When's It Back? Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 8 p.m. on CBS
Where We Left Off: Two sad departures on either end of last season left big holes in the show. Cote de Pablo (Ziva) left at the beginning of Season 11, though the door is still open for her to return. And actor Ralph Waite, who played Gibbs's father, passed away; the show honored him by having Gibbs deal with the character's death, giving everyone some much-needed closure.
In between Bishop earning a promotion to full agent and the hitman tasked with killing Gibbs, the team also made contact with an NCIS office down south, which was the genesis of new spinoff NCIS: New Orleans, airing right after NCIS Tuesday nights.
What We Know About Season 12: The premiere will have NCIS agents go missing in Russia, forcing Gibbs and McGee to go in after them. That will also be the beginning of a recurring Russian story arc and the introduction of this season's big bad: Russian mercenary Sergei Michnev.
DiNozzo, finally (almost) over Ziva, will be playing the field once again — what showrunner Gary Glasberg calls "Tony being Tony." That may coincide with the arrival of Melrose Place alum Stephanie Jacobsen as Leia, a "sexy and single" special agent who partners up with DiNozzo to investigate a terrorist threat.
Not to be outdone, McGee's girlfriend, Delilah, will also be returning. We'll see a young Ducky in Episode 3 when present-day Ducky and Bishop end up in England. (So if you ever wondered why the bow tie...) Also, we'll finally get to meet Bishop's husband in the Thanksgiving episode.
Our Burning Question: Does Ziva come back? Or does DiNozzo hook up with new partner Leia? Those are really the only two options.
More Fall TV Catch-Up Guides:
The Vampire Diaries
Once Upon a Time
The Good Wife
Person of Interest
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The Big Bang Theory
The Mindy Project