This Is Us: Kevin’s Swimming Pool Metaphor, Explained

This Is Us Season 6 has Kevin Pearson use a swimming pool as a metaphor to explain his shortcomings, but it also shows his room for growth.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for This Is Us Season 6, Episode 8, “The Guitar Man,” which aired Tuesday, March 15 on NBC.

Kevin Pearson has had many ups and downs in his life over This Is Us’ six seasons. Like his siblings, he’s had to overcome some serious trauma and personal issues, but unlike his siblings he’s never really grown up — until now. Kevin’s problems often stem from his own actions, fueled by his very low opinion of himself. This concept is explored during the latest episode, using the metaphor of a swimming pool. And just as his sister Kate broke the cycle of her behavior earlier in Season 6, “The Guitar Man” finally let Kevin dive into the deep end of the pool.

The episode started with Kevin as a small child at the local swimming pool, desperate to jump off the diving board despite the fact that he never learned to swim. When Jack tried to teach him to swim, Kevin lashed out at his father. Jack explained to Kevin that he wasn’t being mean to him by keeping him out of the deep end of the pool — he was actually try to keep him safe — but Kevin refused to listen. Instead, he gave up and stayed in the shallow end of the pool, never achieving his goal of jumping off the diving board and touching the drain at the deep end.

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Later in life, Kevin cheated on his wife Sophie and after he confessed to her at Thanksgiving, she left him. Drunk, he returned to that same swimming pool, now empty and about to be permanently closed. Randall and Kate followed him there so he wasn’t wallowing alone, and This Is Us has Kevin present his swimming pool metaphor. He says he is a shallow end person while the rest of his family are deep end people. The obvious, surface level part of the metaphor is that Kevin is shallow personally; he cares about his looks and other superficial things. However, there’s more to the metaphor than that.

Kevin’s self-doubt makes him believe that he isn’t a good person like the rest of his family. They have more depth and better strengths, where all of his good qualities are surface-level and shallow. He doesn’t believe that he’s a good person because he has to work harder at being a good person than he believes they do. He says he never achieved his childhood goal of touching the deep end drain because he doesn’t have the right stuff to be a deep end person.

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But Kevin isn’t giving himself enough credit. Maybe he does have to try harder than other people to be a good person, but he continually tries. He doesn’t give himself any respect for the effort — the thought and purposeful action. He sincerely wants to be a good father to his twins and when he lets himself try to do the right thing later in the same This Is Us episode, he earns some parenting confidence and becomes a more relaxed, natural father like he wanted to be.

Kevin’s pool metaphor demonstrates his life-long struggle with how he perceives himself. He uses that poor self-image as an excuse for his behavior because it becomes an explanation for his mistakes: he’s a bad person, so therefore he makes bad decisions. However, after “The Guitar Man,” Kevin seems to have finally grown up and embraced the deep end part of himself. He shows up for Cassidy when she needs a friend (in contrast to his earlier relationship failures) and he embraces parenting as something he can become good at instead of an impossible mission. Kevin’s pool metaphor works because most people start in the shallow end before jumping into the deep end and learning to tread water, just like him.

See what’s next for Kevin during the final season of This Is Us which airs Tuesdays on NBC. 

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About The Author

Margaret Lockyer
(374 Articles Published)

Margaret Lockyer has a degree in English with an emphasis on Apocalyptic Literature and a double major in History which she earned while playing ice hockey for the University of Prince Edward Island Panthers. She currently works in the Canadian film industry and in her spare time she likes practicing yoga, talking about movies, and petting dogs. You can find her on LinkedIn:

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Mike Hunter

Mike is the owner of the local pool shop. He's been in the business for over 20 years and knows everything there is to know about pools. He's always happy to help his customers with whatever they need, whether it's advice on pool maintenance or choosing the right chemicals. He's also a bit of a pool expert, and is always happy to share his knowledge with anyone who's interested.

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