Apparently quitters never prosper either. In a shocking move, Kelly “Purple” Shinn, 20, and NaOnka Mixon, 27, took themselves out of the running for the million-dollar prize on Survivor this week, after completing almost three-fourths of the competition. The nursing student from Mesa, Ariz., and the Los Angeles-based PE teacher defended their decisions in a phone interview with PEOPLE.
Jeff gave you the afternoon to stew. Did you ever waver about quitting?
Kelly: I thought about it but I don’t know that I reconsidered. I was so physically ill. I tried to figure out if my body could handle any more and I didn’t think it could.
NaOnka: I reached the end of my game. I was just done. There was no way anyone could have talked me out of it. I was content with how I’d be ending my game. I just wish I’d had better clothes. If I’d have a pair of jeans or a long-sleeve shirt, it would have been a different story.
Looking back do you regret quitting?
NaOnka: To this day, I still don’t regret it. I stand by my decision.
Kelly: I do too. I stand by every decision I made in Nicaragua although I do regret the original clothing options I sent in to CBS. Having just a dress was so stupid.
NaOnka, how can you go from fighting so hard and stealing food to just walking away?
NaOnka: I did what I did to survive and to win a million dollars. But when you hit your wall, you’re done. No one understands where I was in that game mentally and physically. They weren’t shivering in Fabio’s socks. You weren’t there when we returned to camp to see our stuff burned up and the rest of the team shut down after cleaning it up. You don’t see all the tears.
Had you stayed, could you have won?
Kelly: Definitely. I flew under the radar like crazy. I played like I wasn’t a threat. I didn’t stab anyone in the back. I laid low, but had alliances and was involved in all the big decisions being made even if the editing made it look like I wasn’t. I didn’t want to be too clearly in one alliance. I wanted everyone to think they had a shot of me being on their side. I played the game very smart.
NaOnka: I know for a fact I would have been in the final three because even with everything I did, I only got one vote and Brenda only voted for me because I had jumped ship. I was the perfect person to take to the end because you wouldn’t think anyone would vote for me to win.
NaOnka, why not sacrifice the movie reward since you were exiting anyway?
NaOnka: I went hard and I wanted to celebrate with them. If I was going out, it was going be with a bang. And they were the same people I celebrated my first reward with minus Alina and Holly. It was meaningful to me.
What would you have done in her position?
Kelly: I understand her reasons, but I would have volunteered. I knew what my decision was going to be so I would have liked to help the others get through the rest. The weather was getting ugly. They needed that tarp and that rice.
Some people think quitters shouldn’t be on the jury.
NaOnka: Purple Kelly and I made it to day 28 and earned our place. Screw whoever got a problem with that. I didn’t look over at them at tribal because I didn’t care about their feelings or Alina’s crying. You built the wrong alliance. It was Marty’s fault that he gave us the idol. Brenda was the only one that I cared about because I had an alliance with her and could have saved her with the idol. But I kept it and quit the next day.
Kelly: We strategically got ourselves to that far so they don’t deserve to be mad. Marty, Alina and Brenda slipped somewhere along the line and were voted off for a reason that had nothing to do with us quitting.