‘Survivor’ Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer Explains Which Puzzle Was Faster


"Survivor: Worlds Apart" (CBS)

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I had a chance to speak with Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer shortly after “Survivor: Worlds Apart’s” first immunity challenge. While we chatted, I asked him about the Blue Collar puzzle peeking, which puzzle was faster, and which collar he thinks he’d wear…

Watch the Season Premiere of “Survivor: Worlds Apart”

Gordon Holmes: I loved the first challenge with all of the decisions. Where did that idea come from?
John Kirhoffer. Jeff asked for it. He said the first challenge really has to show how these class structures think. How will the White Collars do it differently from the Blue Collars differently from the No Collars. Actually in Season 10 in Palau we did a challenge with a choice, where they ran into a supply dump. It’s an immunity challenge, so if you get to the end you can have immunity or you can take this big jug of fresh water or a box that has a fire-making kit. You can take what you want, but if you don’t get to the end first, you don’t win. We thought that would make some controversy, and sure enough it did. You had people yelling at each other. It rippled through the first half of the season.
Holmes: Are we going to see more of these decision-based challenges?
Kirhoffer: Not to that degree. But, Jeff would like them to make decisions more often. There will probably be more dilemmas at rewards.

Holmes: Probst said this is the most tested challenge you’ve ever done. Why?
Kirhoffer:  Jeff says a lot of things.
Holmes: What’s his deal?
Kirhoffer: (Laughs) Actually, we spent a lot of time on those puzzles. We took them to everybody. Everybody on the Dream Team, everyone in the art department, everybody in accounts…
Challenge Production Member Chris Millhouse: Medical.
Kirhoffer: The medical department. Chris went around to everybody with those puzzles. Annoying people in the middle of their workday. Yeah, I can stop doing accounting in the middle of the day for twenty minutes to do your silly puzzle. And then today, what was the time on those puzzles? It wasn’t twenty minutes.
Millhouse: Yeah, the whole challenge didn’t take 20 minutes.
Kirhoffer: All three puzzles averaged 20 minutes
Millhouse: Red team took about seven minutes.
Kirhoffer: Wow. That was the quickest I’ve ever seen that puzzle.
Millhouse: A girl in medical did it in five minutes.
Holmes: We’re talking about Joe killing that puzzle?
Kirhoffer: Yeah.
Holmes: I’m not a good judge of how long it took me to do it in the press challenge, but it felt like forever.
Kirhoffer: Yeah, you know how it goes. And most people did it like you did it, “Where’s this next one go?” And Joe was just zoned in. It’s like he had Spider-Man vision.
Holmes: It hurt my soul to see how well he did it.
Kirhoffer:  (Laughs)
Holmes: Blue Collar got some help with the puzzle. They did some peeking. But, you’ve said before, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” However, all three tribes weren’t doing the same puzzle. I feel like if I was behind and saw one of the tribes doing a puzzle that could be copied, maybe I’d go for that.
Kirhoffer: So put it pretty succinctly when she pointed out that No Collar finished and they didn’t take the puzzle apart. They didn’t care that the tribe next to them was going to look over. And that’s on them. Now there’s a conspiracy theory, maybe it’s paranoia, that the White Collars think the No Collars left it up because they’re ganging up on them.

Holmes: What can we look forward to this season challenge-wise?
Kirhoffer: Our next challenge will be a water challenge. Weather permitting. We have a couple of really fun water challenges coming up. We have a couple of things we haven’t seen yet. I can tell you their names. We’ve got “Houses of the Hole-y,” which has a really cool, larger-than-life puzzle at the end that has a lot of holes. We have a challenge coming up in episode six that is probably the challenge I am most excited for this season called “Air Raid.” All we can tell you is it’s big, fun, lots of energy, it has a real “Wow” factor to it.
Holmes: You need to do a challenge with a Police title for me.
Kirhoffer: We’ve had to have had one, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”?
Holmes: Like “Truth Hits Everybody” and it can be a blindfold challenge.
Kirhoffer: I love The Police too.

Holmes: I know you’re sick of this. I don’t care. Are we going to see an “Eat Something Gross” challenge?
Kirhoffer: We’ve been looking. But people don’t eat a lot of gross things here. We made “Survivor” smoothies, which are gross, but I’m not sure if it played. When you see Jeff put the stuff in…it’s pretty gross. It might be a miss this year.

Holmes: What do you think of this cast?
Kirhoffer: Oh, this cast is awesome! I love Blue Collar Mike, I think he’s great. What do you guys think?
Millhouse:  I like So Kim.
Kirhoffer: You’re in love with So Kim.
Millhouse: I’m not IN love with So Kim.
Kirhoffer: It’s day three, so I haven’t seen much. But I’m expecting a lot from Kelly. I think Kelly’s going to be great. (Laughs) I even like Rodney.
Millhouse: (Laughs)
Kirhoffer: He’s built like Russell Hantz, he sounds like “Boston” Rob, he’s got some intensity. And Max Dawson, there are so many armchair quarterback who have dissected the show. And he’s the ultimate armchair quarterback. Good to see him out on the field.

Holmes: It’s kind of amazing how the tribes have embraced these White Collar, Blue Collar, No Collar roles.
Kirhoffer: I love it. We batted around a lot of different themes. We’d already done the Blood vs. Water twice and other things. We had a lot of ideas, then Jeff sent us a couple we weren’t crazy about. And then he passed that one down. We’ve toyed with Liberals and Conservatives and things like this, but everybody on the creative team immediately got behind it. And even on day one, everybody understands that these are three class structures in America. But, we all have a different view of what they are. Hopefully we’ll get some passionate water cooler talk.
Holmes: Probst says he’s No Collar. Do you buy that?
Kirhoffer: Not for a minute. The other day he said, “Everybody on this crew is No Collar. Kirhoffer, you’re no collar.” And I said, “By my definition, I was surfing at 6:30 this morning and I could’ve stayed in, but I had to get out because I have a piece of paper that tells me what time I have to be at work.” So, I guess that makes me Blue Collar. I’m middle management around here.

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