Will Ziva Reunite With Tony & Tali? 4 Things to Expect in Her 'NCIS' Return

Kate Hahn
Preview Richard Foreman/CBS

You can be sure Ziva David's story will end like no other.

Cote de Pablo's badass agent, fiercely protective mother, and daughter figure to NCIS boss man Leroy Jethro Gibbs (Mark Harmon) came back — seemingly from the dead — in the Season 16 finale. In subsequent episodes, the hunted woman had one aim: to steamroll anything that would prevent her from reuniting safely with her daughter, Tali (Emelia/Layla Golfieri). The January 7 episode of NCIS divulges Ziva’s fate — and we dare to dream it includes a future with both Tali and her dad, ex–NCIS agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly).

Executive producer Steven D. Binder gives us cautious hope: "I would like to see this resolve in a somewhat happy way. That being said, that doesn't mean it's not going to come with serious costs."

Here are four things to think about before we close this chapter.

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The Final Hurdle

"There's one more thing I have to do before I can put all this behind me. And this time I have to do it alone," Ziva told Gibbs in the October 1 NCIS.

Scratch that: The entire team is pulled into her high-stakes mission on the December 17 episode, which de Pablo considers her most physically demanding ever. It also features a twist that Binder predicted would elicit "a big, giant scream across the United States." (To prevent spoilers for readers who have yet to watch and maybe scream themselves, we're not revealing plot specifics here.)

The hour leans heavily into Ziva's past via flashbacks, showing "the impact of the big choices she's made — and the guardian angel behind them," says de Pablo, staying mum on the details.

(Sonja Flemming/CBS)

A Changed Woman

This Ziva is not the same person who, in 2013, said goodbye to the bullpen of agents who'd always had her back. She's been on the run, living a cold and empty existence.

"In the world she moves in, it's been life or death for her since she left," says Binder. The only person she could trust was ex-boyfriend Adam Eshel (Damon Dayoub), who helped her remain incognito after she faked her death in 2016.

Is it any wonder the constant stress has brought on anxiety, manifesting in panic attacks? To play that new aspect of her character, de Pablo spoke with friends who deal with the condition. "They told me it feels like the world is ending. You feel like you could die," she says. (An aside: De Pablo tells us she'd love to take on something "a little lighter" for her next project. No surprise there.)

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The pressure doesn't let up, either. "In these two episodes, many of the loose ends Ziva thought were tied up are not," de Pablo says. "She's still dealing with trust issues. Her past comes back to haunt her yet again."

Family Reunion?

In the end, every fan wants to see Ziva put all this behind her and cozy up with Tony and Tali in domestic bliss. To say it won't be easy is a massive understatement, especially regarding Tony.

"They haven't seen each other in a long time. You'd have to rekindle something. You'd have to see what's left," de Pablo theorizes. "To think that she and Tony could meet and have a happy ending, that'd be fantastic, right? But the only thing for certain is Ziva has a daughter she adores and had to abandon, which was a very hard choice."

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Still, Binder promises, "You'll get closure on the things you want to get closure on," and Cardea calls her story's conclusion "satisfying."

We choose to take that as a happily ever after.

The Gibbs Factor

Earlier this season, Ziva lashed out at Gibbs for not questioning her "death" (there was no body) and coming to find answers. Her tearful, plaintive delivery of the line "I waited for you, Gibbs" held years of pain.

(Ali Goldstein/CBS)

Despite that blow to their relationship, "They've reached a level of accommodation," Binder explains.

This is an abbreviated version of TV Guide Magazine's latest cover story. For more, pick up the issue, on newsstands Thursday, December 19.

NCISTuesdays, 8/7c, CBS