Posts Tagged ‘john kirhoffer’

‘Survivor’ Hall of Fame 2015 Ballot – Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer

December 4, 2015

"Survivor" Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer (CBS)

NOTE: XFINITY TV is the place to go for “Survivor: Second Chance” coverage. We’ll have Power Rankings with “Worlds Apart” faves Jenn Brown and Max Dawson, every Wednesday evening we’ll bring you a recap of the most recent episode, and every Thursday you’ll be able to watch the previous night’s episode and read an interview with the eliminated contestant. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for immediate updates.

The “Survivor” Hall of Fame is proud to have “Survivor” Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer as a member of the Executive Voting Committee. As a member of this exclusive committee, John (along with Host Jeff Probst and other “Survivor” luminaries) has accepted an awesome responsibility. The committee’s votes will make up 50% of the final tally for entry into the prestigious Class of 2015. The other 50% will come from “Survivor” fans like you.

Watch Full Episodes of “Survivor: Second Chance”

John Kirhoffer’s 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot

Hello Friends,

I hope you all had a great holiday weekend with loved ones. It is a wonderful time of year to give thanks for those people and things we love and appreciate…like being asked who among the hundreds of notable characters on our amazing TV show should be nominated for the “Survivor” Hall of Fame.

Here you go…

Rudy Boesch – (“Survivor: Borneo” and “Survivor: All-Stars”): How have 15 years gone by and Rudy is not in the “Survivor” Hall of Fame? He stole the hearts of all of America with his sincere, honest approach to our game with a sense of integrity yet to be rivaled. Rudy should have a bronze statue, of him standing on a mountain-top holding a torch high in the air, at the entrance of our imaginary hall. Rudy is a certified American Hero, being in the “Survivor” Hall of Fame may be a small, insignificant, feather in the cap of his lifetime achievements, but having Rudy in our little television Hall of Fame would be such an honor…FOR US!!!

Benjamin “Coach” Wade – (“Survivor: Tocantins,” “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains,” and “Survivor: South Pacific”):  Seriously?! I’m petitioning for Coach again this year? JT may have won “Survivor: Tocantins,” but Coach stole the show! I am biased because I dig Coach. I have always seen the genuine man of integrity under the often self-aggrandizing veneer of the “Dragon Slayer.” And we all know that spending too much time out in the elements, unprotected will wear away that veneer and show the true core. In my eyes Coach had a great human development over his three seasons, a huge loving personality, and gave us a never ending supply of great entertainment.

Tyson Apostol – (“Survivor: Tocantins,” “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains,” and “Survivor: Blood vs. Water”): Tyson is such an iconic “Survivor” character. Few scenes containing Tyson, in his three seasons, were without belly laughs or a sense of awe. His genuine charisma cushioned a sharp edged wit and sarcasm, which could cut deep, and made for beautiful contrast with Coach’s compulsion to impress (and we already know I love Coach Ben Wade).  He grew as a man and as a player each subsequent season until he eventually won it all…and then married his lovely girlfriend whom he competed against!

Follow @SurvivorHall on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.

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

March 2, 2015

"Survivor: Worlds Apart" (CBS)

Quick Note: We’re going to be bringing you all kinds of “Survivor” fun this season including episode recaps, exit interviews, and Power Rankings with Josh Canfield and Reed Kelly. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for up-to-the-minute news and info.

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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.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

Exclusive Sneak Peek at This Week’s Grueling ‘Survivor’ Immunity Challenge

April 8, 2014

'Survivor: Cagayan' (CBS)

NOTE: XFINITY TV is the place to be for all sorts of “Survivor: Cagayan” back-stabbin’, torch-snuffin’ fun. We’ll have Power Rankings with “Blood vs. Water” competitor Ciera Eastin, every Wednesday evening we’ll bring you a recap of the most recent episode, and every Thursday you’ll be able to watch the previous night’s episode and read an interview with the eliminated contestant. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for immediate updates.

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“Survivor” Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s generous with his beer, he’s one of the greatest foosball players the world has ever known. He’s truly a five-star guy.

But if that’s all true, why do so many “Survivor” players curse his name? Well, it might have something to do with challenges like the one he’s set up for this week…

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And, here are some exclusive photos from Mr. Kirhoffer’s evil experiment…

The ten remaining contestants stand in a soaked field, unaware of the horrors that await them.

Jeremiah and Trish hang in there while Woo wonders how he can apply standing on a dog house or pressing a block with his head to his everyday life.

Morgan, Jefra, and Jeremiah give it their best shot. Meanwhile, the challenge crew is thankful they didn't have to build a 12-foot frame for Cliff.

Morgan seems to be having no problems with this challenge. Maybe she has ballerina training?

LJ takes a zen approach to the challenge while Latasha and Spencer passionately hate Kass.

Don’t miss “Survivor: Cagayan” this Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

‘Survivor: Hall of Fame’ 2013 Ballot – Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer

December 5, 2013

'Survivor' Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer (CBS)

UPDATE: Voting for the “Survivor” Hall of Fame Class of 2013 has ended. Please come back Wednesday, December 11, 2013 to meet the first inductee. And, follow @survivorhall on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.

The “Survivor” Hall of Fame is proud to have John Kirhoffer as a member of the Executive Voting Committee. As a member of this exclusive committee, John (along with Host Jeff Probst and other “Survivor” luminaries) has accepted an awesome responsibility. The committee’s votes will make up 50% of the final tally for entry into the prestigious Class of 2013. The other 50% will come from “Survivor” fans like you.

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John Kirhoffer is the brain behind some of  “Survivor’s” most difficult and exciting challenges. After 13 years and more than 27 seasons, John continues to design and execute innovative challenges that never fail to impress. His commitment, attention to detail and dedication to creating some of the best challenges on TV are a critical part of “Survivor’s” continued success. With hundreds of challenges on his resume, he credits “Boulder Dash” from season three (Africa) and “Vertical Maze” from season nine (Vanuatu – Islands of Fire) among his favorites.

John Kirhoffer’s 2013 Hall of Fame Ballot

Well, at the top of my 2013 list…John Cochran (“Survivor: South Pacific” and “Survivor: Caramoan – Fans vs. Favorites”).

John Cochran represents the underdog and exemplifies hope and humility. The kid who was bullied, by Ozzy and the other Savaii “cool kids”, and then received his revenge later with the ultimate “Survivor” crown and a million bucks. His superpower was not in his physical prowess, but in his intellect. He went from student of the game to master of the game, and along the way gave the audience an abundance of great sound bites, sage revelations, and hilarious insights. In my mind, Cochran is a “Survivor” Hall of Fame slam dunk.

I will AGAIN this year nominate Benjamin “Coach” Wade (“Survivor: Tocantins,” “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” and “Survivor: South Pacific”).

I love Coach Ben Wade. Truly one of the greatest characters in our shows 27-season history.  I put Coach in the Hall of Fame for his authenticity, entertainment value, and personal evolution. In Tocantins, Coach truly provided the bulk of the audience chuckles, laughs, and grimaces. Love him or hate him, Coach was genuine. As time went by, we saw Coach “The Dragon Slayer” peel away layers until we saw Coach, the morally conflicted soul. He wore “honor” like a glittery cape in Tocantins, and by the final Tribal Council in South Pacific, “honor” was the burden that haunted him and weighed him down…costing him a million dollars. I believe it’s time to enshrine “Coach” in the Hall of Fame!

Finally, I nominate a true “Survivor” icon, Rudy Boesch (“Survivor: Borneo” and “Survivor: All Stars”).

I’m trying to imagine an actual, physical “Survivor” Hall of Fame without a bronze bust of Rudy Boesch surrounded by iconic photos and video clips. I believe the casting of Rudy on “Survivor” one is the biggest reasons for the show’s success. The 70-year-old, hard-as-nails homophobe who befriends the outspoken, naked, gay guy exemplified what we (universally) all should believe; “Don’t judge books by their covers.”

Rudy IS the “Survivor” patriarch. An American hero, a true competitor, and a genuine larger-than-life character. What he lacked in his strategic game, he made up for in grit and real-life experience. When Rudy spoke, America related. Who wasn’t cheering him on in the end of season one? Hall of Fame committee, do you really want to continue building this institution without one of its most prominent founding fathers? Include Rudy in the 2013 Hall of Fame.

Those are my thoughts. Thanks for listening.

Other Ballots:

‘Survivor’ Executive Producer and Host Jeff Probst

‘Survivor’ Producer Jesse Jensen

2010 Hall of Fame Inductee Parvati Shallow

2010 Hall of Fame Inductee Russell Hantz

2011 Hall of Fame Inductee Cirie Fields


Voting for the “Survivor” Hall of Fame Class of 2013 has ended. Please come back Wednesday, December 11, 2013 to meet the first inductee. And, follow @survivorhall on Twitter for up-to-the-minute updates.

‘Survivor’ Hall of Fame 2012 Ballot – Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer

November 28, 2012

'Survivor' Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer - (CBS)

As a member of the Executive Voting Committee, “Survivor” Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer (along with Host Jeff Probst, Producer Jesse Jensen, and other “Survivor” luminaries) has an awesome responsibility. The committee’s votes will make up 50% of the final tally for entry into the prestigious Class of 2012. The other 50% will come from “Survivor” fans like you.

Note: Polls closed November 30, 2012 at 5 pm ET.

Set Your DVR to Record “Survivor: Philippines”

John Kirhoffer is the brain behind some of  “Survivor’s” most difficult and exciting challenges. After 12 years and more than 25 seasons, John continues to design and execute innovative challenges that never fail to impress. His commitment, attention to detail and dedication to creating some of the best challenges on TV are a critical part of “Survivor’s” continued success. With hundreds of challenges on his resume, he credits “Boulder Dash” from season three (Africa) and “Vertical Maze” from season nine (Vanuatu – Islands of Fire) among his favorites.

John Kirhoffer’s 2012 “Survivor” Hall of Fame Ballot

Ethan Zohn – (“Survivor: Africa” and “Survivor: All-Stars”): I feel Ethan deserves an actual statue in our virtual Hall of Fame. Having played only twice, he has once won the game of “Survivor,” and has certainly won the game of life. Ethan is one of the most deserving winners in “Survivor” history, through exceptional athleticism, genuine compassion, and a sincerity of heart he was able to capture the hearts of America and title of Sole Survivor in season three.  Ethan became a true role model for kids, passionately committed to his Grassroots Soccer program, then battled cancer valiantly, with an unbreakable spirit which truly gives a heroic connotation to the word “Survivor.”

Benjamin “Coach” Wade – (“Survivor: Tocantins,” “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains,” and “Survivor: South Pacific”): Once again for me, Coach is a “Survivor” classic! He had three seasons; from a self-absorbed narcissist with epic and often bizarre tales of adventure and delusions of grandeur, to the more humbled, genuinely sympathetic and mentoring soul forced to compromise his morality to compete in a game designed to conflict with ones values…I think he may have come out of his “Survivor” tenure with well more than a million dollars worth of spirituality, self-awareness, and actual honor.

Amanda Kimmel – (“Survivor: China,” “Survivor: Fans vs. Favorites,” and “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains”): And also ONCE AGAIN for me…Amanda deserves a spot in our Hall of Fame. Many of us discounted her from early episodes in China as the beautiful, dingy, pageant queen whose crowning achievement was losing her top in a mud challenge and proclaiming “My mom is going to kill me!” Then she aligned with Todd Herzog, and together choreographed an amazing strategy that got her to the end, only to claim second place. And then in “Fans vs. Favorites” she became one of the architects of the women’s alliance with another of my most memorable lines in “Survivor” history. After an incredible scene of digging a mile of ditches in the sand on Exile Island she showed up with an EMMY-quality performance of resigned dejection at Tribal Council when at the clutch moment she proclaimed, “When I said I didn’t have the hidden Immunity Idol I didn’t…” She then strutted over to Jeff and continued, “BUT I HAVE IT!!” She made it again to the final two…and alas, again fell short against Parvati.

Be sure to come back Monday, December 10, 2012 to meet the first member of the Class of 2012!

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter @gordonholmes

A Sneak Peek at the Next ‘Survivor: Philippines’ Immunity Challenge

September 21, 2012

The 'Survivor' Dream Team (Gordon Holmes)

XFinityTV is blowing up their coverage of “Survivor: Philippines.” Starting next Tuesday, I’ll be squaring off against a “Survivor: One World” favorite in this season’s Power Rankings challenge. Every Wednesday briefly after the show we’ll have a full episode recap and every Thursday we’ll have an interview with the latest eliminated player. Also, starting October 1st, we’re bringing back the “Survivor” Question of the Week where Jeff Probst and I tackle a wide variety of “Survivor” topics. Follow me on Twitter (@gordonholmes) for all the updates!

Set Your DVR to Record “Survivor”

The three key components to success in “Survivor” are having a strong social game, a strong strategic game, and prowess in immunity challenges. We’ve already discussed how our eighteen (now seventeen) players are going to tackle the social and strategic aspects. But, now I thought it’d be fun to ask “Survivor” Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer what he has in store for our beloved castaways. Not only did John spill the beans on the rest of the season, but he also gave us a look at how “Survivor” challenges are created…

Gordon Holmes: “Survivor” fans are going to be downright giddy now that water-based challenges are finally back.
John Kirhoffer: We haven’t had open water that we can do challenges in. We’ve had beautiful islands, but the water wasn’t safe. There was waves and coral. Here in the Philippines we have good shallow water areas. We have a beautiful lagoon that’s about seventy feet. We’re not going to go all the way down.
Holmes: They might not come back up.
Kirhoffer: (Laughs) Right. But we’ll send them down a bit. One of the first things I did was watch every water season of “Survivor” and took notes. I came up with a list of about sixty challenges that I love. I tried to figure out what the mechanisms are that made them fun. It’s not exactly Chinese arithmetic. Go out, collect puzzle pieces, then solve them. But it’s how you get those pieces, the journey back and forth has to be fun and physical. And the puzzles have to be interesting. But being back in a water location has opened out mind again.

Holmes: Very excited for the water challenges. Now, you probably know which questions is coming next…
Kirhoffer: You miss people eating gross stuff.
Holmes: I love the gross stuff.
Kirhoffer: Agh…so does my aunt. No, we don’t have any plans to eat gross stuff, and I’ll tell you why; we’re not “Fear Factor”…
Holmes: Whoa whoa…”Fear Factor” is gross stuff for gross stuff’s sake. “Survivor” always pulled actual food from the location.
Kirhoffer: Exactly. I’m sure we could find something, but in the Philippines the thing that is the most exotic and different is balut (fertilized duck embryo) and we did that in China and Micronesia. China had a lot of food that was indigenous. Although, we did cross the line, because we had people eat the smoothies.
Holmes: I’m going to hold out hope that you’re in town and see something on the menu that inspires you.
Kirhoffer: (Laughs) Maybe next season. People are mixed about it. My aunt says, “John Boy, how come we haven’t seen gross food in a while?!”

Holmes: Speaking of China, you guys did a great job working Chinese culture and symbolism into the challenges. Are we going to see some of that this season?
Kirhoffer: Oh yes. One of the cornerstones of coming to a new place is highlighting the culture. The way they fish with the nets, you’re going to see that in a challenge. The rice patties, we’re going to do some challenges in the rice patties that are beautiful. We’ve drawn a lot, not just from the set architecture, but also in the things we incorporate into the challenges.

Holmes: Between immunity and reward challenges, you’re probably on the hook for 20 to 30 challenges a season.
Kirhoffer: It’s around 25.
Holmes: I’d assume you take challenge ideas from everywhere. Where’s the oddest place you’ve taken inspiration from?
Kirhoffer: The title of a challenge has to be either a pun or the name of a rock band or song. We’ve got lots of them. But in China we started coming up with a title then making a challenge to fit it.
Holmes: That sounds like the exact opposite of what you should do.
Kirhoffer: It would inspire you! We had one called “Peking Duck.” We tested it, it was like dodgeball. You come up from behind a crate, and then you have to duck. So you’re peeking and ducking. We did that thing in Tocantins where the ball goes rolling down the roller coaster. That was based on an art project that one of our guys did.

Holmes: Speaking of peeking, that rhyme was unintentional, peeking at other people’s puzzles and strategies has been happening a lot lately. Is that something you guys even care about? Seems like it’d cause ill will between the contestants which I know is encouraged.
Kirhoffer: In the early days we used to set up barriers. Now? If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying. Are you smart enough to look at someone else’s strategy? When it gets down to individuals and you have stuff like mathematics, that kind of cheating can’t be tolerated. But you can only cheat so much with a puzzle.

Watch Full Episodes of ‘Survivor: Philippines’

Holmes: OK, let’s get into this sneak peek.
Kirhoffer: Let’s talk about episode two, a challenge called “Manila Folders.” The most important thing in a challenge is that you give it a cute name. And the cutest names, of course, are of rock-and-roll bands or rock-and-roll songs. Or, something that’s a pun on the area. Manila Folders. (Sarcastic Laugh) You see, Manila is a city…
Holmes: I see what you did there.
Kirhoffer: The way most challenges start is…back in September a handful of us came out here to scout the location and look for the areas and try to figure things out. Then we go back to Los Angeles. I get a few friends together and we sit together and say, “What’ve you got for puzzles?  What kind of new challenge ideas?” In the brainstorming process there’ll be five of us in the room. More of a brain breeze than a storm. Our friend Miles came up with this Tetris-like puzzle. It was Miles Tiles! But we changed it to Manila Folders. And, what we came up with is, we were looking for areas, we found this beautiful field that we can do challenges in. Miles pitches this challenge, then we all sit around and massage it together. We talk about what it could be. They’d race off into the jungle, then they’d bring back these folding pieces. You lay them down, and they all fit together.

Note: John was kind enough to share with us the sketches that were used during the planning of the challenge.

Holmes: And the sled?
Kirhoffer: We thought, we’d get one of these things that we’ve all seen out here. You’ve seen the big…buffalo, whatever they are, they pull these sleds that are for rice or grain or whatever. So we came up with our own sleds that our people would pull. We found the field, but we didn’t have a jungle. So instead of going out into a jungle we’re just going out into a field.

Holmes: OK, break this down for us.

Kirhoffer: There are three tables with all the puzzle pieces.

Kirhoffer: You race out there with your sled. You stack  ‘em up and then drag ‘em back. Then you have to go out further to the second stack.

Kirhoffer: It’s tough too, because once you load them up you have a couple hundred pounds of plywood. Then they have to go out to the farthest one.




Kirhoffer: With the puzzle there are three zones. The two pairs take turns completing a zone. The tribe to complete the puzzle first, wins.

From there, we watched the Dream Team (a group of young, fit production assistants whose job it is to run the challenges to make sure they’re interesting and relatively safe) put Manila Folders through its paces. Everything seemed to go as planned with the Kalabaw stand-ins taking the win.

Holmes: OK, what did we learn from the Dream Team’s test run?
Kirhoffer: We learned that having two pairs of people switching out and doing the puzzles was confusing. Jeff was up on the tower and saw it for the first time, he decided to have one pair do the puzzles. That way it’s easier for the people at home to understand and it puts more pressure on that pair.
Holmes: What about the tower? It seemed like they weren’t doing much coaching.
Kirhoffer: We learned a long time ago that having someone in a tower, that it’s good to have a bird’s-eye view on a puzzle like this. But sometimes that person just confuses the issue. Everyone feels the need to put in their two cents, when sometimes the smartest move is to have one voice do it.
Holmes: Alright, and that’s how a “Survivor” challenge goes from inspiration to immunity.
Kirhoffer: From inspiration to perspiration.
Holmes: Oh, that’s way better.

Any Questions? Drop me a line on Twitter: @gordonholmes

‘Survivor’ Hall of Fame Ballots – The ‘Survivor’ Press Team

December 7, 2010

As members of the exclusive Executive Voting Committee, the “Survivor” Press Team (along with Host Jeff Probst, Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer and other “Survivor” luminaries) have an awesome responsibility. Their votes will make up 50% of the final tally for entry into the prestigious ‘Survivor’ Hall of Fame. The other 50% came from “Survivor” fans like you. Be sure to check back Monday, December 13, 2010 for the first member of the “Survivor” Hall of Fame Class of 2010.

Note: Some of the press team decided to rank their votes in order, some didn’t. I decided to let them do what felt right. That’s the kind of alliance member I am. I try to go with the flow and not be too bossy.

Drusilla Moorhouse – E! Online

Drusilla Moorhouse is an Editor for E! Online, where she celebrates TV and celebrity gossip with a liberal dose of exclamation points. A fanatic of the “Eco Challenge” producer Mark Burnett’s O.G. reality competition, Dru carried a torch for “Survivor” even before the first pixelated images of Richard Hatch hit the airwaves.

Richard Hatch: The inaugural champion single-handedly shaped “Survivor’s” strategy with his Snake and the Rat (& Co.) Alliance. Is he the smartest player? No — just ask the IRS. Physically dominant? Absolutely not (although a certain shark may beg to differ). But without the bare bandit’s social scheme, it’s impossible to know how many seasons of random Sean Kenniff-style Tribal Council voting we’d see before competitors realized how essential alliances are to longevity in this game.

“Boston” Rob Mariano: In Marquesas, Rob was lazy at camp, gave an F for effort in the challenges and used strategy as an afterthought — it’s easy to see why he tended bar and worked construction after graduating from Boston University. But in “All-Stars,” Rob 2.0 played to win, establishing a, um…rock-hard alliance with Ambah and seducing his other tribemates with a custom-built luxury eco-lodge. Even though his aggressive style and deception cost him in jury votes, he still took home the million-dollar prize by marrying the Sole Survivor — and with the birth of their baby, became “Survivor’s” original Robfather. In his third attempt, Awesome Rob was grossly outmatched by the super strong Heroes tribe but carried his Villains like Atlas to some important victories — and might have won if only his allies had half his smahts.

Russell Hantz: The douche-hatted hobbit made a fool of every post-Guatemala gamer who waited for cheesy clues before searching the camp for the Hidden Immunity Idols. Russell’s sabotage was silly — avoiding Tribal Council should always be the first priority — and a smarter social game and some humility might’ve earned him a victory. Nobody has ever fought harder for second (and third) place. His guerilla warfare transformed the game of “Survivor” and should secure him a place in the Hall of Fame.

Tom Westman: The New York City firefighter’s win was also “Survivor’s” most gratifying. Tom’s alliance with Ian ensured that the season would finish with strong players, while his physical dominance in challenges kept his Koror tribe out of Tribal Council and, later, kept the immunity necklace around his own neck. He joined the game under the halo of a 9/11 hero but was awarded the million-dollar prize for his leadership, integrity and strength.

Parvati Shallow: “Survivor’s” Queen P has outlasted every competitor with a record 114 game days of serenity and bliss. Her siren call lures men and women to crash at her lovely feet, but flirting is just one of the weapons in the fierce physical competitor’s arsenal. “Survivor” is Parvati’s Hotel California, but she never checks out of the game — physically, socially or mentally.

Rob Moynihan – TV Guide Magazine

Rob Moynihan is the online editor for TV Guide Magazine. As a lifelong “Survivor” junkie, one of his greatest achievements was competing alongside XFINITY TV’s own Gordon Holmes on the winning press team for a “Survivor: Nicaragua” challenge rehearsal.

Richard Hatch: Richard Hatch was the first contestant to ever play “Survivor” both as a strategic game and in the nude. Love him or hate him, there’s no denying he will always be the best sole Survivor.

Parvati Shallow: At the “Heroes vs. Villains” reunion, Russell Hantz told me that Parvati is the best player to ever compete on “Survivor,” and it’s hard to argue with him. After cashing her million-dollar check for her second outing on “Fans vs. Favorites,” Parvati completely controlled Russell and the rest of the Heroes and Villains and came up a few votes short of her second win.

Russell Hantz: When Gordon first asked me to participate in the Hall of Fame, I tried to limit my five picks to only “Survivor” winners, because to be truly great at this game you must have the check to prove it, right? Well there’s no way I can keep Russell off the list because of the ways he single handedly changed how “Survivor” is played in Samoa. Burning socks, finding hidden idols and pissing everybody off landed him in the top three in both outings, but his ruthless social game and some bitter juries kept the prize money out of his reach. Still, Russell was the most interesting and fun Survivor to watch in 21 seasons.

Sandra Diaz-Twine: Say what you will about her under-the-radar strategy, but the woman has played the game twice and both times returned home a winner. Sometimes, making the right moves with the right people at the right times helps you along in the game, and there’s no better example than Sandra.

“Boston” Rob Mariano: The evolution of Rob Mariano in his three stints on “Survivor” has been pretty incredible. Always a strong personality, strategizer and whiz when it came to challenges, Mariano was always somewhat unfairly branded with a villain label for making bold moves like betraying his buddy Lex in “All-Stars,” even though he did land his million-dollar wife. But he rose again in “Heroes Vs. Villains” as the villain America rooted for until Russell snuffed his torch. For a three-time loser, there has never been a Survivor who’s played harder.

Mara Reinstein – US Weekly

Us Weekly senior writer Mara Reinstein has covered “Survivor” since the Richard Hatch era (title of her first article: “The Rat Pack.”) In 2004, she finally got the chance to travel to location for a set visit. Yay…Palau. Boo…Guatemala. She has made nine treks in total and lost a record-breaking seven consecutive press-run immunity challenges until the torch run in Samoa.

Shane Powers: That’s right, a dark-horse pick! I’m still in denial that the unstable, outspoken chain smoker from “Panama: Exile Islands” did not make the cut for “Heroes Vs. Villains.” Hello? Need I remind you that he frantically typed on a piece of wood as if it were a Blackberry — and that was during one of his saner moments?! Sorry, Shane. Should have been you over Tyson.

Tom Westman: It’s impossible to root against him. I’m not just saying that because he has the whole NYC firefighter hero thing going on. (Working for the NYPD didn’t get Ken very far during “Survivor: Thailand” in 2002.) He’s a genuinely good and caring guy. And if I’m on Tom’s tribe, I knew that we’re not going to blow a challenge for lack of effort or leadership. He kinda looks like John Slattery too!

Richard Hatch: The blueprint for all “Survivor” contestants, for better or for worse. Think back to the scene when all the castaways set foot on the beach for the first time, desperately trying to figure what the hell to do and who to boss around. The wily Hatch sat in a tree, taking it all in and fingering his future alliance-mates and targets. Mind you: This was years before Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse ever conjured up Benjamin Linus.

Parvati Shallow: I interviewed her in the Cooks in 2006 and dismissed her as another flirty, giggly boxer/model chick with amazingly white teeth. Never ever dawned on me that she would brilliantly use these traits to her advantage — three times over! Not only has she mastered the social game (with both sexes!), but girlfriend dominates in those endurance challenges. And she gave the whiny Amanda the heave-ho. Woo hoo.

Rob Mariano: Dear Ambuh: I totally get it! In the “Survivor” universe, Boston Rob outwits and outplays them all (with a wicked sense of humor too). Lest we forget that the guy double-crossed his friends during “All Stars” just to keep his girl in the game — then proposed to her on the live finale and they’re still married! (As an Us Weekly writer, I gotta respect this.)

Dalton Ross – Entertainment Weekly

Dalton Ross is the Assistant Managing Editor of Entertainment Weekly. He may have written about this show once or twice over the past 10 years.

5. “Boston” Rob Mariano: You want to put him higher than fifth…until you remember that in two of his three appearances he didn’t even make it to the jury. The best challenge puzzle solver in “Survivor” history.

4. Tom Westman: Dominated socially, physically and strategically in Palau. Also got wasted, which I could watch on a continuous loop for the rest of my life.

3. Richard Hatch: Taught everyone else how to play the game. Every time anyone says the word “alliance”, Hatch should get a nickel…and then not pay any taxes on it!

2. Russell Hantz: You may not like him, but you have to respect him. Was robbed in Samoa after finding every hidden immunity idol known to man and bringing his tribe back from an 8-4 deficit. He followed that up by outplaying Boston Rob in “Heroes Vs. Villains” and making it to the finals yet again. If you’re voting objectively—no way you can leave him off.

1. Parvati Shallow: She was the person everyone was gunning for before “Heroes Vs. Villains” started. And yet she STILL made it all the way to the end (and should have won). The ultimate triple threat in terms of social, strategic and challenge domination. All hail Queen Parvati!

‘Survivor’ Hall of Fame Ballot – Challenge Producer John Kirhoffer

November 26, 2010

As a member of the exclusive Executive Voting Committee, John Kirhoffer (along with host Jeff Probst and other “Survivor” luminaries) have an awesome responsibility. Their votes will make up 50% of the final tally for entry into the prestigious ‘Survivor’ Hall of Fame. The other 50% will come from “Survivor” fans like you. So, be sure to cast your “Survivor” Hall of Fame vote.

As challenge producer for “Survivor: Nicaragua,” John Kirhoffer is the brain behind some of the most difficult and exciting challenges. After 10 years and more than 20 seasons, John continues to design and execute innovative challenges that never fail to impress. His commitment, attention to detail and dedication to creating some of the best challenges on TV are a critical part of “Survivor’s” continued success. With hundreds of challenges on his resume, he credits “Boulder Dash” from season three (Africa) and “Vertical Maze” from season nine (Vanuatu – Islands of Fire) among his favorites.

John Kirhoffer’s Hall of Fame Ballot

5) Sandra Diaz-Twine
I love Sandra. She entered both seasons, Pearl Islands and Heroes vs. Villains, knowing that she was not a physical force. She had to outwit and outlast. She’s the first player to vocalize the “As long as it’s not me” strategy, and more importantly…she’s the only player to win two seasons!

4) Russell Hantz
The guy you love to hate. I put him in the Hall of Fame because he is a master at the game of “Survivor.” His plan to establish chaos and take advantage of his disoriented tribe was evil genius. He had a solid plan and executed it almost perfectly twice. But, he didn’t account for the human factor; you need to respect others if you expect them to respect you.

3) Parvati Shallow
Parvati is simply one of the greatest players in the history of the game. She is a great social player and a brilliant strategist. Forming the “Black Widow” alliance during Fans vs. Favorites, ultimately winning the game…then making it to the final Tribal Council once again during Heroes vs. Villains with a HUGE target on her back from Day 1, was a Hall of Fame feat.

2) Rob Mariano
For me, Rob cemented his legacy during the All-Stars season being a strategic and physically dominating force in the game. He sacrificed friendship for love by blindsiding Lex and bringing Amber to the final two, effectively handing her the million bucks. His natural charm, sense of humor and masterful game play earn him a spot in the Hall of Fame.

1) Richard Hatch
Somehow it feels cliché placing Rich in the #1 Hall of Fame spot. Although I found him arrogant and often abrasive (I hated that he went naked, I simply found it offensive), but this is the “Survivor” Hall of Fame and Richard is the Vince Lombardi of Survivor.  He set the strategic standard for all who would follow.

Live Chat with Jeff Probst: Join us Monday, November 29, 2010 at 3pmET/NoonPT and ask your questions to the host of  “Survivor.”


‘Survivor’ Challenge Producer Spills Some Challenge Secrets

September 8, 2010

If I were a “Survivor” contestant, I’d probably hate John Kirhoffer.

As the man behind all of “Survivor’s” immunity and reward challenges, Kirhoffer is the reason why Ace Gordon was smacked in the face with a watermelon, why Tom Westman had to cling to a pole for twelve hours, and why Ashley Trainer had to try to drink a disgusting sea slug smoothie. He can make a contestant’s life a living hell.

But, seeing as I get to sit on my couch and watch and laugh, I’d say I love John Kirhoffer.

I had a chance to speak with “Survivor’s” Challenge Producer during my trip to San Juan del Sur this past summer to find out which reality show stole his “Eat Weird Things” idea, who his dream contestant is, and what he’s got in store for the Nicaragua contestants.

Gordon Holmes: “Survivor: Heroes vs. Villains” featured all classic challenges. Did that give you an opportunity to reload and come up with some new stuff for Nicaragua?
John Kirhoffer:
Yeah. I loved “Heroes vs. Villains.” That was one of my favorite seasons ever, for the record. And it was a good opportunity to do all classic challenges and to bring back our favorites. This year we’ve endeavored to try all different challenges. So, in old vs. young we have…mostly new challenges.
Gordon: Mostly?
John: (Laughs) There are a couple of classic challenges. My boss Mark (Burnett) loves classic challenges. So there are some classics, and some are reminiscent, but the vast majority are brand new.

Note: At this point a CBS representative had become enthralled with the interview process and decided to ask her own question.

CBS Representative: How do you incorporate all of the local flavor into the challenges?
Whenever we come to a location we study the history and the culture and the environment. The art department, the production designers start putting those elements in.
Gordon: Like this season’s Conquistador theme?
John: The Conquistador theme, we want to go with this theme because it’s very Nicaraguan. So, you’ll see this theme in the production design and then in some of the challenges. We always find out about the local sports and historic and cultural things and incorporate that into the challenges. Whatever country we go to we always use their history and culture in the production design and as inspiration for the challenges.
Gordon: Does the Nicaraguan terrain provide any advantages or disadvantages for creating challenges?
John: We’re doing the majority of the challenges down by a beach. There are some beautiful areas in there with some swamps, jungles, big trees. So yeah, it does help.

Gordon: Are there any contestants that you’re excited for this season?
John: I’m a huge NFL fan, so seeing Jimmy Johnson out there is exciting. Other than having Gene Simmons from KISS out there, Jimmy Johnson is about as big as it gets for me.
Gordon: Which NFL team do you pull for?
John: The Green Bay Packers.
Gordon: Oh, so you might be a little hard on Jimmy then?
John: (Laughs) No, he’s a legend.

Gordon: Speaking of legends, what can you tell me about “The Dream Team”?
The Dream Team are twenty young men and women between the ages of 18 and 30 who test and rehearse all of the challenges. They are my production assistants. And when they’re not testing challenges they’re working in the art department painting things, helping move things, assisting the carpenters. And they are a force of young men and women who are here to learn about making television. And one of my proudest achievements in “Survivor” for the last 11 years is that there are over 30 former Dream Teamers in full-time positions in this crew right now. And, a couple dozen more than that are out working in television. One of my Dream Teamers has an Emmy, he won an Emmy last year for cinematography, Marc Bennett (“Out Of The Wild: The Alaska Experiment: What Did I Sign Up For?”).
Gordon: Do you get part of their salary?
John: I get 25% of their salary for life. I’m like an agent. (Laughs) No, I don’t get anything. I get their eternal love…I hope.
Gordon: Is being a Dream Teamer the best summer job ever?
John: I would’ve killed to be a Dream Teamer when I was in college.

Gordon: My personal favorite challenges are the endurance challenges. It used to be, “Here, stand on this post and we’ll see you in twenty hours.” Are we going to be seeing anything like that in “Survivor: Nicaragua”?
You will not see anything that lasts twenty hours, but you will see some endurance challenges.

Gordon: My second favorite challenges are the “Eat Weird Things” challenges.
Gordon: Will we be seeing anything like that this season?
John: We have no “Eat Weird Things” scheduled for this season. We try to give it a break every once in a while. If you follow the show, we try to give the auction a break. It’s a staple of the show, but we want to give it a break. The “Eat Weird Things” challenge was great in the early days before “Fear Factor.” We came up with that. But, it also was generated with, “Here are things that indigenous people actually eat to survive on.” It was not just what can you eat without vomiting. And what happened was after about six seasons or so, we went to all these different regions, and it started to get repetitive. “Oh, they eat the same kinds of spiders here, they eat the same kind of bugs here and the same kinds of roaches.” Then we tried smoothies. We put them in a blender. But, we’re giving that a break this season.
Gordon: I don’t know if my recorder picked that up, but that was the sound of my heart breaking.
John: (Laughs) My aunt, too. She’s like, “Tell me they’re going to eat something weird! I love it when they eat weird stuff!”

Don’t Forget: “Survivor: Nicaragua” premieres Wednesday, September 15, 2010 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. And yes, the rumors are true, “Survivor” is NOWonWED.

More “Survivor” Fun: Meet the La Flor and Espada Tribes, check out our Pre-Season “Survivor” Rankings, and see what new twists “Survivor” has in store for us.

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