Cote De Pablo Has An Idea For How To Bring A Killed-Off NCIS Villain Back For The Tony And Ziva Spinoff

 Cote de Pablo's Ziva David standing near a bus in NCIS.
Credit: Ali Goldstein/CBS

One of NCIS’ earliest recurring antagonists was Rudolf Martin’s Ari Haswari, a rogue Mossad agent who’d become the leader of an Al-Qaeda cell in Washington D.C. Ari’s biggest act of villainy on the show was without a doubt killing Sasha Alexander’s Caitlin Todd in the Season 2 finale (if you look closely, you’ll notice an accidental goof from Michael Weatherly in that scene), and then in the two-part Season 3 premiere, he was revealed to be the half-brother of Cote de Pablo’s Ziva David. She was forced to kill Ari by the end of the aptly-named “Kill Ari (Part 2)” in order to save Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs, yet despite being dead for so long, de Pablo has an idea for how the upcoming Tony & Ziva spinoff could bring the character back.

The latest episode of de Pablo and Weatherly’s new podcast Off Duty: An NCIS Rewatch featured Martin as a guest, and towards the end of their conversation, Martin mentioned how sometimes he gets requests to audition for the NCIS spinoffs, but he inevitably turns them down since he knows he won’t be cast given his already-prominent role on the flagship series. That led de Pablo (who once thought Weatherly was trying to “sabotage” her Ziva audition) to say this:

Unless he’s a ghost. That’s what I’m thinking… I don’t know, I think something just opened up potentially. There’s a little something that could be explored there.

If the idea of a ghost showing up on an NCIS series sounds weird to you, it’s actually pretty on point, at least as far as the main show is concerned. After all, in the “Kill Ari” episodes, the team members saw their own unique visions of Kate that spoke to them, and following the death of Muse Watson’s Mike Franks in Season 8, he would occasionally appear to Gibbs to offer him advice through to Season 15. So the concept of Ziva being haunted by a ghost/nightmare version of Ari is a legitimate plot element that could be explored, and since he doesn’t really exist, you’re not obligated to explain why he looks older.

Ari Haswari looking through sniper rifle scope after killing in Caitlin Todd in NCIS
Ari Haswari looking through sniper rifle scope after killing in Caitlin Todd in NCIS

Later on in the podcast episode, when Cote de Pablo and Michael Weatherly got on a video call at a different date to discuss their time speaking with Rudolf Martin, the former reaffirmed that she’s interested in exploring this ‘Ari as a ghost idea’ on Tony & Ziva, which will stream exclusively to Paramount+ subscription holders. In her words:

I know we talked about this too, but the idea of Rudolf Martin coming in possibly for the Tony and Ziva show in Europe, maybe possibly returning as a ghost/nightmare. I would like to explore that, you know, having to deal with the ghosts of the past. That would be a nice thing to tackle.

Back in March, CBS Studios President David Stapf told Deadline that as things currently stand with NCIS: Tony & Ziva, which was officially titled last month, there are no plans to include former NCIS cast members, albeit with the caveat “never say never.” So Ghost Ari won’t be in the cards for this first season, but if Tony & Ziva is renewed for Season 2, maybe Cote de Pablo can convince the writers to bring Rudolf Martin back for a guest appearance. The series will follow Tony and Ziva being forced to go on the run across Europe after Tony’s security company is attacked, though it’s unclear if their daughter Tali will be with them.

NCIS: Tony & Ziva is set to begin shooting this summer, though no premiere date has been set yet. It’s one of two NCIS spinoffs on the way, the other being NCIS: Origins, which will follow Leroy Jethro Gibbs in 1991 and is expected to arrive sometime on the 2024 TV schedule.