Photo Courtesy of Columbia Broadcasting Systems

CBS’s arguably most popular reality show returned this past Sunday. With the traditionalism of a time-tested favorite combined with enough originality, it is still exciting in the series’ 22nd season. The Amazing Race has won the Primetime Emmy for “Outstanding Reality-Competition Program” nine out of ten times since the category was created in 2003. Survivor host Jeff Probst even suggested that the program willingly dropped out of the running for respect of other contenders. There was no reason to change such an exceptionally successful system. In fact, since its inception in 2001, The Amazing Race has maintained an average of nearly ten million viewers and has kept much of the same production squad—including the lovable New Zealand host, Phil Koeghan.

Most of the appeal for The Amazing Race debatably stems from the show’s unique premise.

Most of the appeal for The Amazing Race debatably stems from the show’s unique premise, combined an excellent casting with top-of-the-line cinematography. The competition is separated into twelve episodes, with legs based on various physical and mental challenges. These tasks include the demanding deduction of numerous clues, navigation and communication with locals in foreign lands and the challenge of traveling and coordinating transportation on limited funds. As teams are eliminated one-by-one, the final three groups  race to the finish back in America, where the winning duo is awarded a whopping $1 million grand prize.

The current season’s premiere featured much of the same characteristics as the past 21 seasons. Eleven unique teams of two, each of various relations, meet up in Los Angeles and set out to race blindly around the globe. As can be expected, instant drama arises, couples start arguing and both alliances and rivalries inevitably formed.

Nonetheless, some outlandish and extraordinarily inimitable personalities are sure to make this particular season memorable.  Teams range from Wynona and Chuck—the latter of which sports a permed mullet and has a job as manager at Wal-Mart—to a duo of beautiful country vocalists to successful twin African American OB-GYN’s.

The activities in the premiere episode were exceptional.

The activities in the premiere episode were also exceptional. At the start, the teams raced to Bora Bora on two flights situated hours apart. Once there, challenges included skydiving from a helicopter and then finding a clue hidden among hundreds of sand castles. For the first time in Race history, three teams chose to quit the sand castle challenge—mostly because of the frustration mounting from the requirement to rebuild the structure if no clue was found underneath—and take a multi-hour penalty at the finish line. Another unforeseen twist, in comparison to past seasons, came when the first-place finishers received two express passes—one for themselves and one to give away—to use to skip any challenge in a later episode.

In the end of the first episode, a competitive-looking pair of South Carolinian firemen surprisingly completed all of the challenges in the slowest time, eliminating them from the competition.

Clips from upcoming episodes highlight impending injuries, fights, personal growth, incredible culture and plenty of commotion—exactly the types of characteristics that have kept The Amazing Race alive and strong for over a decade, and undoubtedly will for years to come. Watch to see what crazy competitions Race has in store for the future.