Chance Davis and Melissa Miller had made it.
They had survived for 20 days in Ecuador and were going through the extraction process on Naked and Afraid. They were just a few hours away from food, showers and clothes.
And then: a twist.
The two survivalists were rowing their makeshift raft down the river when they found a colony of other naked people — specifically, the cast of Naked and Afraid XL, who had been having a simultaneous adventure just a few miles away. (The regular Naked and Afraid experience is 21 days; the Naked and Afraid XL adventure lasts 40 days.)
Davis or Miller were given two options: they could continue their extraction and go home, or they could join with the XL group and stay for an additional 20 days. The choice was theirs.
After talking it over, Davis decided to stay for an additional 20 days; Miller decided to go home.
“It was one the hardest decision I ever had to make in my life,” Miller, 28, tells PEOPLE. “I cried when I was leaving the Amazon. I didn’t want to go. I felt like it was my home.”
But there was a reason why Miller couldn’t stay. “A couple of days before I left home, my boyfriend’s father — I call him my father-in-law — was battling cancer and wasn’t given long to live. Every night in the Amazon I went to bed not knowing if this father figure in my life was alive or not, and I had no way of contacting him to find out. I needed to get back home; I had already had my adventure. If I had stayed longer and lost my father-in-law during that time, I don’t think I would be able to live with myself.”
But Naked and Afraid fans may see more of Miller yet. “I would go do it again without a question,” she says. “I definitely want to go back!”
But Chance Davis, a 28-year-old former Army Ranger, decided to stay and experience the Naked and Afraid XL. “I felt strong on Day 21,” he tells PEOPLE. “We had eaten really well. A lot of piranha, a lot of heart of palm. So I didn’t feel any fatigue effects that would, in my mind, keep me from finishing the 40 days.”
But what about family? “I was in transition period, living off the grid.” he says. “I hadn’t talked to either of my parents in several years. My mother is incarcerated on a 10-year sentence and my dad is serving life in prison, so I don’t have immediate family at home.”
But still, Davis still needed some help from Discovery to ensure that certain things were taken care of at home — bills paid on time, etc. “Discovery reached out to different entities and cleared it up,” he says. “So it worked out.”
“Back at home, I had just started farming with a Ranger buddy to learn something new,” he continues. “We had these separate campers and spent full-time farming. I was building my life together.”
There wasn’t an official significant other at home — although that has changed. “The week before I left, I met my now-fiancee.” he says. “She was actually a big inspiration while I was out there. I thought of her a lot at night.”
“It was a blessing to me,” he said. “I had seen the growth that happened in me during my first 21 days, and I was being given the opportunity to have an extended sabbatical — 40 days and 40 nights with just my knife! It was an honor to do it.”
Naked and Afraid XL airs Sundays (10 p.m. ET) on Discovery Channel.