The recent news that Maria Bello is set to depart NCIS in Season 18 might've been the most-anticipated secret to drop from the show in a long time; super-fans have long buzzed that, owing to Bello's three-year contract expiring, Jacqueline "Jack" Sloane might be soon meeting her maker on the CBS drama. 

Obviously, with Season 17 cut a little short, the plot twists and turns that might've made this development a little easier to see coming were curtailed, but fans can rest assured that when NCIS is back, Sloane's impending end — however it looks — will be a major storyline to look out for. Back in April, TV Guide spoke with executive producer Frank Cardea and Gina Monreal, a co-executive producer, to share some insight on what we can expect, including what was on deck for Sloane. Here's what they had to say about Sloane's future, and what might be in store for Sloane, Gibbs (Mark Harmon), Torres (Wilmer Valderrama), and the rest of the crew. 

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Gibbs will be a more emotionally open leader.
As reported previously, Gibbs' experiences in the tear-jerking last episode will lead him to be more transparent about his emotions. Of course, emotional vulnerability is not something we've known Gibbs to be — and it's doesn't mean "weak" either. "One thing about the Gibbs character," Monreal said, "he's constantly evolving." Added Cardea: "I think he's going to be taking some risks and chances he never would have taken before."

Sloane is on her way out, but how remains a mystery
There's a longstanding theory among NCIS fans that Jacqueline "Jack" Sloane (Maria Bello) might be meeting her demise soon — and recent news reporting Maria Bello's departure from the show prove those theories may have merit. According to the conspiracies, Sloane's would-be death at the end of the season would've closed it on a dramatic note, keeping Gibbs in an unnerved state that's more interesting for the series. Of course, Sloane dying is just one way she could leave: she could move away, retire, or numerous other outcomes. When asked back in April if Sloane might die as the show moves forward, showrunner Frank Cardea laughed it off. "We never talk about what we're going to do," he said adding that if word got out that Sloane's death was in the cards, they wouldn't do it. That likely means the team is crafting a number of scenarios to avoid the death fans saw coming a mile away. Then again, maybe they're planning a death so shocking it'll even surprise the fans who've been waiting on it!

A big milestone episode will be a flashback.
NCIS was set to air its 400th episode this season, a monumental achievement the producers, writers, cast and crew had obviously been looking forward to. Though plans were put on hold, that whopper of a birthday is going to be celebrated as soon as possible, and the plans are for that episode to be a flashback. "It's about how Gibbs and Ducky met," Cardea said. "It's a case that brings them back. There are wonderful moments and we see how Ducky and Gibbs met under strange circumstances."

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NCIS aired its last episode of Season 17 before a hiatus on April 14. Past episodes are streaming on CBS All Access.