For many years I have been a loyal NCIS fan. In college my girlfriends and I began watching the re-runs on USA network. From then on we had a standing appointment on Tuesday nights to watch NCIS together. It didn't matter if we had papers to write, exams to study for, or jobs -- we always got together every Tuesday to tune-in. It was what many refer to as "appointment television." We tried to covert anyone and everyone we knew into NCIS viewers. Some of my fondest memories of college involve all of us young women hanging out of the couch, eating frozen french fries for dinner, and catching up on our week during commercial breaks.
Though we all had very different tastes in television shows, we were all attracted to the character-driven nature of this show. More specifically, we were attracted to the character of Ziva David. She is the type of woman that young women want to see more of -- multicultural; strong and fierce, but compassionate when it counts; self-assured and independent while also trying to figure out just who her real 'self' is; and, perhaps most important of all, able to kick any guy's ass. She was like a member of our tribe. The summer Ziva went to Somalia left a summer-long pit in our stomachs.
There's something to be said for the kind of actor that can evoke that kind of a reaction from viewers. For eight years Cote de Pablo has brought depth, complexity, and sincerity to the character she portrays. She has been the only actor on the show to win awards for their work and has been at the center of many of the show's highest-rated episodes, including "Shiva", the highest rated episode in the show's history. To say that a milestone like this in a show's tenth season is unheard of is putting it mildly.
So perhaps you can imagine the sadness that accompanied the news that CBS was unable to re-sign Cote de Pablo. To say it feels like a loss to the extended family is an understatement. The thing that once faithfully brought very different women together has been ripped from our tribe.
Although the details of the reasoning for Cote's departure are sketchy, there are some aspects of the whole thing that are off-putting. In the last couple years, it seems CBS has gained a reputation for not monetarily valuing its female actors in the same way that it does their male cast mates. Criminal Minds is just one recent example of this. As a professional and woman, I find this extremely disconcerting. Additionally, I've found CBS' willingness to use TV Guide (which it owns) and other media outlets as means to make Cote out to be the unfavorable party extremely distasteful. Especially since, in all likelihood, she is limited in her ability to disclose details of contract negotiations.
By her own admission, Cote has always loved her job and the character she plays. I can only imagine what kind of 'negotiation tactics' it took for her to decide not re-sign the week before filming on season 11 began, especially when everyone on the production side of the show had publicly sounded very positive about the likely outcome of said negotiations. I find it hard to believe that an actress who has displayed nothing but affection for her job and those she works with would have, as has been suggested, planned to walk away from the show the whole time, to the shock of her colleagues.
When negotiations last as long as these did, there is usually a sticking point. Whether that was money or a desire for a one-year contract, we will probably never know for certain. At this point, it is pretty much all speculation and very vague answers. "A lot of money" is subjective and does not necessarily mean CBS met the figure that Cote asked for. I cannot help but wonder if the fans are being sold a bill of goods in order to pacify the fan outcry.
What I do know for certain is that for myself and many others, NCIS will not be the show we fell in love with without Cote and Ziva. As Tony once said, "Ziva David is not replaceable". I sincerely hope CBS does not expect to hire another actress and have the cast chemistry that makes the show unique and appealing remain the same. This is the kind of chemistry that is rare and cannot be replicated. It is for this reason that I will be unable to continue to watch an NCIS without Cote/Ziva.
As you may already know, many NCIS fans have started a campaign to "Bring Cote Back!". Fans around the world, myself included, have been writing letters to CBS offices in NY and L.A. as well as Bellisarius Productions. They've been sending huge banners, delivering cupcakes and M&Ms, writing songs and making Youtube videos, and tons of other creative ideas. Additionally, there's an online petition that was started just a few days after the news came out, which continues to gain momentum daily.
It's been inspiring to me to see so many come together for a cause that they're passionate about. Hopefully all this fan momentum will have an effect on CBS and the show I've loved for many years.