Overall Rating: 9.2
Though painful to watch, Buffy's final breakdown is a breath of fresh air for her soul...and this episode is a lesson in why Pope John Paul II was right about human relationships.
The all-knowing Wikipedia has the details.
The whole episode is about the way in which people use each other. The two plots (which combine just enough to form a cohesive single story surrounding Buffy and Spike) complement each other very well. The trio set out to quite literally use another person as their sex toy - their actions are very obviously evil and it takes no effort for ninety nine percent of us to realize how far removed they are from any semblance of true humanity. They aren't just horny kids playing a game...this is a level of filth that goes beyond even creating a sex-bot. At least that thing wasn't imbued with a human soul or God's grace (not that it wasn't highly creepy and sick). The bottom line - Warren is leading two naive (and morally weak) boys on the path to true evil and everyone in the audience knows it.
Some, however, might miss the same twisted use in Buffy and Spike (yes, both of them) if the two stories weren't paired so nicely. Tara may have been trying to be a good friend and offering support in Buffy's time of need...and that's fine...but Buffy isn't wrong to feel disgusting and to be appalled by her own conduct. What she allows to happen between her and Spike is despicable precisely because they are both leading each other to ruin and haven't the fortitude to do what is actually best for the other person. Spike continuously insists that he loves Buffy, but would a man truly filled with love for another person really spend all of his time trying to convince her that she was a dead thing...a creature of evil and darkness? I think not. And it's not all his fault - if Buffy really cared at all for Spike (or for herself), she would know that using him as an animated sex toy is disgusting. She had no trouble recognizing it in Warren's sex-bot or Spike's BuffyBot. But this is her year of weakness...we can be understanding of her failings given what she has gone through, but it doesn't make her conduct acceptable. She's leading him on just as much as he leads her on and she needs to allow herself to see it and feel that guilt. Catholics teach that guilt is GOOD...it makes us aware of our failings so that we can learn to do better for ourselves and our fellow men. Thankfully, Buffy embraces her guilt. This episode will prove to be a turning point for her and she will climb out of the darkness from here on out.
The bottom line, if the readers will allow a bit of philosophizing, is that when we reduce sexual relationships down to our own needs, we can all see how that could turn bad. But even when we reduce sex to something we hope will please our partners...even if we imagine that we are in it for THEIR pleasure...we're STILL doing them a grave disservice. Firstly sex loses much of its grace and power to heal the spirit when it is divorced from a deeply spiritual context - if we are not making a complete gift of ourselves to that other person. And secondly, we are placing on their shoulders the potential for this very type of soul-crushing guilt that Buffy displays so powerfully at the conclusion of this episode. They may enjoy their moment of pleasure, but afterwards, there's a good chance they will wonder if they were using you. Sex without perfect commitment to a lifelong spiritual connection is bodily use...no matter how we may try to rationalize it in our own heads when we consider doing it in the wrong context. It *should* cause guilt when we commit that sort of personal crime and I'm glad to see that the writers managed to show it so well.
The script goes from a solidly above average offering to a marginal feature-worthy contribution in the final scene with Buffy and Taro.
Nice work by SMG, Amber Benson, and James Marsters in this one...the trio actually felt a little awkward at times - they're better with comedy than something this serious, I'm afraid.
See my comments above...it took me a while to realize the errors in my adolescent and early adult views on sex and relationships, so I don't want to sound like I'm some great moral authority. But I believe John Paul II is very right on this issue and this episode expresses why rather eloquently.