The first episode opens with a series of three shots: a stream rolling over a rocky path, a grizzly bear, and Steele's salon. Out of context, a viewer
might think that one of these images is not like the other, and the salon does not belong with the other two. Not so, in Wasilla, Alaska, as we soon
learn from a distraught client, Julia, who arrives at the Beehive with news involving her 15-year-old son and an angry bear. This type of storytelling
is commonplace in beauty shops everywhere, but the details of the tale are distinctly Alaskan.
"Sheldon said he could still remember the way it felt, feeling that fur go over his face," Julia says as Steele combs back her hair and sighs. Sheldon
then drives up to the salon in a four-wheel motor bike for his own haircut, and tells his mom that he plans to go out hunting that evening. Steele
explains to the folks at home that, where she's from, danger is everywhere. And when your child goes out hunting, you've just got to pray.
The salon has bubblegum pink walls and sundry girly accoutrements—chandeliers, glitter, beauty supplies. Although the Beehive gained recognition for
catering to Palin, who has remained a client, the show isn't overtly political. Like any salon, it's an escape, where the cosmetic supersedes one's
inner convictions. "Big Hair Alaska" acknowledges Palin as its raison d'être, laughs at it, and moves on.
"So we've got another client coming in," Steele announces at her staff meeting. "She's a ventriloquist, puppeteer, Sarah Palin impersonator."
Steele turns to one of the stylists, Mariah, to explain, "I do the real Sarah Palin. That's our home girl. You can do the wannabe."
"The knockoff," Mariah replies.
The client, Hillary Saffran, is an entertainer of many moods—clown, puppeteer, singer, inspirational
speaker—whose Sarah Palin impression cannot clearly be placed as either affectionate parody or mean-spirited satire. She requests the same hair
coloring as Palin—"Let's Palinize!"—but Steele says, "Nobody gets her formula." Saffran is made into a similar but imperfect reproduction. Nonetheless
satisfied with her makeover, she serenades a baffled Mariah with an original song, with the assistance of two hand puppets (a polar bear and a moose).
Mariah laughs uncomfortably.
Saffran is pleased: "Thank you, I'm so glad you laughed. Because I'm co-dependent and I really wanted you to like me. No, that's not Sarah, that was
With that, the show leaves Palin behind and focuses on the inner-workings of the salon. In the next episode, Steele sets out to hire a new stylist, a
client pains to part with her long hair, and a crew of roller derby girls get hairdos to suit their team personas. (One of them, a native of Wasilla,
has taken on a fitting roller girl name: "Sarah Impale'em.") Throughout, the reality-TV drama unfolds in the standard, formulaic way, tuning up the
pre-commercial break panic, which is neatly resolved shortly thereafter.