NCIS Season 21 Secretly Honors Abby, 6 Years After Pauley Perrette’s Departure

Six years after Pauley Perrette’s departure, NCIS Season 21 subtly nods to her character Abby Sciuto amidst a significant storyline. The season mourns the character Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard, the cherished medical examiner turned historian, portrayed by David McCallum. In a poignant homage, the show reflects on Ducky’s legacy following McCallum’s own passing in 2023. Renowned as NCIS’s original medical examiner, Ducky’s tenure on the team spanned numerous years, with his most significant contributions during the series’s formative seasons.

Season 21’s second episode, titled “The Stories We Leave Behind,” transcends a mere reminiscence of Ducky. The team dedicates themselves to solving the final case Ducky was investigating prior to his passing. The creative team contemplated various tributes, including a reunion of past characters for a memorable homage. Ultimately, the show welcomed the return of Michael Weatherly’s character, Tony DiNozzo, to support Jimmy Palmer, Ducky’s protégé, in this emotional episode. This episode also subtly acknowledges characters like Leroy Jethro Gibbs, played by Mark Harmon, and Pauley Perrette’s Abby, enriching the narrative with layers of nostalgia and depth.

The depth of affection for Ducky is vividly illustrated through the continuous arrival of condolence flowers from numerous agencies and organizations. A particularly poignant moment for long-time NCIS fans is a wreath adorned with black roses and a sparkling skull, placed in Kasie’s lab. While the episode refrains from explicitly mentioning Abby, a hint from Hines suggests the wreath’s sender isn’t a mystery, evoking memories of Abby’s unique style and spirit.

Perrette’s exit from the show in Season 15 was sparked by Abby’s decision to leave her position following a life-threatening ordeal, culminating in the protective sacrifice of MI6 Agent Clayton Reeves. Abby’s departure was marked by her decision to accompany Reeves’ remains to England and to start a charity in his memory, turning her grief into a force for positive change.

Off-screen, Perrette’s departure was tinged with complexity. She disclosed via social media that she had experienced threats on the NCIS set, leading to a vow never to return, implicitly referencing Mark Harmon. CBS acknowledged receiving several concerns from Perrette, which were reportedly addressed. Perrette later expressed that it was simply time for her to move on, marking the end of her chapter on NCIS and leaving a lasting impact on the show and its audience.