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Where Are All These Ziva Mentions Leading on 'NCIS'?

"The Missionary Position" -- Following the murder of a Marine, Tony and Ziva (Cote de Pablo) join Ziva\'s longtime friend and mentor in Columbia in a search for a missing Marine Lieutenant and Navy Chaplain, on NCIS, Tuesday, April 10 (8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Greg Gayne/CBS ©2012 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 16, Episode 19 of NCIS, "Perennial."]

Is NCIS teasing a treat for longtime viewers in the form of a fan favorite's return? Or will the mentions of Ziva (Cote de Pablo) continue coming without leading anywhere?

It began in Episode 13, "She," as Bishop (Emily Wickersham) became determined to solve a cold case Ziva had worked on in her free time. Bishop's investigation led to Ziva's secret office space, filled with files and journals covering previous cases.

The episode ended with the strong implication that Ziva, who had presumably died three years earlier, is alive. When Bishop went to read Ziva's letter to the guilty party in her cold case, she found out someone already had.

Furthermore, someone left a note for Bishop in Ziva's secret office. "For the safety of my family, please keep my secret," the person wrote. Bishop believed that person to be Ziva.

Bishop has kept that promise, though in Episode 19, she tried to find out how much Gibbs (Mark Harmon) knows. She brought in a dead plant from Ziva's office and used its existence to test the water with Gibbs, asking if he had an opinion about her "trying to save it."

Gibbs was confused — or at least pretended to be — and Bishop asked him as outright as she could without using the words, "Do you know Ziva is alive?"

"If you know, I need you to say it," she said to him. "Know what?" He asked. She dropped it, but she didn't let Ziva's office go. At the end of the episode, she brought in a living plant and told the landlord she "hopes" to be following in her predecessor's footsteps, taking up shop there from time to time.

"Funny thing about hope," the landlord said to Bishop. "When she gets into your blood, she never leaves you."

That's true of the hope Bishop has regarding Ziva being alive. But is this all actually leading to an on-screen return from de Pablo?

Her last on-screen appearance came in 2013's Season 11, Episode 2, "Past, Present, and Future." She was then killed off (or, at least, off-screen) in the Season 13 finale, "Family First," the same episode in which Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) left his job at NCIS to raise their daughter in Paris.

In 2016, de Pablo spoke about leaving NCIS during a Q&A. It was her choice, but she didn't rule out returning at some point in the future. And this current storyline really seems to be setting up a future appearance from Ziva.

If it's not, fans are going to be upset.

For now, fans can only wait and hope that a future episode provides some clarity. Sound off on how you'd feel about a Ziva return in the comments below.

NCIS, Tuesdays, 8/7c, CBS

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