Overall Rating: 6.7
The subject matter was important to address, but the method chosen here is...well...ordinary.
Wikipedia has the plot details for interested newcomers (here). At least so long as the moderators of the site don't get too far up their own asses with all of this elitist nonsense about television episodes they don't personally care about being culturally insignificant.
Buffy and Dawn's relationship does need to be explored - especially in the context of what's been going on this season with Buffy's post-resurrection hangover. But they could have spent a bit more time coming up with something a little more creative. We've done the vengeance demon thing and it was great. Don't get me wrong. But the writers apparently realized that the horror of being trapped with your friends in a house, while posing real risks on its own (starvation, for one), doesn't make for great TV, because they felt the need to insert a demon of the week plot to kick up the drama. When your basic plot concept requires a little help to make the pacing work...you did something wrong. And when your resolution is a rather pointless bit of humor (oops...got caught in my own spell!) and the incredibly dramatic choice to "gasp" stay home with your sister!...you needed a better idea for how to end it.
I think, bottom line, that they didn't do a very good job bringing out the big emotions when the time came for a confrontation between Buffy and Dawn. Buffy decides to spend more time with Dawn, but...for how long? And did she really learn anything here? The events of future episodes seem to suggest that nothing really changes for Buffy until the final episode of the season...so why have the big fight THIS week? Honestly, I don't think the writers wanted to spend any more time on Dawn's personal mini-drama (shoplifting and other cries for attention) so they buried it as quickly as they could without actually coming up with a good reason to do so. The side plot between Taro and Willow was nice - wish they'd focused a little more on Willow's emotions than they did.
The script is pedestrian and the episode itself drags considerably.
But the acting is solid, on the whole - although Trachtenberg lays it on a bit thick in places.
Bonus point to the team for recognizing the critical importance of parental mentors and the parent/child relationship. There are lots of surface reasons parents choose to be selfish and not focus enough on their children. But none of them - not even the inherently selfish demands of someone with a destiny to fight evil - hold up to moral scrutiny (even when the "parent" is actually the older sister - once you take responsibility for someone's care, you have to go all the way).