Contains spoilers for NCIS season 15, episode 22
NCIS bid farewell to a beloved character with its most recent episode “Two Steps Back,” sending Pauley Perrette’s Abby Sciuto off to new places with a new mission in life. The episode picked up where season 15, episode 21, “One Step Forward” left off, with Abby and Clayton Reeves, played by Duane Henry, in the hospital after an anonymous mugger (we’ll get to him later) fired a gun at the two.
Fans were (understandably) led to believe that Abby had been killed, and for a brief moment in “Two Steps Back,” that seemed to be the case. David McCallum’s Donald “Ducky” Mallard was seen sympathizing with a fellow coroner about how painful it is to perform an autopsy on a deceased colleague — which nearly everyone thought was in reference to Abby — but once the body bag was unzipped, Abby wasn’t inside it. Instead, it was Reeves, who had jumped in front of Abby in the “mugging gone wrong.” The episode then flicked to show an unconscious Abby in the hospital, with Brian Dietzen’s James Palmer lamenting, “This is the indomitable Abby Sciuto we’re talking about. I don’t care what the odds are. You never count her out.”
Halfway through the emotional hour, Abby woke up, and it was revealed that the mugger was a man named Kent Marshall, a former Army Specialist who was discharged in 2008, and that the attack wasn’t just random; it was actually an attempt to murder Abby in a hit that Marine Sergeant Robert King, played by Peter Jason, orchestrated. (Viewers will remember King as the black ops soldier who coerced Abby into creating a bio-weapon way back on the sixth season of NCIS.)
After learning the truth, Abby poured cyanide into King’s coffee (but gave him an antidote in exchange for him confessing to his crime), told the NCIS crew that she was going to assist in getting Reeves’ body sent to London to be buried by his mother, and announced that she had to set her sights on a new horizon.
“I’m not coming back. I’m leaving NCIS. Clay died saving my life and I owe him a debt and I tend to see that through. Clay always wanted to start a charity in honor of his mom, and since he’s not here to make that happen, I will,” Abby said in the episode. “I know you may not understand, but it’s something I have to do, not just for him, for me … You guys are my family and this is my home, but you have to go with your gut and my gut is telling me that I have to go.” She ended her farewell with a heart-rending remark: “It’s not goodbye for good, it’s goodbye for now.”
Perrette’s exit from NCIS came after months of speculation about her motivations for leaving the series, with fans cooking up theories that involved drama behind the scenes and a mysterious skin care line of Perrette’s that doesn’t actually exist, but the real reason she departed is quite simple: The actress felt it was time to move on.
“I believe in God and the universe so firmly, and it just suddenly became blindingly apparent that now was the time,” Perrette explained. “After a lot of thought, I decided to announce it myself on Twitter because I didn’t want it to be turned into anything ‘shocking.’ Abby leaving is more than a cheap TV ploy.” She added that despite Abby no longer being a part of NCIS, the character’s legacy will live on forever.
NCIS will return sans Abby on Tuesday, May 15 on CBS.