Former NCIS actress Cote de Pablo already has confirmed that she won’t be returning for next week’s final episode of original cast member Michael Weatherly, but viewers hoping for some closure to the long-running series’ central romance won’t be disappointed, Weatherly said today.

ncis-michael-weatherlyIn a press call, Weatherly — who has played Agent Anthony DiNozz0 for 13 seasons on NCIS — said of de Pablo’s Ziva David character, “I think the audience will feel very strongly that she’s in the episode in a way that might be a little Shakespearean but it’s real, and I think it’s going to be a very exciting time for fans of that relationship. I mean, bring a box of whatever you need, bring a change of clothing. You might not be able to go to work the next day.”

THE DOVEKEEPERSAsked point blank if Shakespearean meant dead – a not-unreasonable presumption given the explosion that ended last night’s episode, with Ziva’s family farmhouse in Israel apparently blown to bits by terrorists – Weatherly responded: “I think it’s more than that, a lot more. I would almost say you’re going to finish the episode and then go back and watch it again.”

Weatherly wouldn’t explain, of course, how his final episode will close, but he noted that the ending — which takes place in the squad room — was the last scene he shot. “What happened for me in the season finale is that I discovered an aspect of DiNozzo that had never been revealed before, and it very much surprised me.” He added, “I will say, in that scene, I didn’t recognize Michael Weatherly at all and very little of Tony DiNozzo. It’s more likely that DiNozzo would give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation than what he does in that last scene.”

Weatherly recalled his first meeting with de Pablo. “I remember so vividly the screen test with Cote,” he said, recalling that he mentioned her resemblance to Salma Hayek. “I just remember her cold stare,” he laughed. “She just loathed me instantly — and I mean Michael Weatherly — but we quickly became very close friends.”

In a separate phone call with Deadline, executive producer Gary Glasberg said: “Ziva is a tremendous part of the Tony DiNozzo character, and she always will be. We knew we had to touch on that.”

As for possible return visits to NCIS as a guest star, Weatherly said: “I believe in the franchise of NCIS very much. I would absolutely be open to anything and everything, including things that no one’s even thought of yet. So the long answer is yes.”

As for his immediate post-NCIS plans, Weatherly said, “We’ll see what happens this week with Bull,” the CBS pilot in which he plays a jury consultant inspired by the early career of “Dr. Phil” McGraw. The pilot was written by McGraw and Paul Attanasio and directed by Rodrigo Garcia, executive produced by Attanasio, Phil and Jay McGraw, Justin Falvey & Darryl Frank of Amblin Television and Garcia. In addition to Weatherly, the Bull pilot’s cast includes Freddy Rodriguez, Geneva Carr and Chris Jackson.

“I’m really not allowing myself to get too excited about it until after NCIS‘ last episode next Tuesday,” he said.

“I’ve been given this great moment to look down the path a little bit and make decisions that haven’t been available to me in 14 years,” Weatherly said. “I really want to spend a lot of time with my family, and not just my two children at home here but my 20-year-old and my parents on the East Coast, and friends I haven’t seen in quite some time.”

Despite the down time, he said, he’s “busier than ever – but I can’t talk about most of it.”

“The last time I was in this position was after a show called Dark Angel,” he said of the 2000-02 Fox drama. “I was in a Town Car on the way to the Upfronts with (co-star) Jessica Alba, and the driver got a call to ‘Turn ’em around.’” Weatherly said the cancellation was welcomed by Alba, who wanted to do movies. “But I thought, ‘Oh f*ck, I’m unemployed.’ It doesn’t feel that way now.”