Ziva's 'NCIS' Return Reveals Shocking News for Gibbs (RECAP)

Meredith Jacobs
Spoiler Alert Greg Gayne/CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 17, Episode 10 of NCIS, "The North Pole."]

Ziva (Cote de Pablo) returns to NCIS, and when Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and the team help her with "the one thing" she must take care of before she can return to her family, they realize everything they thought they knew was a lie.

Ziva's return leads to a few answers to some burning questions. How much does Tony (Michael Weatherly) know? Will she be able to reunite with her family soon? What brings her back to DC?

Well, Odette enlists Bishop (Emily Wickersham) to pick up a drive for her, ostensibly for Ziva, from Victor Mir at a club, but the agent refuses to hand it over. (And Odette paid $100,000 for it!) Later, Bishop worries about that move once Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) discovers she's ex-CIA. However, Odette was testing her and wants to offer her some specialized training.

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The "One Thing" Ziva Has to Do Is ...

What's on that drive? Only one photo, of Adam, hands bound, being pushed into a building by a man.

After Bishop tells him what she did, Gibbs calls the number Ziva gave him for emergencies. To his surprise, she doesn't know anything about the pickup. As she learns from Odette, the other woman brought in Bishop because she was worried about Ziva's anxiety. The first time she had an attack, she was in a market, and it was the worst moment of her life, Ziva admits to Gibbs.

But what is this "one thing" she has to do? Make sure Adam is alive because he was the one to make sure Tali got to Tony (via Orli) following Ziva's "death." When she used his information to warn Gibbs, Adam was also outed as a mole in Sahar's organization, jeopardizing his life. Now, she can't find him. Fortunately, Kasie (Diona Reasonover) is able to clean up a reflection in the photo, and they identify the building the men entered.

(Greg Gayne/CBS)

Once there, Gibbs and Ziva eventually find both men and kill Adam's captor. But Adam's in rough shape. What's worse is he reveals the Sahar they killed was a decoy and Ziva knows the real Sahar. And when they get the key to the cuffs on his wrist from his captor, they fall through an elevator shaft.

While unconscious, Ziva recalls Adam showing her photos of Tony and Tali together. He then assured her that both Tony and Gibbs believed the story that she was dead.

Once Gibbs wakes her, they begin looking for a way out. Gibbs wants to move the stuff in front of a door leading to a staircase, but Ziva wants to take the quicker approach by knocking out a load-bearing beam and letting a portion of the building collapse. That would kill them, he argues. He distracts her by asking her about Tali, and she reveals that Tony found her after he left NCIS with Cairo.

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How Much Did Tony Know?

Ziva has only told Tony what he needed to know, and they've had little contact. The last time she held Tali was in Cairo, where she knew Tony would watch over her when he cut a Band-Aid into the shape of a heart. (Tali hates Band-Aids.) By the time they get back upstairs, however, they're too late: Adam's dead.

So who is the real Sahar? No one knows.

Another flashback shows Adam telling Ziva he's going in undercover in Sahar's organization to help her. While Tony has her heart, Ziva will always have his, Adam admits. "That's the thing about love," he tells her. "Even if it cannot be returned, it never goes away."

(Greg Gayne/CBS)

Gibbs joins Ziva in her office and tells her to contact Tony and tell him to take Tali into hiding. She refuses to risk that being what alerts Sahar to Tali's existence, but he realizes she's afraid that if Tony knows how bad it is, he'll come. She agrees; she refuses to risk Tali losing both parents. She again thinks they should've taken out the beam and saved Adam, but Gibbs suggests her head isn't on straight. But to Ziva, her judgment has never been clearer. In fact, she suggests it was clouded the day she killed Ari to save Gibbs. "Had I not taken that shot, none of this would be happening," she says. He's fine with her blaming him, but he still wants her to do right by her daughter.

An examination of Adam's captor Cross' body reveals UV stamps that match the one Bishop got when she picked up the drive from Victor. Once Bishop lures him into a back room, Gibbs questions Victor, with a hit to his face as incentive to talk. Victor doesn't know where Sahar is, but he does know she goes by Sarah and has a kid — Phineas. Adam meant that Gibbs knows her: Sarah, his neighbor. NCIS just delivered one of the most shocking moments in years.

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NCIS Proves You Can't Trust Anyone

And when the team bursts into her house, Phineas tells them his mother's at work. But no diner in the area has an employee matching her description. She's not really a waitress, and she used Phineas to get close to Gibbs while she waited for Ziva to return. Gibbs takes Phineas to his house, where the kid insists he doesn't know where his mother is. But Gibbs notices the microphone on his laptop is on.

Meanwhile, Ziva turns off the camera and cuffs Victor in the interrogation room for an "off-the-books" chat. He reveals that Cross was holding Adam, but Sahar was the one to torture him when she was supposedly working nights. Still, Adam never talked. Plus, Sahar has no reason to think anything's gone sideways, meaning she's on her way to question Adam once again.

(Greg Gayne/CBS)

At that building, Ziva and Sahar exchange gunfire, and the latter is distracted when she sees Ziva's gun on the ground next to drops of blood. But Ziva attacks her from behind, with each woman getting the upper hand at one point in the fight. It's Sahar who seemingly comes out on top, pinning Ziva to the ground under a pipe.

She and Ari had a vision for their people, Sahar shares. They were building a legacy, but Ziva ended it. However, Sahar has a new plan, because when she visited Adam the night before, he was delirious and thought she was Ziva — and promised that her daughter would be safe. Now, Sahar plans to kill Ziva and then find her daughter and end her legacy. "My daughter will be everything she's meant to be," Ziva swears, trying to kick out the beam near her.

Sahar aims her gun, but Gibbs, from the staircase, shoots and kills her first, in a reversal of Ziva killing Ari.

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He'd realized Sahar had bugged Phineas' laptop and traced the bug to her burn phone.

Later, Ziva joins Gibbs on his couch while Phineas sleeps upstairs, unaware of what's happened. She called Tony after their chat, and he'll make contact once he and Tali are secure. She apologizes for letting him mourn her and not coming to him and trusting him to be there for her like he was that night. It cost a lot, but he'll never regret taking that shot, he tells her. And she assures him that she'll never regret the one she took for him either.

But he still has to tell Phineas, who's woken up, about his mother …

And we still have to wait for Ziva to reunite with her family.

NCIS, Tuesdays, 8/7c, CBS