This episode is a mixed bag for me. I think it tries a little too hard on all accounts, and ultimately I would say that what works only works because of the performances. Not to say it's badly written all the way through, but it lacks subtlety in a lot of places and the pacing is slightly off.
Riley only truly angers me in three episodes : Into the Woods, As You Were, and this one. Boy is he annoying and cringy here. I guess some of it can be pinned on his heart problems, but I don't think it would affect him that deeply, pyschologically speaking. He ruins Buffy, Xander and Giles' moment, is being a drama queen when Buffy's mom is sick as well, and behaves like a petulant child overall.
As a result, the B plot with Spike is a lot more entertaining but also compelling, and though it is borderline ridiculous at times, JM's performance does a lot to push back against it (except when the ridiculousness is intentional, obviously). Spike and Harmony are funny together, and we get a lot of great lines from each. Spike's growing frustration with Buffy is played extremely well (I especially like the touch of having her slap him instead of punching him, which tends to feel more humiliating). Buffy's also growing frustrated with him, though unfortunately this thread is left hanging loose by the end of the episode.
+ I wasn't a fan of the dream sequence prior to this rewatch, but now I love it You've got Spike, in his own dream : 1) being his usual drama queen 2) being the one that's actually taking his clothes off 3) probably replaying a sequence of one of his soap shows. Also interesting the fact that he tells Buffy he loves her while she tells him she wants him.
+ Spike's realization and subsequent behavior is just so him : he almost never looks back. He's had one erotic dream about Buffy and he's like "well, guess I'm gonna go hang out in her yard then".
+ Also his offense at the notion that he can't pick flowers 🤣
+ Harmony is truly adorable
+ I kinda dig "bitchy" Buffy. She has no time for anyone's shit.
+ "If that's what I wanted, then I'd be dating Spike"...oh boy
+ I like the stethoscope scene; yes, Dawn is a little old for that, but it's neat nonetheless
- A very rare occurence of SMG's overacting a bit during the cave conversation
- The crossbow jokes get tired very quickly
- Spike knocks Buffy down way too easily
The whole Marat discussion seemed to have no relevance to the episode. While the whole Dawn cereal and stethoscope scenes were not what a 14yr old would do