A very important message lies within...but the plot drags enough that I felt compelled to play solitaire while watching the episode for a second time. Sorry Joss and co...this one is sloooowww.
The rundown can be found at BuffyGuide.com - though I'll part ways a bit with the reviewers at the site in my follow-on comments.
OK...I get why a fourteen year old girl - especially one who is tangentially linked with the dark side of the force at all times due to her sister's profession - would be interested in Spike. I would even grant that such a thing was a rational plot thread to follow eventually...but Dawn just found out she wasn't originally human. Could we wait like...oh I don't know...more than one week before we return her to ground state (that of the walking hormone bomb)? I was intrigued when Drusilla came back into the picture...but...why would she suddenly choose this moment to try to fix Spike when she seemed perfectly happy to leave him to rot in his Buffy-obsessed misery all along? Seems like they brought Juliet Landau back just because they needed someone else for Spike to offer on the sacrificial slab, not because it made sense to do so.
Hey...the message this week is important, and summarized best by these two exchanges:
DAWN: It's just...I don't know...he wears cool leather jackets and has cute hair and stuff.Something without a soul is not capable of the kind of love that binds humanity. They may be capable of great desire...desire that may even lead to changes in behavior, but motivation matters, not just deeds. Spike is not changed just because he can't kill on his own. Spike is not changed just because he desires the slayer. A man possessing the kind of love that Spike only wishes he could understand would never give Buffy an ultimatum - give me hope or I'll kill you! That's not love...when you get right down to it, love is a selfless emotion, and something without a soul is not capable of selfless motivations. There is but one reason to be selfless - the betterment of one's soul.
BUFFY: Dawn...you can't just go hanging out in crypts with vampires. Why can't you get this...vampires...bad!
DAWN: Oh right, because you never dated one for three years.
BUFFY: Angel was different...he had a soul!
DAWN: And Spike has a chip...same difference.
SPIKE: You can't deny that there's something there...you feel something for me, I know it!
BUFFY: It's called revulsion.
SPIKE: I'm a changed, man, Buffy, and I'm going to prove it.
BUFFY: Why, because you have a chip? That's not change, Spike...that's a cage. You're like a serial killer in prison!
SPIKE: So...they get all kinds of action! And...I'm...not like that!
BUFFY: You don't know what love is. You can't love someone without a soul!
DRUSILLA: Oh we can, dear...we can love just fine...albeit not often wisely.
it's unfortunate that such an important message got buried in an episode that seems out of place amidst the Glory arc...and even more unfortunate that this out of order script happened to be so boring and uninspired.
Good plot concept executed poorly and little in the way of needed exposition regarding Dawn and Drusilla both.
I do have to agree with comments from BuffyGuide reviewers that Juliet Landau was off her game. They never liked her...I did, but I think this time, her performance was quite a bit forced and unnatural looking. For a nutjob, she seemed too sane and too stiff.
Love means never threatening to kill the one you care about. Check.