For several years Sam conducted highly dangerous missions for the Lambert’s Third Echelon, and performed far beyond expectations. However, two major events would impact him heavily: his daughter’s killing by a drunk driver in September 2008 and the aftermath of his time spent infiltrating John Brown’s Army. The deep cover operation eventually forced him to murder Irving Lambert in cold blood in order to maintain his cover. These events were devastating to Sam, making him confront the cost of his actions and the fact that he had gunned down his best friend. Added to that was Third Echelon’s ruthless response, and it became increasingly clear to Sam that the mission he had signed on to complete no longer existed. His time, simply put, was up. He could no longer in good conscience assume the role of a Splinter Cell, and to do so with less than full determination was to sign his own death warrant.
Instead, Sam walked away. Over the years, he had established enough false identities and squirreled away enough resources to live comfortably, and enough people owed him favors that he felt he’d be left alone. Cutting an unofficial deal with Third Echelon – you leave me alone, I disappear – he dropped off the grid and went to ground.
However, a little digging by Sam’s friend Victor Coste established that the death of his daughter was no accident. After learning this, Sam went looking for Sarah’s killer, determined to learn what her death had to do with Third Echelon. In his absence, the agency had become subverted away from its original mission. Manipulated by his former handler Anna Grímsdóttir, Sam soon learned that Sarah was alive. Grim used that knowledge to force Sam to act on her behalf to foil a plot against the White House, one that had been conceived in the halls of Third Echelon. Sam rescued the President and dismantled his former agency, then stepped away once again, hoping for a quiet, normal life.
Reunited with his daughter, Sam was eventually recruited by Coste’s private security firm, Paladin 9. Burned out on working for the government and bored with civilian life, he still needed to pay the bills, and Vic’s “do well by doing good – and shooting bad guys” model worked for him. But when Vic is cut down during the first Blacklist attack, the President pulls Sam is pulled back into the fold. His mission: to lead the newly authorized Fourth Echelon, a deep black agency reporting only to the Oval Office.