Tommy Madsen is running a commercial for his gold-for-cash scheme, accompanied by rapper Lil' Pusher. At their store in Boston, Tommy's sister Barbara comes out and finds a woman, Amy Campston, who is complaining that she didn't get enough money for her grandmother's gold necklace that she mailed in for cash. Barbara refuses to give her a refund, pointing out that she's three days past the time allowed. Amy insists that she check and Barbara confirms that it hasn't shipped yet, but lies to Amy and then has her escorted out. Once Amy is gone, Barbara takes the necklace out of her case, admires it, puts it on, and goes back to work.
Amy meets with Hardison and Nate. She admits that she was desperate to try and sell her grandmother's necklace to cover her mortgage, and Hardison assures her that she's not the first one to be connected. He jumps in and assures Amy that they will handle it. Once Amy leaves, Hardison tells Nate this is the perfect low-risk case for him to run.
Upstairs, Nate reluctantly lets Hardison take over as they meet with the others. Hardison complains that none of them appreciate what he does for them, and tells Nate to do it without him. He walks away and Nate tries to run the briefing. Nate is unable to get the web browser going and Sophie helps out, and they bring up the Gold to be Sold! website. He stumbles through along and finally gives up, but Hardison refuses to help him with the financial reports. Nate turns to Parker and asks her to bring up the commercial, but she doesn't do any better. They finally get the commercial up and Nate says they'll do it the simple way.
The team goes to the company warehouse in Portland and Parker prepares to break in and open the vault. Hardison is there but insists that he's on mental strike, and just there to carry out the gold bars. Parker makes her way into the warehouse to the vault but is surprised to discover that the door is open and the alarm is off. The vault is empty and they go back to HQ. He admits that he knew there was no gold and has been on top of things all along. He then brings up his briefing and explains that the Madsens melt down their gold every day and send it out. Eliot is less than thrilled and says that he'll break every bone in his body if he does it again.
The others finally give in and ask Hardison what he has planned, and Hardison says that he has a new con ready. He hands out profiles of their "players" and explains they'll be running the Double Pronged Monkey Con. Nate figures that it's too complicated but Hardison has based it on video games. He's going to run the Madsens through a treasure hunt. Tommy subscribes to dating sites and Hardison has hacked his questionnaires. Hardison figures him as an alpha-type and will implant the idea of treasure into his subconscious. They'll start it with a 16th century gold watch with a Chinese inscription.
Parker, posing as an antique dealer, takes the watch to the Portland gold store and says she got it at an auction. The assayer gives her $42 for it. She agrees and takes the money, and then Tommy comes in. The assayer shows the watch to him.
Hardison wants to go after Barbara. Nate tries to offer an idea to cut off her supply and Hardison encourages him to share with them and provide ideas. However, he then says that since Barbara minored in archaeology, they can bring her into the treasure game a different way.
Barbara is at the warehouse when they get a gold shipment back from her smelter, Contillix, because it doesn't meet their purity test. Tommy comes in and shows her the watch and Barbara says that it's interesting. She's intrigued by the Chinese inscription and has nothing better to do since the company is shut down because Contillix won't take their shipments.
Hardison has hacked into Contillix's servers and engineered the shutdown.
Barbara and Tommy go to see Parker at the antique store that she's running. She tells them that she found the watch at the auction of a 19th century missionary who had Chinese workers. The missionary knew about the Snake River Massacre Treasure, and Barbara is familiar with the story. The gold is hidden somewhere in Portland, gold worth tens of millions. Parker lets them look through the rest of the auctioned items and Tommy finds a coded message in a chest with a bit of gold residue on it. They give Parker $50 for the chest.
Once they have the chest, Barbara tries to work out the cypher and realizes that they need a key book. She does research on the missionary, Samuel Cavendish, and discovers that there's an expert... Sophie, posing as a professor.
Hardison has everyone set up with code names, and asks them to fill out the evaluation questionnaires he has put in the back of their dossiers. Nate is busy writing a letter and explains that there are only seven basic cons. Sophie agrees but Hardison insists that he's created a new con and has the flowchart to prove it.
Hardison begins his con and has Parker lure away the professor that Sophie is posing as. Once the professor leaves her office, Eliot goes in and sets up the office with photos of Sophie and her family. When the Madsens arrive, Nate and Sophie stage a fight and Tommy barges in to stop Nate and shove him out. Sophie explains that Nate is an antiquities dealer who wants her help with a treasure hunt. The Madsens introduce themselves and say they're there for the treasure hunt. Sophie reads the inscription and explains that it's from the King James Bible translated into Cantonese by a man named Robert Morrison. The Madsens show Sophie the coded message while Hardison tells her over the earbud to resist the idea to con the Madsens. Sophie insists that there is no gold but the Madsens push the historic value and Sophie agrees. She goes over the message and translates that there is gold deposited in the tunnels beneath Portland, used to shanghai sailors. There are convenient directions and the Madsens are soon off and running.
Hardison, Parker, and Eliot go into the tunnels and Nate catches up to them. They plant arrows, signage, and sound effects, giving the "gamers" the adventure that they want. Hardison has Eliot play Nate's disgruntled and underappreciated engineer employee, and Eliot and Nate stage an argument as the Madsens arrive. Barbara assures Nate that she knows where the treasure is, but Nate says that they'll need his help to drill through the walls. Nate offers it the drill for $34,000 and Barbara gives him her card. Once the Madsens leave, Hardison asks if Nate is impressed yet. Nate tells him not to get ahead of himself and warns that when masterminding a job, you see the worst in people and that it can change you.
Tommy comes in with the check for $34,000. Nate and Eliot are ready at the tunnels to collect it and turn over the drill. As they wait, Hardison admits that he feels sorry for the Madsens now that everything is going according to his master plan. However, when Tommy gives them the check, he tells them that it's made out to the mining company and the Madsens are going for a 70/30 split. Hardison tells Nate to take the deal and he does so, but warns that he was afraid that would happen.
Once the Madsens are ready, Eliot and Nate bring them into the tunnels but warn them that they can't be there while the drill goes through the wall, due to the danger. However, they've set up CCTVs so that the Madsens can watch Nate drill through the wall. They watch from the next chamber as the drill goes through, releasing a trickle of gold dust. However, a burst of water shoots out through the drill hole and the chamber collapses as water flows out from under the door. Eliot tells the Madsens that they have to go and they run for the surface.
Sophie and Hardison watch on the monitors, and Hardison explains how he set up the whole fake cave-in.
Once Eliot and the Madsens are out, Eliot says that it's a crime scene and he's leaving. Tommy still wants to get the gold but Eliot says that they have to own the whole building to control the mineral rights. The Madsens seize on the opportunity and Eliot says that he knows the owner but that he wants $4.2 million for the building. Tommy tells Eliot to convince the owner to settle for $4 million by the next morning and they'll give Eliot 10%.
Sophie points out that Hardison's scheme is a bit complicated for a simple land deal. Eliot calls to tell them that the Madsens want to close the deal the next morning. Hardison realizes that he isn't ready but Nate points out that the Madsens know the rest of them and that he's the only who can do it.
Hardison poses as an IT worker at a lawyer's office and tells the lawyer, Ronald Manchester, that he should take a lunch break. When Manchester refuses to leave, saying he has too much work, Hardison says that he'll have to check his browser history if he doesn't and Manchester quickly leaves. The Madsens arrive and Hardison poses as the lawyer to get them to sign. However, Barbara hesitates, worrying that things are too complicated. Tommy thinks that Hardison looks familiar and then also has second thoughts. A legal aide comes in and asks where Manchester is, and the Madsens realize that they're being conned. Hardison runs for it when Tommy comes after him. He ducks into a freight elevator and escapes, and Tommy vows to get him.
As Hardison and Nate leave, Nate explains that he understands the balance between a boring game and a complicated game, and figured the Madsens would rage-quit. However, he tells Hardison that it's not over yet, and that the entire thing distracted the Madsens from the heist.
The Madsens return to their processing center to call the police, and their foreman Ron tells Barbara that Contillix are taking the shipments back. Ron stored the shipment in the vault, all three days' worth. The Madsens, knowing the vault is useless, run to it and discover that someone dug a hole up through the floor. Barbara realizes that even Amy's necklace is gone, because Parker stole it when they came to buy the chest.
Nate and Hardison tells Amy that they got her necklace back and are sending restitution checks to the Madsens' other customers from a fund established in her grandmother's name. Amy thanks them, and Nate and Hardison assure her that the Madsens will be out of a job.
The Madsens call the police, but they don't believe that anyone would go through such a complicated scheme. Particularly since the thieves used the drill that the Madsens just bought for $34,000. The police arrest the Madsens for insurance fraud and haul the squabbling brother and sister off.
Later, Hardison is writing the restitution checks and Eliot gives him a letter. It's the letter that Nate wrote earlier, detailing his own simple three-part scheme. Nate explains that Hardison can't count on a perfect plan, and he always figures that it'll fail. So he always goes with the simplest and ugliest plan, that he knows will work if everything goes bad. However, Nate tells Hardison that he should be proud because it was a smart plan, and tells him not to sell himself short. He then fills out Hardison's evaluation form and starts to leave, and Hardison thanks him.