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Chasing Ghosts

"This publicity image released by CBS shows Cote de Pablo in a scene from "NCIS." De Pablo will not be returning to the series. CBS Corp. chief executive Les Moonves said Monday, July 29, 2013, that every effort was made to keep actress Cote de Pablo on TV's highest-rated show, "NCIS." (AP Photo/CBS, Cliff Lipson)

When CBS hit show "NCIS" begins its 11th season in September, one of the show's stars will end their run with the series. 

Cote de Pablo, who played Ziva David for eight seasons, decided to leave the show. CBS executives insist it was her decision. In a statement released earlier this month, de Pablo thanked fellow cast members and crew

While de Pablo will be leaving the show, she did indicate that she will be returning to wrap up her character's story this season. 

But once de Pablo is gone for good, what will that mean for the show?

Losing the Ziva character will hurt. There's no question about it. For fans of the show, one of the best story lines was the possibility of Ziva and Tony (played by Michael Weatherly) becoming a couple. The Ziva-Tony romanced was teased many times in season 10. But now it won't be the fairy tale ending fans were hoping for. 

With de Pablo as one of the show's main characters, she provided a strong female presence to a male-dominated cast. She could be serious and funny -- both necessary for NCIS actors -- and you could argue that the story lines involving her character were the most intriguing. (I think so.) For those reasons, she will be missed. 

But for those who think this is the beginning of the end for "NCIS," not so fast. The show still has plenty of strong characters, led by Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (played by Mark Harmon) and a decent number of story lines they can tackle.

The writers will have its hands full going forward, but they have great actors to work with. When one of your main characters departs, it's going to be challenging. But this group is up for the challenge.

How does de Pablo's exit measure up to other departures?

Cote de Pablo isn't the first "NCIS" main cast member to leave the show, but the two previous departures came early in the show's run.

Sasha Alexander, who played Special Agent Caitlin Todd, decided to leave the show after two seasons. Her character was killed off in the second season's final episode. Who replaced Alexander on the show? Cote de Pablo. 

Lauren Holly played NCIS Director Jenny Shepard for three seasons (seasons 3-5). She was killed off in the fifth season's two-part finale. 

While Alexander's departure and Holly's exit were major moments, keep in mind that they spent a combined five seasons on the show. Cote de Pablo was on the show for eight seasons. When Alexander left, the show wasn't as big as it is now. And while Holly was part of the main cast, even with her departure, the core group was still together. 

Now, the core group will be tested. We will find out early in season 11 how they handle the challenge. 

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Online producer/politics reporter