This is a vacation recap. Vacation recaps are, by law, 49 percent less funny than usual recaps. Well, not really, but this episode was mostly a drag and I used up all my funny on "Selfless," so I apologize in advance if you don't laugh your ass off reading this.
Previously on Buffy, there was a character called Giles who had a very sexy voice. Come back, Giles! Spike was stuck in the basement and had nowhere else to go. Presumably because there was some sort of LoJack system preventing him from up and walking out. Vampirism isn't really well known for being a welfare state, y'know? Anya got kicked out of the vengeance demon club and decided to finally make her own way in life.
Xander strides through the door of his apartment and tersely points to the left, saying, "You're going to live in the small room over there. I know it looks like a closet but it's a room now." He turns to face Buffy and Dawn, who are entering stony-faced behind him to increase the suspense before the audience finds out that his comments are directed at Spike. Xander continues laying down the law vis-à-vis hot water right-of-way. He stabs his finger in Buffy's direction and reminds her that he "hate[s] this plan." Spike stands at the doorway silently until Buffy gently prods Xander for an invitation, which Xander grudgingly provides before going another round with Buffy. Xander isn't quite clear on exactly how and when Spike's problems became his to deal with too. I hear ya on that count, brother. Buffy emphatically says that the basement is driving Spike bonkers, and that they "can't just leave him there." Why not? No, really. They could. They'd probably also have to never have contact with him again, but that's a risk I'm willing to take. Dawn worries that Buffy's sudden show of something closely resembling compassion means that she's playing hide the stake with Spikey again, proving once again that she hasn't seen any of last season if she thinks that Buffy + Compassion = Shagging Spike. Buffy emphatically denies the charge, but does say that things are "different" now that Spike has a soul. Xander takes the words out of my mouth as he dryly observes, "I'm sure that'll be a real comfort when he soulfully attacks you again." Dawn wants to know what "exactly" Spike's soul-having status means, but Buffy doesn't have a concrete answer for her. I suspect because the writers themselves have no idea. She tries to reassure Dawn that nobody is going to attack her, but just as the words leave her mouth, Spike strides up to get her attention by reaching for her upper arm. At this contact, she spins around with a gasp and a cringe, her actions proving false her supposed comfort in Spike's presence. As Spike quickly says sorry, his accent slips. ["And not just loses-its-balance slips but stumbles down an embankment and breaks its leg. It's that ever-devious constricted American R. Damn you, constricted American R!" -- Sep] Spike is convinced that living with Xander isn't going to work out (and he should know, since it's not the first time they've been bunk buddies), so he offers to leave because he's not interested in Buffy's pity. "It's not coddling," she says, and then, at a loss for words, stammers, "Now go to your closet," and strides out uncomfortably. My God, that was the longest minute in the history of television, and I know it's only going to get much, much worse before it gets any better. Oh well. As my mother would say, at least I'm not working on a Jack Daniel's factory line and forced to pee into my adult diapers.
Sunnydale High. Buffy and Dawn sit on the bleachers during lunch and have a sisterly interlude. Dawn wants to know why Buffy is helping Spike if it's not out of pity. Buffy sucks some soda through her straw and doesn't answer. She fiddles with her sunglasses and finally says, "I don't know what I'm feeling. I think I can't stand him but sometimes..." Dawn wants to know if Buffy loves Spike. Buffy denies love, but admits that she does "feel" for him. Dawn is confused by the whole "Buffy loathes Spike, yet spent the better part of last season loathing him between the sheets, while Spike says that he would sacrifice himself for her, but then sacrifices whatever small changes he had made by trying to rape her" thing. Aren't we all, Dawn? Buffy replies, "Spike knew how wrong he was. That's why he went away." Well, problem solved, then. Oh. No, wait. Problem not solved. He came back. Dawn is still skeptical, pointing out that "Xander had a soul when he stood Anya up at the altar." And I see the point they're trying to make here -- that having a soul doesn't automatically make you immune from hurting other people -- but the comparison they just used was so, so inappropriate that it isn't even in the same galaxy. Dumping someone in a public and humiliating fashion isn't a good deed by any stretch of the imagination, but trying to force bits of you inside someone else's body against her will is so much more reprehensible. Plus, Xander has done way worse things than leaving Anya at the altar. Things I'm sure I'd be able to think of if I could just muster enough energy to stay awake. Fortunately, this conversation draws to a close as Buffy decides that her break is over. Buffy gathers up her stuff and leaves as Dawn continues with her rant about how she doesn't understand why people put so much energy into relationships. Her gaze wanders down to the football field as she sees some blond, bland American teenager putting on his letter jacket after practice. The theme music from A Summer Place starts up, and Dawn gazes rapturously at the sight of her teenaged Adonis being unable to reliably aim a stream of water into his mouth. She leans forward as her eyes follow him off the field, then falls off the bleachers with a shriek. Someone mentioned on the boards they felt the show could do this every episode and it wouldn't get old. I'd like to point out that they practically do do this every episode, and I'm sure that someone who cares more than I do could come up with an exhaustive episode list.