Well, this was the first episode in a very long time that had me gasping, "Oh my god!" And so that's a good thing.
Okay, first things first. Poor Xander! Oh my god! That was so terrible! I mean, at least it was only one of his eyes -- I was sure, once I realized what he was doing, that Caleb was going to lift up both hands and go at both eyes at once -- but it's still just so horrible! The first time something so bad and lasting has happened to one of the core Scoobies. I mean, Willow might be able to grow some new skin after a bout with the fingernail monster, but Xander has no super-healing powers. And this isn't a question of just speeding up healing ... that eye is gone. Oh my god! Poor Xander! And just after he'd given that rousing speech that made me love him more than ever! Oh my god!
I will ask again, for the nth time this season, what is up with Giles? I agreed with him about Buffy being hasty in this episode, but he just hasn't been dealing with her well at all lately. In recent seasons, he has treated her with a certain amount of respect ... and that's just gone now. He keeps criticizing her and trying to tell her what to do, even though he learned years ago that it didn't work. One definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Giles needs to figure out a different way to communicate with Buffy, instead of this heavy-handed daddy thing. Bitching at Buffy just makes her shut him out and stop listening. It was true in season 1, and it's true now. Giles is a smart guy ... so why's he acting so stupid about this?
Caleb seems a bit over-the-top, but I'm interested to see where that goes. Puzzled by the super-strength, since he seemed powerful on a god-like level, similar to Glory. Looking forward to learning more. The fight scene in the winery was fabulous ... and I loved Spike's line about "Falcon Crest". Hee! Spike is such a tv nerd! (In fact, like me, he had a "Dawson's Creek" addiction, as evidenced by his exclamation at the tv, a couple years back, "Oh, Pacey, you blind idiot. Can't you see she doesn't love you?" Hee!)
I absolutely loved the Faith/Spike interactions, all the bonding over having previously been "bad" and now being reformed. I want a spin-off with Spike and Faith 'shippiness. Is that wrong of me? They are just too hot together. The two sexiest people ever on the show ... in one room ... mmmmmmm.
As for my thoughts on the Spuffy 'ship, I noticed that Buffy and Spike each episode are behaving more and more like a couple ... but it isn't a romantic couple. It's a pragmatic couple ... like warriors or soldiers partnered together, watching each other's backs against any attack. Buffy now seems to relate to Spike as if he were asexual. When Buffy found Spike and Faith talking in the basement, sitting all close together with Spike half-dressed, she didn't look especially jealous, just annoyed. And Spike looked mostly like a kid caught by his mom.
To be honest, the concepts of sex and romance seem really irrelevant on the show at this point. There's just much bigger stuff happening. If Buffy ever ends up telling Spike anything more personal than "Thanks for fighting by my side," it's going to have to be a pretty intense situation to make that more important than all the other stuff requiring her attention and energy. I'd like to see that situation, but I doubt it will happen.
Yeah, I'm rambling. But the last thing I wanted to say was that in this episode even more than in any previous, I felt happy to just go where the writers take me. I still believe that Spike is deeply in love with Buffy, but I've let go of my attachment to seeing anything come of that. The only reason I hold any attachment to that being dealt with is the fact that it was set up early in the season, and I do expect a follow-through. But I don't care what that follow-through is. I'll remain a Spike/Buffy 'shipper regardless of what happens on the show in the next (last!) 4 episodes, but I'm interested to see where ME takes this. If they tell a different story than the one I would have told, I won't be surprised ... because I don't work for ME. And I can always tell my version in fanfic. :)
Edited To Add: Well, upon reading my friends list, I find that I appear to be nearly alone in having enjoyed this episode. I'm a rebel!