The hit show's challenge producer shows us how a reward challenge is designed and conceived

Survivor producer John Kirhoffer wrote us from Samoa (via a message in a bottle) with a sneak peek at the preparations behind an upcoming reward challenge

We often discuss our favorite challenges from the past, one being ”Monkeys in a Barrel” from the Cook Islands, where people were rolled around inside a wooden barrel. (A basic rule of thumb is ”Dizzy people are funny.”) To change it up a bit, this time we came up with a design for a ”Helio-sphere” apparatus, and assigned a team of prop makers to begin welding up the actual spheres. After testing the challenge (which we dubbed ”Roll With It”), we realized the only way to keep the person inside safe was to strap them in. We then decided to blindfold the rest of the tribe and have the dizzy person inside guide them through the course. Continuing with the rolling-ball theme, the person inside would have to guide the four blindfolded players to roll a ball through a large table maze.

During our rehearsals we made some modifications: We originally had several obstacles on the course, with different stations for the players to stop the giant ball and retrieve bags of puzzle pieces through a series of wacky and overly complicated maneuvers. We soon learned that was counter-productive to the raw fun and energy of racing the ball blindfolded along the course to the puzzle table. By the time the actual contestants played the game, it worked beautifully — until unrelated dehydration caused one of our players to collapse and Jeff Probst had to stop the challenge to get the person immediate medical attention [see what happens Oct. 22 on CBS]. So, after all that, we never even got to see ”Roll With It” play through to completion.