Wow - at least as far as the Buffy and Spike stuff goes. Both individually and together they are terrific in this episode.
Since I’ve only been able to watch once (and the sound was a bit wonky) I may be off on a few of my interpretations.
This may be blasphemy to some, but I think ME has done a remarkable job in the transformation of Spike and if his story ended on Buffy that would be fine with me. I was expecting Spike to, at the very least, go off on an emotional tangent upon discovering Buffy has been thrown out and abandoned by her friends. He does tell them off but does so in a rational matter forcing them to listen to some hard truths.
And his physical assault on Faith? Perhaps not the most mature thing to do, but the old Spike would have kept punching. Letting his anger get the best of him. Instead, he walks away, knowing that without Buffy they shall fail and will soon face a much more brutal assault.
As much as I have tried to understand Giles behavior this season, it was Spike’s words that made me rethink my own theories. Could jealousy and envy be at play now that the student has surpassed her teacher? Giles was attempting to take charge of the situation after Buffy left. Yet , as frustrating as it was to have no control in her presence, he must now see, without her, he has no control at all. As soon as Buffy is gone they fall into the trap of ‘be careful what you wish for’. They choose to fight each other rather than their enemy.
The B/S scene is beautiful and some of Sarah's strongest acting imo. Buffy has so many epiphanies in just one scene. She admits to cutting herself off from everyone, that being the Slayer was just an excuse and that, ultimately, it was she who allowed herself to be cut off remain that way. At least part of that is based on fear, logically, she knows many of the girls won’t survive the battle, therefore she ‘protects’ herself by choosing not to get to know them. In the end, her distance and isolation have not only caused her alone to suffer, but has hurt those around her and perhaps hindered her in her calling.
Spike and Buffy discussing her being "unattainable" is a huge moment for both. Spike laying out the reasons he loves her yet also realizing that's why "I can't have you" (sniff, sniff). Hasn't James always argued Spike is beneath Buffy? I don't think that is the case, but Spike is expressing why he holds her in such esteem and how he views all of them as unworthy of her.
When Spike declares to her "I love what you are... what you do.... how you try", the words are spoken to Buffy, not to the Slayer. Buffy has always assumed Spike loves her because she is the Slayer; he's telling her he loves her for the woman she is. That one word alone “woman" seems to ‘touch’ her most of all. She’s always viewed herself as just the Slayer – he sees her as so much more. He's telling her everything she's always wanted to hear and it's coming from his heart. It’s this more than all the times he’s said "I love you" that ultimately makes Buffy seem to realize her depth of feeling for him as well. Whereas she feels her friends have abandoned her for not being perfect, for making mistakes, he’s telling her that too but, still, he loves her for what she strives to be - for who she is warts and all.
At the same time, we see how Spike’s own love has grown. He loves Buffy, but his love is no longer selfish or possesive.
While the scenes between B/S were very emotionally satisfying, I still feel there is room for further closure. I hope the note wasn’t her way of saying goodbye. While Spike may now feel he is accepted and needed by her, I still don’t think he is fully aware of the depth of feeling she has for him.
As for the other happenings...
The sexcapades makes sense within the context of the episode. It continues the theme of connectedness and of the their ongoing struggles to feel. Interestingly we discover the FE does envy us mere mortals of one thing - to physically be able to make contact.
I enjoyed seeing snarky Spike rear his head. I love how he tells Buffy to just say the word and Faith’s history - make it look like a horrible accident. ;)
The ending was interesting. Caleb seemed to both succeed and fail in his plans. He and the FE managed to get Faith to begin leading the lambs to the Slaughter. (Would Buffy have trusted that the Bringer was telling them exactly what they needed to know?) But, Caleb seemed to fail to see Bufy’s one woman assault. Again, this goes back to how important Spike is to Buffy and why the FE tried so hard to keep them apart. Spike is the one responsible for Buffy’s renewed confidence and getting her rocks back.