This is an essay in which I tried to disect Ziva. I hope it makes sense. And sorry I know it's long.
I love Ziva as a character. She is so complex and nothing about her can be taken at face value. She is a paradox. The more we know about her, the more we realize we know very little about her. Each answer brings a million questions. So much of her past and current relationships, missions, and loyalties are unknown. For example, the sheer number of languages she speaks leads us to believe she lived in just as many (most likely more) countries for a considerable amount of time.
We know for one thing she adapts in an almost inhuman like way. She just walked in on the NCIS team and has, though it did take effort, fit into the team. She arrived not trusted by Gibbs and Abby after the lost of a beloved team member. But in just a year she gained enough of their liking for them to go against two agencies and in face of many dangers for the team to rescue her. She is also referred to more and more as an NCIS person and less and less as Mossad person. “I am an investigator now.” She has many connections all around the globe, “At least my contacts are still breathing. As are…hmm most of mine,” but is fiercely independent. “Who taught you to drive? I did!” One could not imagine Ziva having to rely on someone, but she must have. She has had partners and had to relay on the team.
She rarely shows emotions but we know she experiences them. Mossad trained her to suppress them and she is just realizing it might be okay to show them, that she is safe at NCIS. She feels fear, hate, love, sadness, jealousy, and anger—all of them. “Have you ever lied to someone you love? Yes. Did they ever forgive you? They never found out.” We have seen her cry and she appeared jealous of Jeanne. She killed many while with Mossad and with NCIS too. We can assume for at least some of them she might regret. “I…I killed Ari.” Just after killing Ari, Ziva showed little emotion over it. It wasn’t really until she told Gibbs (in order for him to remember) did she show deep sadness over it. It did effect greatly, but she is very good about locking in these hard feelings. The fact that she has become immune to killing scares her (I believe). She has lost part of what makes her human. But having been at NCIS has allowed her to express emotions in a way I doubt she would have been able to at Mossad.
One can assume—by growing up in a war-torn, sometimes-dangerous country with a parent involved in Mossad—her childhood was probably less than innocent. “I am Israeli. This is not my first blown up ambulance.” We know a bomb killed her best friend when he was 12 and we can assume she wasn’t much older. Her sister was also killed. She drives fast to prevent being hurt in a bombing or attack. She has therefore probably lived through one and fears another She took ballet and piano, two not “tough trained assassin activities” hobbies. She was let down by her father though for he never showed at her recitals. Her father’s distance and violence surrounding her, Ziva experienced much pain from an early age. She probably grew up with a fair amount of fear and anxiety. Perhaps this constant exposure to uncomfortable feelings drives her want to suppress them.
She is tough but we also know she slept with stuffed animals until she was twelve. This is very “extended childhoodish.” She sometimes dresses kind of childish with barrettes. She jokes around with Tony like a child. Tony points out that, “behind all the torture techniques and contract killings you are still…a girl.” This might be a way for her to deal with not having a normal childhood.
She can always tell when people are lying. This is partly due to her training but I believe it also comes from being lied to many times. Ari lied to her; no doubt her father has lied to her. She trusts very few because of this. She has been surrounded by people her whole life but she has also been alone for a large portion of it in the emotional sense. “We are all alone.” She is attached to very few people and as far as we know has no “home” in both the physical and mental sense. I believe she was starting to make NCIS her home. When Vance said (end of Judgment Day) “you (Ziva) are going home” I believe she already considered NCIS her home. But then she was taken away from NCIS and therefore has separated herself a bit to prevent from getting hurt again.
Everything about her is very physical; she’d rather hit then talk. “I will kill you eighteen different ways to kill you with THIS paperclip!” She is very strong, stronger than many men. This is opposite in my opinion from Kate. Although Kate was strong she still seemed intimidated by men. She is also, unlike Kate, very comfortable in her body. She eats what one might call not so healthy foods and rarely salad. “Run like a health nut; eat like a slob.” Her make-up is natural and she doesn’t dress for fashion but for function. She has made herself unfeminine, one of the boys, same in battle. Her interaction with other woman (besides Abby and Lee) brings this out. In fights Ziva always looks like the bigger, stronger one even if she is fighting another military-type person.
She has used sex and her body as a weapon and interrogation technique. She might feel used or dirty for this but again has become (at least on the outside) immune to this. Although she tries at times to be unfeminine she also recognizes the power she has over men because she is a women. As you see there are so many assumptions and maybes. We know so little for sure.
Tags: ziva essay ncis character study