"NCIS" Season 18 is finally on its way back to the television after an unusually short season 17 that ended abruptly in April. Showrunner Steve Binder is dropping hints about the season premiere.

"NCIS" Season 17 ended with episode 20 "The Arizona" on April 14 after the production of the remaining episodes was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. The long-running police procedural starring Mark Harmon resumed production earlier this month.

TV Line reports that the show's return is going to be unusual. It will take a jump back in time to when Harmon's Gibbs disappeared in Season 17's eighth episode. Speaking at TV Line's Fall Preview Q&A, showrunner Steve Binder explained that the show has not yet unraveled the mystery about Gibbs' disappearance. However, the opening episodes of Season 18 are going to piece the puzzle together and reveal some answers.

"We had an episode last year called 'Musical Chairs,' where Gibbs disappears from the squad room to go on a mission, and then he shows up at the end of the episode with a black eye," Binder said in the interview. "We are going to pick up Season 18 with that mission that Gibbs was on, back in time."

He explains that this way they will be "in a pre-COVID world for a little while." And they can avoid tackling the problem until next year. The showrunner explains that by the time the multi-story arc comes to an end, the remaining team will return to DC and they can directly deal with the pandemic.

"We'll be in a COVID world at that point," Binder said about the episodes airing expected to air in February.

Meanwhile, series spin-off "NCIS: New Orleans" will be addressing the pandemic in its upcoming season 7 as it opens. As for "NCIS: Los Angeles," it is expected to approach the outbreak "but not overtly."

Mark Harmon
Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs in NCIS series CBS

There is no confirmed release date for "NCIS" Season 18. It is expected to air sometime in November.