NCIS: Why Sasha Alexander’s Caitlin Todd Left the Series

Sasha Alexander played Special Agent Caitlin Todd on NCIS, but it was her own decision to leave the show after Season 2. Here’s why she wanted out.

As NCIS continues Season 20 into 2023, only one character, Dr. Donald “Ducky” Mallard (David McCallum), is still around from the procedural’s original cast. However, McCallum has taken a minimal role since Season 19, and it comes right at the heels of another original cast member, Mark Harmon, leaving the show.

As one of the longest-running television shows of all time, it makes sense that NCIS has seen its fair share of cast turnover. However, the trend started kind of early, because the first original cast member to leave the show only made it through forty-nine episodes over two seasons. That cast member was Special Agent Caitlin “Kate” Todd. Here’s who she was and why Kate left NCIS.

Who Was Caitlin ‘Kate’ Todd on NCIS?

Gibbs and Kate walking in Yankee White, NCIS

Caitlin “Kate” Todd — who was played by Sasha Alexander — was introduced in 2003 during NCIS’ first episode, “Yankee White,” when she was still a member of the president’s Secret Service detail. During the episode, the Naval officer tasked with carrying the “nuclear football” mysteriously dies while aboard Air Force One with the president. Although some people think the death was from natural causes, Gibbs and DiNozzo find otherwise. They enlist the help of Caitlin Todd and uncover a plot to assassinate the president.

Gibbs liked what he saw from Kate and offered her a job before the episode was over. It wasn’t long after that Kate quit her job, after disobeying fraternization rules and joined the NCIS team full-time. She became the junior member of Gibbs’ team and a popular part of the cast. Her more conservative attitude contrasted with Tony’s often-forthcoming personality and made for a nice comedic effect. However, they easily found common ground when picking on the new “Probie” McGee. When Kate was killed by Ari Haswari in the finale of Season 2, it hit everyone hard because they had become quite a close team.

Why Did Sasha Alexander Leave NCIS?

Kate laying in a casket on NCIS

As with many character deaths on television, Kate was not killed off because the writers wanted her gone, nor was it because fans disliked her. Ultimately, it was Sasha Alexander’s decision to leave the show on her own terms, and it really came down to the grueling film schedule that NCIS demands.

In a 2012 interview with TV Guide, Alexander explained her reasoning for leaving NCIS. “People don’t realize that on a network show, you make 24 episodes a year — that’s 10 and a half months a year, 17 hours a day. It’s hardcore,” she shared. That would be difficult for anyone, and even Mark Harmon has spoken on the taxing schedule the show has to keep. In a 2017 interview with The Talk, Harmon said that the “first day [of filming] was 21 hours.” The schedule has been slimmed down since the first season, but it’s still difficult — explaining why Harmon is taking a reduced role going into NCIS‘ nineteenth year of production.

Sasha Alexander simply got off the train before Gibbs did, and she doesn’t regret her decision to leave the show. In the same interview, she said, “I really firmly believe in my heart that I would not be where I am today — happily married, with two kids, doing things creatively that I want — if I had stayed.” So, while it was difficult to see Kate killed off in such a dramatic way, it seems like she made the best decision for herself in the long run.

NCIS Season 20 will return on Jan. 2, 2023 with new episodes airing every Monday at 9 P.M. ET on CBS.

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