In Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, a group of teenagers from very different walks of life learn that they have to depend on one another in order to survive the ordeal of being abandoned on an island full of dinosaurs. As much as the series revolves around escaped dinosaurs, jump scares, and corporate conspiracy, at its core are six lonely teenagers who really just want to have someone to connect to. By the time the season has concluded, those teens have found that they can trust each other with their lives, if not with everything else.
The series opens with Darius, a video gamer who wins a trip to Camp Cretaceous by successfully completing a game mission. He’s the only one of the Camp Cretaceous campers who truly loves dinosaurs for their own sake, and his only ulterior motive for being at Camp Cretaceous is to fulfill a promise he made to his father: that they would go to Jurassic World together.
But his father is gone. It’s not completely explained until episode 4 “Things Fall Apart”, but even from the first episode there’s the heavy implication that Darius’s father has died. Although his brother and mother both seem supportive, it’s clear that the loss of his father—who shared his passion for dinosaurs—hit him hard. When he arrives at Camp Cretaceous, it’s clear his father is present in his thoughts, and he’s determined not to waste a moment of his opportunity to be on Isla Nublar.
It makes sense that Darius would find like-minded fellow dinosaur lovers at camp, that he’d find a kindred spirit to help mitigate the loneliness he feels in losing the person who understood him best. But instead, he seems to be alone in his passion. He wants the other campers to like him, but that seems almost unattainable in the first few episodes, where he has no real way to connect with these other, not-dino-loving kids. In fact, they label him “Dino Nerd” early on—not in a complimentary way—and Darius is treated like a kid by older, richer, cooler Kenji. When Darius bails Kenji out for breaking the rules, landing them both in deep water, and discovers he’d fallen for a false sob story, he’s justifiably angry, but not angry enough to keep Kenji, who claims insider VIP knowledge of the island and park, for leading him on a second misadventure.
The two don’t like each other until far later (and even then, Kenji is mostly insufferable), but that bond of rule-breaking—and saving each other’s lives in dino encounters—starts forming the friendship and trust they’ll need when things get tough. It ends up being Kenji’s rightly-placed trust in Darius that helps Darius become the group’s leader. But it’s also the memory of Darius’s father, pledging that even when things fall apart, “we pick up the pieces and keep going,” that becomes Darius’s own inspirational speech—and one that the other campers quote back to him when he’s at his own moment of hopelessness. Their faith in him helps him realize that the memories of his father go with him everywhere, and when he tells them about his father’s death toward the end of the season, it’s less awkward for him than it is for the others, because they’ve helped him come to terms with it through their belief in him.
The Cattle Drive
The isolation of both Brooklynn and Yasmina is the focus of the third episode in the series: “The Cattle Drive,” as well as Sammy’s complete lack of understanding that people might prefer not to be surrounded by others. Sammy, daughter of ranchers, who has several siblings and extended family living around her, can’t fathom that a person might be a loner. When Kenji says, “You know how sometimes people just wanna be left alone?” She bursts into laughter, responding, “Kenji, you’re hilarious.” But Yasmina has no interest in being drawn out of her shell. As an athlete, she practices alone. Her hobbies are private. She has no interest in inviting the criticism of others, so she shuts everyone out.
Brooklynn, on the other hand, is the focus of thousands of viewers on her own social media channel. She’s constantly taking footage to share with her followers—and she’s constantly under the scrutiny of strangers, desperately craving their approval. “There’s a lot of pressure when your whole life is about being popular,” she confesses to Darius. She can’t fathom that anyone else in the group might just really want to be liked, even if it’s not on the same scale. And while she admits later on that she’s not great at “IRL friendships,” it doesn’t initially occur to her that maybe what she needs is for real friendships, rather than the adoration of strangers, to make her feel validated.
Sammy’s speech to a sinoceratops, showcasing her own bravery as she tries to befriend the huge dinosaur, hits Yasmina right where it counts: “It’s hard to trust strangers,” Sammy says, promising, “I’ll trust you if you trust me.” Suddenly, Yasmina realizes that giving someone her trust is exactly what she needs, and the two become fast friends.
Ultimately, it’s because that trust is betrayed that Yasmina is so crushed when Sammy reveals she’s been spying for Mantah Corp. Sammy is Yasmina’s first real friend. She defends Sammy when Brooklynn airs her suspicions that Sammy stole her phone. So when Sammy admits to her own lies—only after she’s been caught red handed—it totally undermines every ounce of faith she’d developed in others.
Sammy’s first loyalty is to her family, whom she clearly loves deeply—enough that she’s willing to risk everything to save them. But she’s also the type of character who easily gives her love and friendship to others. In the middle of a group of strangers at camp, she’s the one determined to make connections and friendships—the one unwilling to accept loneliness as a default. She’s open with herself, and one would think it would make her the worst kind of spy. (The fact that the kids do catch her supports that theory.)
When she tries to make up with Yaz, it’s with that same selfless sharing of herself. After Yasmina risks herself to save Darius and Sammy, gratitude and admiration push Sammy to try to mend the rift between them. “That was amazing,” she says. “You’re amazing.” (The speech may encourage viewers to suspect Sammy’s feelings for Yasmina are also romantic, especially with the precedents set in Dreamworks series like She-Ra and the Princesses of Power and Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts. If there is a romantic tension underlying their friendship, these scenes pack an even harder punch.) But forgiveness doesn’t come easily; it takes more than just an apology and gratitude to bring Sammy and Yaz back together.
Last Day of Camp
It’s been hinted at that rich-kid Kenji is mostly left to his own devices when he’s at home. He’s full of put-on confidence, but when he talks about going home, the first thing he says he’ll do is go down to the bowling alley in their mansion, where the staff always lets him win. But as he describes it, he loses all enthusiasm. “Life of a VIP,” he says mournfully, looking at Darius. Later, he describes that he and his father have almost never shared an experience together, countering that sadness with a reminder that he’s wealthy, as though that should make up for his time alone.
Ben, still mocked by the rest of the group for his fanny packs and non-sugar, non-caffeine lifestyle, doesn’t argue with the teasing of the others, because he believes they’re right. He feels like he’s the one holding everyone back. The best friend he’s made by this episode is Bumpy, a baby ankylosaurus, that he was unwilling to abandon the way the adults abandoned the campers.
When the other campers ask why he came to Camp Cretaceous, he acknowledges it’s because his mother wanted him to face his fears—but instead, he’s only had more things to be afraid of. And he’s tired of it, to the point that he realizes in order to be one of the team, he has to take a risk, too. That moment of risk and triumph is when he becomes a real member of the team, finally. It’s also why his loss in the next episode hits the other campers so hard.
As the campers believe they’ve finally made it out of Jurassic World alive, taking the monorail down to the South Ferry Docks, Sammy offers a toast to “the six of us being best friends for life,” the other campers don’t share her optimism. Brooklynn feels like friendships take more than a few days to form; Yasmina insists that they were only thrown together, and that their lack of anything in common will make it impossible to maintain any semblance of friendship after camp.
But the crestfallen faces of the group make it clear that they don’t want that to be true. They want to believe that they’re friends. As Sammy protests, they’ve been through too much together to not be friends. But Ben reminds them the odds of their ever seeing each other again are small, and they sit in silence, stewing over that, each of them sitting alone in their own seat on the monorail.
Just one episode later, as the first season concludes—and they realize that they won’t be saying goodbye to each other until rescue comes—Darius reminds them that until help arrives, “we’ve got each other.” The nicknames that at the beginning of the season felt like teasing have become their proud monikers. They’ve learned that their trust is much better placed in each other than in the adults running the park. The friendships that they protested just an episode before have formed solidly, and the five remaining campers no longer separate themselves, sitting alone, mourning a lost opportunity. They interweave their arms, or lean on each other’s shoulders, acknowledging that they’re better together.
And that wherever they go from here, Sammy’s right. They’ve become friends, and maybe even something deeper: they’ve become a team.