This article contains spoilers for Jurassic World Camp Cretaceous season 2.
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous season 1’s biggest cliffhanger is the fate of Ben. For most of the season, Ben is shy, paranoid, and afraid of everything. He carries allergen-free snacks in his fanny pack, along with a seemingly everlasting supply of hand sanitizer. In the last episode, after having a huge moment of triumph in the face of his own fears, Ben is thrown from the monorail, and the other campers assume he’s fallen to his death. They can’t afford to go back and look for him if they hope to survive the island themselves. Nor can they run after Bumpy, the baby ankylosaurus Ben rescued, after he vanishes into the jungle. They have to press on if they want any chance of surviving.
Viewers, on the other hand, get one last shot of Bumpy hurrying to Ben’s side, and Ben’s fingers twitch. The audience knows that Ben made it—and it takes four episodes before any of the campers make the same discovery.
That doesn’t mean Ben isn’t present in those early episodes of season 2. In the first episode, Darius dreams that Ben appears among them. “We thought we’d lost you!” Darius says in sheer relief. “Why?” Ben responds bitterly. “Because you let me go?”
Darius and the others carry the guilt of Ben’s absence, but Darius most of all. He promised to get the campers home—and before he ever arrived at Camp Cretaceous, Darius also lost his father. He can’t afford to lose anyone else. He wants to believe that Ben is still alive, but he expects Ben’s anger that they abandoned him—because Darius feels like they abandoned him.
But as viewers finally discover in Episode 5, which reveals how Ben survived on his own before he reunites with the campers, the odds of the kids finding their friend where he ended up on Isla Nublar would have been slim, even if they’d continued searching. He fell from the monorail only to be saved from death-on-impact by the pteranodons that caused his fall in the first place. Being tossed from flying reptile to flying reptile, especially when they likely plan to eat him for dinner, is not the thrill ride any Jurassic World guest signed up for, least of all terrified Ben. When the pteranodons accidentally drop him, he crashes to the ground and falls unconscious—but is otherwise generally uninjured.
He also has no idea where he is. When he sees Bumpy, his first response is joy, followed by the question, “Where’s everybody else?” Bumpy defends the terrified camper from a pack of compsognathuses (making great use of that club at the end of her tail), and Ben tries to calm himself down: “They’ll come save me. Right?”
While in some shows, the character would cling to that hope and just wait it out, getting angrier and angrier that no one has come back to the rescue, Ben immediately realizes that 1) the other campers have no idea where he is, and 2) the logical thing for them to do would have been to try to meet up with him at the ferry. While he has moments of dismay at the loss of his fanny pack (“No hand sanitizer!”), he’s surprisingly resilient for the camper we knew in Season 1.
When he realizes the ferry must have left without him, he assumes his friends made it, and he’s happy they got off the island. (Maybe it’s a bittersweet happiness, but he harbors no grudge.) He also doesn’t give up; he knows that to get off the island, he has to find a way to tell someone he’s alive—and unlike the rest of the campers, he read the emergency procedures before all the chaos, so he knows he has to find the emergency beacon on Main Street. The problem? The carnotaurus (Toro) is between him and the road.
He builds himself a shelter. He follows Bumpy to food and water. He manages to survive, though because Bumpy is taking up most of the shelter Ben built, he’s not getting a lot of sleep. So when he finally loses his temper, it’s no surprise: he’s at the end of his rope. Yelling at his only friend is a huge mistake—Bumpy runs off and leaves him entirely alone—but it also pushes him to let go of his fear. The worst has already happened, so he has no option but to become better, defend himself from the compsognathuses, and face Toro on his own. Ben finding his courage and self-reliance is huge, and even after Bumpy’s return, the character arc makes Ben’s journey one of the best in the series so far.
Delightfully, Ben is still Ben. When he gets his hand sanitizer back, we see him applying it in the Michael Bay-esque explosion scene. When he’s listing his battle wounds, they include a leech bite, three days of sunburn, and the (justifiably impressive) fighting off the pack of compys. Ben’s a survivor, and he earned it, but his scars are still small potatoes compared to other action heroes. He’s also a full-fledged dinosaur rider, and his relationship with Bumpy is as heartwarming as it is visually extremely cool.
But while Ben’s arc is awesome on its own, what makes it even better is the maturity with which he handles his reunion with the other campers—and the unabashed joy the campers show when they see him, discovering him in shifts. The campers get separated in Episode 4, so when Ben initially returns, he rescues Brooklynn and Kenji from scary guide Hap, who appears to be threatening them. (The other kids are in the clutches of poachers Mitch and Tiff.) Covered in dirt, clothing in utter disarray, shirt wrapped around his head like a bandana, and accompanied by a now-full-grown Bumpy (thanks to Jurassic World’s crazy quick-grow cloning science), Ben looks like an action hero. He even makes the tough guy quip, “What? You’ve never seen a ghost before?”
After the initial shock, it’s a teary-eyed Kenji, who has previously been too cool for any sort of emotional vulnerability, who rushes in for a hug. And Ben, with no feelings of resentment, hugs him back. Brooklynn’s next, and again, there’s no pretense. These kids are so relieved to find each other that there’s no need to hide those emotions. If they’re back together, they’re going to be okay.
In an effort to lose some dinosaurs chasing them, Ben and Bumpy separate again, but this time Brooklynn and Kenji have no doubt that they’ll reunite. When they find Yasmina, traveling solo after she escapes from Mitch and Tiff, the first thing they want to tell her is that they found Ben. But because Yaz’s news about saving their friends is more urgent, it isn’t until the next episode that the audience gets the repeat reveal—and Ben gets to make another suitably badass entrance. And again, he gets greeted with a huge tight hug, even though Yasmina particularly doesn’t like hugs or being touched.
It’s not until the final episode of the season when Darius and Sammy find out that Ben’s back—when he talks to them over a loudspeaker in the park. They react with both shock and joy, and Ben realizes that it’s still big news. (When Darius and Sammy leave their mouths hanging open, unable to process, he says, “I think I broke them.”) Sammy doesn’t get the hug moment with Ben—they’re in the middle of creating a dinosaur stampede, so their shared wave is the right expression for the moment—but when, in the last moments of the episode, Ben and Darius finally see each other, the music swells, and the emotional impact is exactly where it needs to be. Darius’s first words are “I’m sorry,” and contrary to his dream, Ben’s response is all forgiveness.
The drama of the show this season isn’t in a tale of resentment and anguish, of feelings of betrayal or anger—at least, not among the campers. Instead, viewers get a reunion moment in every episode from season four on, and each of those moments is pure joy and friendship, with no social jockeying or plays for status. Instead, Ben’s return solidifies the campers as a real team.
And when they say they’re done waiting to be rescued, they make the audience believe that they will succeed. Together.