It’s been a long road on Shear Genius, littered with the burned-out shells of some genuinely awful hairstyles, some real talent that just fell short in a pinch. I can say confidently that I called two out of the final three finalists standing after the first episode.

And oh what a final challenge they’re handed. But before they find out what it is, they each have one-on-one conversations with Linda Wells, editor of Allure. She discusses their strengths and weaknesses with them — all of which they all seem pretty clear about already. Honestly, the sessions seem kind of useless, since they don’t get a lot of insights from her — like the heart-to-hearts Tyra Banks has with the girls of America’s Next Top Model, but at least there someone cries.

For the final challenge, the stylists must tell the story of a woman’s life through different hairstyles she might wear at ages 18, 30, 45 and 60. They must cut, color and style the hair of four clients — in three
hours. That’s insane.

Charlie gets a blonde, Dee gets a redhead, and Nicole gets a brunette. They get locks of hair "for inspiration." Now, I don’t know about you, but the only lock of hair that inspires me is the hair that falls out in the shower. But that’s more panic than inspiration. But I digress. Maybe if I had a lock of George Clooney’s hair. Nah, that’d be weird.

The stylists get to think overnight about what they’re going to do and what their stories will be, and at home they all talk about what they’d do with the $100,000 prize.

Dee’s story for her models is about a young girl, a natural redhead, who has a passion for music. She moves to New York at 18 and gets her big break at 30, when she releases her first CD. She becomes a successful producer, and by the time she’s 45 she’s been through two divorces and has raised three children. By age 60, she has grandchildren, and they call her Mama Red.

Charlie’s 18-year-old blonde was a child star who’s dying to prove herself as a serious actress. By 30, she’s won her first Oscar. She makes a Hitchcockian suspense film at age 45, and by 60 she’s a director.

Nicole’s story is about an average woman who grew up without much money, but who at 18 was the It girl. At 30 she met the man of her dreams and decided to raise a family. By 45, they’ve made money and become successful, and at 60 she sees her grandkids up on the fridge and feels proud of herself.

The stylists also get to pick clothes for their clients — some of whom have complicated hair textures, some have new and extreme dye jobs, others don’t want to cut much length (if you’re squeamish about cutting your hair, why volunteer to be a hair model?). And as the three hours tick away the stylists are each (understandably) feeling a little frazzled.

Then it’s time for the hair show. Dee’s 18-year-old has her signature bob, with long pieces in front and the wispy spiky things at the crown. The 30-year-old model, with her long, curly layers, looks unstyled. The 45-year-old is very straightforward — straight hair with bangs and good color — polished and nice. Mama Red, which I had some doubts about, given that the model came in with Bozo red, curly hair and a really hard to work with texture, came out beautifully. Dee added some different shades of red and gave her a jagged cut, which played to the curls and really looked great.

For his 18-year-old model, Charlie creates a "futuristic, modern ’40s up do." It’s actually cool, despite Kim Vo’s declaration that it’s a "hair burrito," and it’s really nicely done. The 30-year-old has nice color and finger waves, but looks a little drag. The 45-year-old has a French twist updo — very Hitchcock blonde, if Hitchcock had ever used a 45-year-old blonde. And the 60-year-old model has a more caramel/almond color, with a short, slightly spiky haircut. Looks fantastic. Whatever you think of Charlie, in this challenge you have to admit that his styles were clean and well-executed, and the color was beautiful.

Nicole really rises to the occasion, creating a long, straight style for her 18-year-old and soft waves with both straight and curly pieces for her 30-year old — she says this woman isn’t put together at all, but that didn’t read on camera; I thought it looked nice. She takes the 45-year-old model to a lighter color with a very cute bobbed cut. But the 60-year-old model looked as though there wasn’t enough time to style her. An OK cut, but the end result just wasn’t finished.

It’s clear the judges are impressed — they say a lot of nice things that don’t sound like just lip service, and they seem to appreciate the variety of techniques and expertise being used. It helps that all of the stylists actually stepped up more than they had throughout the season.

It turns out that the story Nicole was telling was her mom’s — which gets both her and Jaclyn Smith crying. It’s a sweet moment, right before they gently take Nicole to task for the 60-year-old’s haircut. Nicole is the first of the three to be sent home. Her goodbye is classy and charming, and combined with what she did tonight she proved her mettle far beyond what I would’ve thought she was capable of.

So it comes down to Dee and Charlie, clearly the two most talented and accomplished stylists this season. In the end, it’s Dee who wins — and she’s so excited, dancing amid the crazy confetti, that you can’t help but cheer her on. Way to go, Dee.

What did you think? Were you surprised that Nicole held her own as well as she did? Do you think the right person won?

Posted by:Lisa Todorovich