When Jeff Probst isn’t stirring up drama in the jungles of Fiji, you can find him at home in the hills of Studio City — still thinking of new ways to challenge “Survivor” contestants.
“Most every idea I have is ‘Survivor’-related,” he said. “Even if it’s overhearing a conversation between two people where you realize that there’s a bit of hierarchy involved in their relationship, it might spark an idea: How do we get that same thing on ‘Survivor’? How do we create a scenario where you have some sort of power over someone else?”
And though he can sound a bit like a mad scientist formulating elaborate social experiments, his methods are working: Probst continues to host and executive produce a thesis-worthy reality show with a cult following of millions.
So as Season 45 of “Survivor” kicks off on Sept. 27, he is as excited as ever to share his work with the world, but he’s equally excited to spend some quality time with his wife, Lisa Ann Russell, and his two kids, Ava and Michael.
“The single and only hard part about ‘Survivor’ is that I shoot it on an island, many, many, many, many hours away,” he said. “If I could shoot it in my backyard, it would be heaven.”
Here’s how Probst would spend a perfect day off in L.A.
6 a.m.: Drink a cup of coffee in the backyard
I love waking up early while everybody’s still asleep because I feel like I’m stealing some time. I’ll make a cup of coffee and immediately go out in the backyard with our dog, Stevie. And I love just sort of wandering around with her while she smells things. Often I have some of my better ideas when I’m in that state of just waking up. Everything seems possible. It’s definitely the closest thing to meditating that I do.
7:30 a.m.: Hike through the canyon
If it’s not blistering hot, we’ll go down to Fryman Canyon — which you might not be familiar with, but it’s a smaller version of Runyon Canyon. It’s really fun and you can do the loop in about an hour. Sometimes I’ll go with a friend and a lot of times I’ll just go with Stevie, and there are lots of other dogs. Usually I listen to a podcast — right now I’m listening to “You Must Remember This,” Karina Longworth talking about the movies of the ’90s. And I might listen to “On” with Kara Swisher, something that’s a little more news-oriented or interview-formatted.
10 a.m.: Play doubles with friends
Now we’re getting to the best part of my Sunday, which is tennis with friends. I picked up tennis about five years ago with a group of friends, and that group of friends has now grown. And we’re all addicted to playing and getting better. So this idea of Sunday morning doubles has really become a regular part of the weekend for whoever is in town.
In addition to the fun and the exercise, tennis requires a lot of strategy, so you’re always learning something new. And because of the focus required to play the game, you can’t think about anything else, so it’s a great way to clear your mind. No matter what industry you’re in, or what problems you may be dealing with, when you’re playing tennis, you’re just trying to figure out how to get the ball back on the court.
In terms of courts, Weddington Golf & Tennis is very close to me; you just have to reserve those ahead of time. Sometimes we’ll play at somebody’s home. If we’re lucky, we might end up at the Los Angeles Tennis Club, which is really, really nice. And no, I’m not into pickleball. I cannot get into pickleball — I’m trying to learn tennis. I’m annoyed with the pickleball craze.
2 p.m.: Peruse the vinyls at Freakbeat Records
Anytime I’m feeling ambitious, I will drop by Freakbeat Records. And the reason I go there is mainly to try and impress our musician son, Michael, by finding some rare rock album that he’s desiring. But the trick about Freakbeat Records is the staff is awesome, and they really know their music … and they don’t suffer fools. So if you go in looking for a new indie release, they love you, and they’ll answer all your questions. But if you’re a guy like me looking for a decent copy of “Led Zeppelin IV,” they sort of give you that look like … yeah, you’re on your own. So it’s always a challenge to my ego when I walk in there.
Every time I do find something and bring it home, I’m reminded how far ahead of me he is in this game of musical knowledge. He will look at me like, “Oh, you try so hard.” But you know, as a parent, anything to engage. We have a son and a daughter, and anytime I can engage with my son in music, or my daughter in art and animation, it’s a win, even if I’m the butt of the joke.
3:30 p.m.: Sunday afternoon cartoons
My daughter, Ava, is an animator — she’s in her senior year of high school, but that’s her passion. And so there are a few shows that we watch together and bond over. The latest one was “The Owl House.”
And what’s really fun is, we’re not just watching an animated show. I’m bonding with my daughter over something she does, and she can tell me why that shading on that character is so good, and things that I would not notice. I’m reminded what an art form it is, and the kind of storytelling she’s into. And it’s a half an hour, but it’s a half-hour where we fully invest in something and I get to know her a little better. I don’t know if she knows how much it means to me. But yeah, between that and looking like a fool in the record store, that’s half my day.
4:30 p.m.: Pick up everyone’s dinner
We never formally declared this, but we might as well, because Sunday is whatever-you-want food day. And it happens just organically every weekend: I’m the designated Uber driver, and I’ll just say, “What do you want?” and everybody puts their order in, and then I go pick it up. There are no rules, no judgment, order whatever you want.
I’ll often end up hitting Five Guys for a hamburger for one person, and then Joan’s on Third for a salad for another, and then some sushi for me and my wife from Teru Sushi. It’s fun because I like having a purpose, and I like that we’re in a place in our life where our kids are old enough that they can tell us what they want today. And then we all meet in the kitchen and we scarf our food and then go back to whatever we were doing.
7 p.m.: End the day with a bit of quality time
The last part of the evening may sound boring, but it’s very bonding for [my wife and me]. We love ending a Sunday with either a bottle of wine or a glass of tequila and whatever show we’re watching at the moment. We’re watching “Righteous Gemstones” right now, and we love crime docs, like the last one we really enjoyed — as unsettling as it was — was “Jared From Subway.”
We devour great dramas like “White Lotus.” We’re not partial to it because of this, but Mike White is a good friend — and was on “Survivor” — and watching his success is so fun. We’re going back to watch Season 2, again, because we don’t want to wait any longer for Season 3.
10 p.m.: Hit the hay
At 10 o’clock, we’re done and we’re heading to bed. We used to stay up much later and then we started realizing those last couple of hours, we’re not really doing anything; we’re just sort of waiting to go to bed. So now it’s 10 o’clock — doesn’t mean we’re asleep by 10, just means we’ve kind of given into this idea of, “Let’s go to bed when we’re done. Let’s get up when we’re ready.”
I would say, if I get even half of this on any given Sunday, then that’s an absolutely perfect way to end the weekend.
This story originally appeared on LATimes