I'm sure this episode was insufferable for those in the audience who dislike Buffy and Spike. Thinking about it, this whole storyline seems very pro-Spuffy. They're pretty much the only characters not wrapped up in the collective batshit buffoonery slowly infecting the Summers home, and with that comes a lot of, gasp, rational thinking. For me? I actually adore these two, even if it sometimes feels wrong that they're so isolated in their character consistency. Touched has a couple of wonderful scenes for the two of them, the show finally unearthing their relationship and laying all the cards on the table. It's moving, poignant and actually adult.
What I like about Buffy and Spike's relationship is that it's clearly something that's been molded and defined over time, the experiences they've shared pushing them into a stronger area of mutual respect and adoration. As Spike says, they're not so much 'in love', but there's a platonic love there that's supported by the weight of their emotional growth. Spike knows the right things to say, and Buffy sees an ally in him who is completely honest and almost impartial. He recognizes when people are doing the incorrect thing, and spots the moment when it's Buffy who needs support.
The rest of Touched is directly linked to the events of last episode, with the immediate aftermath to Buffy's dismissal naturally taking center stage. And, like Empty Places, it remains ridiculous. What bothers me so much here is that the ensemble don't actually do anything truly groundbreaking once they're out of Buffy's control. Kennedy is still whining, a leader immediately steps forward (in this case, Faith), there's still unnecessary snark (all of Xander's dialogue bugs this week), and Giles continues to be the go-to guy for illogical randomness (why slit the Bringer's throat so abruptly?). He really has become entirely useless. So it's all a bunch of scenes involving a directionless pack of goobers unsure of where to go from there, ignorant to the fact that, while challenging, Buffy at least gave the group guidance and some semblance of direction. All of these people deserve death by firing squad.
Elsewhere, we get a cool Mayor guest spot, in which he fills Faith's head with a bunch of screwy epiphanies -- along the lines of Faith naturally being a killer, and how nothing she can do will ever alter that perception. It's pretty much old ground for her, but it's just neat seeing Harry Groener on set again.
Appropriately for an episode called Touched, there's also a ton of sex here. Faith and Wood get hot and heavy after what feels like a hundred years of flirtatious banter; Willow discusses her fear of going dark again and gets licked all over by Kennedy, which... ick; and Xander and Anya bone on the kitchen floor. All I could really think of were those awkward potentials trying to sleep with a bunch of orgasmic moaning presumably radiating from every room in the house. As if they weren't saddled with enough misery already. The only area of this that works is the follow-through with the First, in which it expresses its desire to feel, specifically the sensation of snapping a girl's neck. We've settled into that period where the First is almost exclusively played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, but she's so damn good at playing this cold monster that I haven't got a ton of complaints there.
Touched is wonderful whenever Buffy or Buffy-as-the-First is on-screen, but crumbles whenever attention is diverted elsewhere. The non-Buffy/Spike cast members have now become so self-involved and moronic that you can't help but wish them misfortune for being complete assholes. Hopefully the show will salvage what was once a flawless ensemble in time for the big finale... C+
Guest stars Anthony Stewart Head (Rupert Giles); Eliza Dushku (Faith); Nathan Fillion (Caleb); Tom Lenk (Andrew Wells); Iyari Limon (Kennedy); Sarah Hagan (Amanda); Harry Groener (Mayor Richard Wilkins III); DB Woodside (Principal Robin Wood)
Writer Rebecca Rand Kirshner Director David Solomon