I was spoiled for much of season 6, but had given up spoilers (for the most part) at the end of the season. I didn't know about Spike regaining his soul. So when he went off on his trip to Africa, I was speculating along with everyone else.
At the time, there were four theories of thought.
1) Those f***ing bastards at ME have already ruined the show and screwed over the fans. Now they are going to have Spike get his chip removed and go evil.
Coming from the 'Buffy's a bitch, she should die, the show's all about Spike, I hate Joss and Marti' contingent', I disregarded this 'theory'. They weren't going to wipe out three seasons of character development and have Spike revert to his old ways. End of discussion.
2) Spike's going to go have his chip removed, try to be the Big Bad again, but fail and still end up fighting the good fight.
A saner and more plausible view. Spike was mightly pissed when he left Sunnydale and blaming the chip for his troubles. It would make sense to want it removed, to go back to when things were 'simpler'. And he was certain that after the AR he had ruined any chance with her. Still, I saw this as being too predictable a way for ME to go.
3) Spike goes to get the chip removed but instead regains his soul. He asks to be restored to what he once was and the Demon instead grants him his soul.
This actualy makes a lot of sense and rewatching the last four eps (Seeing Red, Villians, Two to Go, and Grave) it would appear to be the case. As ususal, Spike's plans go horribly wrong.
James didn't know Spike was going to get his soul back and he portrays Spike as someone not acting out of love, but anger and frustration. I know what happens and watching the scenes now, I believe his intent was to have the chip removed.
4) Spike went to Africa to reclaim his soul and be the man Buffy deserved.
I can see why ME chose to go that route. At the time I argued with people that this was Spike/ME's intent and was (surprise!) proven correct. With where they were going in Season 7 it makes sense and provided some great drama. Spike acted out of selfishness. He did what he did only as a last ditch effort to win Buffy's affections. And, ironically, comes to discover that he is unworthy of them, providing him with further torment. He sees himself through the eyes of Buffy and the others and that they were right in their trepidation.
But, not having James know what was to come, instructing him to play it another way, there is a certain disconnection in those scenes between what we are seeing and what we are to believe. I don't see Spike's anger as being directed towards himself, but Buffy. And considering what we now know of his intent as expressed in Beneath You ("Why does a man do what he must?"), it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Oh, and I'm not really 'exhausted', I just wanted to see that pic. :)