Welcome to Iceland, where the temperature is below freezing, and a large group of challengers unites in COVID-19 times to win their share of $1 million.
The Challenge Season 36 Episode 1 introduced new rookies, returning favorites, and game-changing twists. The result was a wildly satisfying installment of this beloved franchise.
Instead of sticking with the same rules as The Challenge Season 35, the "Double Agents" twist appears to be an attempt at reinventing the wheel.
It was upsetting that Johnny Bananas and Jenny West decided against returning, but coming off their recent wins made sense.
Going from a winner to a loser would sting, especially in the same year.
The casting team really pulled it out of the bag with Double Agents, bringing a new wave of rookies who very well could be winning material.
Let's dig into all the happenings because this was an explosive episode in the best way possible.
Lolo Jones Breaks the Sound Barrier
I watched her tenacious personality on Celebrity Big Brother. She has the physical chops to lay waste to much of the cast in the more physical challenges.
Her early lead against her fellow women was no surprise, but it also highlighted that she would be a force in the more physical-oriented challenges.
As such, the week's winners would have been better choosing Lolo and her partner to be thrown into the elimination. A risky move for sure, but she stands a great chance at winning the entire season.
She made it clear from the get-go that she was prepared to get blood on her hands and didn't take too kindly to being picked last.
Challengers beware, Lolo is here to stay ... unless her poor social game gets her to blow up at the wrong person.
Redemption is Sweet
If you watch The Challenge online, you know Aneesa has languished in recent seasons, leading to calls for her to retire from the franchise.
But winning the first challenge of the season allowed her to prove the naysayers wrong, and it was so much fun to watch. Aneesa may be one of the older competitors, but she proved that she can still win competitions when it matters.
Picking Fessy was the best way to solidify her advantage in the game. Fessy was wasted on Big Brother, but he's a real beast in these physical competitions.
Aneesa and Fessy could be a match made in The Challenge heaven, but Aneesa will need to prove that her first victory was not a fluke.
This could be the season of Aneesa scoring her win, and it would be satisfying depending on how the rest of the season plays out.
The good news off the bat is that Aneesa is prepared to make huge moves, even if it means throwing some of her best friends out to pasture.
CT and Ashley vs. The House
If previous seasons have taught us anything, it's that the rookies tend to be picked off early into the season, but CT's thinly-veiled comments about targeting the rookies were abhorrent.
We don't want the same old scenarios every season, so I loved that Liv, a rookie, spoke out against him in front of the whole house.
It created the type of drama that allows the series to thrive and also allowed the rookies to breathe a huge sigh of relief when it came to the elimination.
CT and Ashley being the only former winners in the house and pairing up was probably the dumbest move either of them has made to date.
Of course, they were going to be deemed the big target. They were an easy duo and given their knack for making waves, they would inevitably be voted in first.
The First Big Betrayal
Aneesa and Fessy throwing Wes and Natalie into elimination was something I did not expect. Wes is the person who thinks ten steps ahead, but he did not anticipate being thrown in by Aneesa.
Wes vs. CT would have made for quite the battle, but it being women's week, we got to see Ashley go against Survivor alum Natalie.
Natalie beating Ashley was a surprise, if only because the latter always seems to excel when everyone is counting her out.
Losing her in the first week will go down as one of the wildest developments in Challenge history, largely because it's usually the weaker players that go first.
Gabby the Dark Horse?
Gabby hails from Love Island UK, and her tears in the first episode would certainly lead people to believe she's a weaker competitor.
What seems clear to me is that she's a physical competitor who should win against many of the other contestants.
For that reason alone, I'm pegging her as a dark horse and someone who could win challenges when viewers least expect it.
The Strongest Big Brother Alliance to Date?
Kaycee welcoming Amber from Big Brother 16 was no surprise. Kaycee is probably one of the friendliest faces in the franchise.
Amber got a raw deal on Big Brother, and working with fellow stars of her first foray into reality TV should keep her safe.
Will she be able to dominate the competitions? I'm not sure, and we didn't get much insight into that during the premiere.
All things considered, the premiere was a success. The Iceland setting should make this a season to remember coupled with the best cast in years.
What did you think of all the insanity? Who do you think will win?
Did Ashley leave too soon? Do you think Natalie will cut Wes loose?
Hit the comments.
Catch new episodes of The Challenge Wednesdays at 8/7c on MTV.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.