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The Most Likable NCIS Villains, According To Fans

As "NCIS" heads for the kickoff of its 19th season on September 20, fans of the astonishingly long-running CBS hit are gearing up for the future by looking back at the past. With over 400 (and counting) episodes worth of naval crimes having been investigated already — and that doesn't include spinoffs yet — "NCIS" has showcased an extensive array of bad guys who matched wits with Gibbs and the team. Now, some viewers are reflecting fondly on that rogue's gallery of villainy.

But while admirers of other shows might find themselves debating which bad guy was the baddest, darkest, or scariest, "NCIS" aficionados appear to be a cheerier bunch, as seen on a popular new Reddit thread about fan-favorite "NCIS" villains. Indeed, fans are even describing some of the baddies as "likable."

To be clear, most, if not all, of the characters cited have unleashed all manner of treachery, some even directly upon members of the NCIS unit. But somehow, these characters -– thanks in so small part to the actors who play them and the writers who craft their stories and words –- are some of the best-liked figures in the show's long history.

Some of the most likable villains have directly betrayed the NCIS heroes

Take, for instance, Special Agent Michelle Lee, who joined the NCIS unit way back in Season 6 only to be revealed a mole working against the U.S. military. Lee even murdered popular Special Agent Brent Langer (Jonathan LaPaglia) and framed him for her own crimes. Yet as performed by actress Liza Lapira (now a cast member on the CBS reboot of "The Equalizer"), Lee became one of the show's more beloved villains, especially after it was revealed she was only spying on NCIS to save her kidnapped sister. As Reddit user u/whispering_unicorn put it, "There are a lot of interesting villains but my favorite would have to be Michelle, she's just the most likeable."

More than one fan singled out the malevolent Trent Kort (David Dayan Fisher), who joined the series in Season 13 and murdered a whole bunch of characters — although it turned out he did not kill "NCIS" fan-favorite Ziva David (Cote de Pablo) as previously thought — before getting killed at the end of Season 16. Much like with Agent Lee, it wasn't immediately clear that Kort was a bad guy. "Kort was great," said Redditor u/jayt00212. "I think they could've so much more with him. I liked the idea of him being a spook that Gibbs could go to in order to get the drop on basically any and everyone."

Other likable bad guys were more upfront about their villainy

Another favorite villain cited by multiple Reddit users was clearly a bad guy from the start. Ari Haswari (Rudolf Martin, seen recently in "Ford v Ferrari") may have been Ziva's half-brother, but he was also a terrorist who killed original NCIS mainstay Kate Todd (Sasha Alexander). Ari was a part of "NCIS" for its first three seasons and left quite an impression. "He left an impact on the team that went down in TV history when he shot Kate," wrote Redditor u/realclowntime. who also referenced a Season 9 episode that quickly showed Ari in a flashback. "When he showed up in 'Life Before His Eyes,' even though it was just for a few seconds, I still got chills. The man had presence, if nothing else."

Even a prominent "NCIS: Los Angeles" bad guy got multiple shout-outs. Mafia leader Anatoli Kirkin, last seen in Season 10 of the spinoff, is played by Russian actor Ravil Isyanov, who's also taken villainous turns on "The Americans" and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." "Kirkin is my absolute favorite," enthused u/slvrstar30, with u/jayt00212 responding, "I loved Kirkin. Always good for laughs."

Bad guys who are "good for laughs" and "likable" are one aspect of "NCIS" that has kept audiences coming back for more after nearly two decades on the air. But fans will have to wait a few weeks longer to see what new villains the show has cooked up for the new season, and what crimes they commit that just happen to fall within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Navy.