pablo's exit is what initiated the process.
Speaking with Parade magazine, Weatherly had spilled how he knew back in Season 11 of 'NCIS' that his time was coming to an end, saying: "The key for me was to make sure that these guys had enough time. I love Tony DiNozzo but more importantly, I love NCIS. I’m just a fan of the show. That’s always a priority, so I think his departure has to serve that primarily.” But if his words from the Television Critics Association summer press tour in 2016 is to be trusted, as reported by the Hollywood Reporter, Weatherly was "burnt out by NCIS and I was ready for a new challenge. Sometimes change is as good as a rest.”
Weatherly went on to find that fresh start as Dr Jason Bull in the CBS courtroom drama 'Bull', which, on its fourth season, is one of the most popular procedurals on television network - almost as popular as the 17-year-old franchise of NCIS, or the NBC jackpot, the Chicago franchise. While this shuts down any hope for seeing him reprise the role of Tony, Weatherly has also tweeted that he isn't entirely opposed to the idea of returning. Before it was revealed for sure that Pablo would return in Season 17 to reprise her character, Weatherly had shared in 2018 "Yes I believe Ziva is alive and I will always be ready to play DiNozzo when the time is right...”
Clearly Season 17 wasn't the right time, because even with Ziva finally being able to seek out Tony and their daughter, all we saw of Weatherly was in a photograph Ziva shows their leader - Jethro Gibbs - before signing off for heaven knows how long. And given how conclusive Ziva's storyline was, it's highly unlikely that the show would proceed to show her indulging in family life in the aftermath of her grand, ceremonious exit once again. So as of now, the chances of Weatherly returning as Tony in Season 18 look quite bleak. Plus with the soaring success of 'Bull', Weatherly might want to concentrate on his fresh start.