In 1944 during the last days of World War II, a joint American/Russian military flight is taking a fortune in gold bullion across the Arctic Circle. The fuel line jams, and the American lieutenant parachutes clear while the two Russian crewmen try to land the plane in the wilderness.
In the present day, MacGyver is coordinating a joint Russian/American expedition to recover the gold. On the team representing the Americans is MacGyver and Colonel Turk West, the lieutenant who served as navigator on the flight and jumped clear before it went down. The Russians have sent General Sergei Barenov, in charge of U.S./Russian joint missions during World War II, and Dr. Natalia Velskaja. MacGyver knows Natalia from an assignment five years earlier in Helsinki where she stole some documents from him for the other side. West has been searching for the plane for years and finally found it on satellite photos of the region. The winds cleared off part of the tail piece after 40+ years, but a storm is moving in and they have to get to the plane before itâ€™s covered over again.
The expedition proceeds by Snowcat. MacGyver stops to get their bearings and Natalia follow him. As she leaves, Barenov comments that there was no report of a storm in Westâ€™s 1944 report. West insists that the pilot ordered him to bail out and that the Russian crew could have landed the plane. Outside, Natalia tries to apologize to MacGyver but heâ€™s unimpressed. She insists that things are different and that now sheâ€™s working to recover the cold so it can be used to help earthquake victims in Russia. MacGyver points out that he thought she was telling the truth five years ago in Helsinki when she said her father wanted to defect. Natalia admits that times have changed and that she didnâ€™t have any choice then.
The team finally finds the downed plane. Using a ultrasound scanner, MacGyver scans the plane and determines it came down in one piece and that a cargo door is missing. They dig down to the hatch and enter the plane, only to discover that all of the gold but a single bar has disappeared. MacGyver figures the gold must be somewhere nearby since two men couldnâ€™t have hauled it far. As the team searches and the immediate surroundings for clues, Natalia approaches MacGyver outside and explains that her uncle did want to defect. However, the KGB learned of his intent and used him as a hostage to force Natalia to steal the papers from MacGyver. MacGyver accepts her apology and they continue their search.
Searching the plane, Barenov finds a crate full of vodka bottles. As he and Natalia share a drink, West notices that the single gold brick remaining has longitude and latitude numbers written on the underside and writes them down. Barenov, MacGyver, and Natalia check the cockpit and discover that the plane still has half a tank of fuel. As Barenov goes back to look for the flight log, he sees West writing down the coordinates. Barenov notes that the plane didnâ€™t go down because it ran out of fuel, but West suggests that a blocked fuel line may have caused the crash. West goes outside, claiming he wants to search the area, and Barenov secretly follows him. Outside, West plants explosive charges and goes off into the woods.
MacGyver and Natalia find a box containing Dictaphone cylinders. One cylinder is mounted on the machine and they figure the crew left a message for those who would come after them.
Outside the plane, Barenov confronts West and accuses him of sabotaging the flight. West confesses, saying he sabotaged the fuel line so that the plane would go down and he could recover the gold at his leisure. However, the plane went off course because of the storm and it took him 40 years to find it. The two men struggle but West gets the upper hand, killing Barenov with a pick axe.
The Dictaphone is powered by the now-dead planeâ€™s battery. Improving, MacGyver duct tapes a pencil to the cylinder to turn it, and uses a broach pin and a paper funnel to amplify the sound. The message is for West from the Russian flight crew. They tell him they knew he sabotaged the fuel line and tell him the coordinates to the gold are on the gold brick. MacGyver and Natalia hear West driving away. The colonel triggers the explosives, burying the plane in an avalanche.
As they try to dig their way out, MacGyver figures out what Westâ€™s plane was. Using the vodka as an igniter, MacGyver detonates a fire extinguisher in the snow blocking the cargo hatch. The explosion blasts the snow clear and they prepare to follow the Snowcat tracks. They find Barenovâ€™s corpse and Natalia vows to make sure that when they recover the gold, heâ€™ll be honored by the earthquake victims for his sacrifice.
West gets to the cave and enters, and discovers one of the Russian crewmen, long frozen to death. Ignoring it, West walks by him and sets off a booby trap, causing a prop from the plane to plummet toward him.
MacGyver and Natalia follow the tracks and enter the cave. They find the prop and follow the blood trail, only to discover that West is alive but wounded. He forces them ahead at gunpoint in case there are any other traps. They narrowly avoid a tripwire set to smash two bottles together, one with fuel and another with battery acid. MacGyver advises that they leave them there rather than try to defuse the trap. Agreeing, West orders them on and they arrive in a large ice cavern. Across a ledge is the crate of gold, resting on the cargo hatch used to move it. Seated nearby is the corpse of the second Russian crewman.
As Natalia enters the cave first, she steps on a metal plate, setting off another trap. MacGyver has her free and determines the Russians rigged a mechanism. With no way to tell what it does, MacGyver uses Westâ€™s pack frame to jam the mechanism. Once the trap is disarmed, West kicks MacGyver off the ledge. He holds on as Natalia tries to pull him up, and West goes to the gold. He notices that the second corpse is holding two bars of gold. The colonel pulls them freeâ€¦ setting off the bottle trap. The explosion starts to bring down the cavern roof, and the falling debris knocks West off the ledge where he falls to his death.
Natalia pulls MacGyver to safety and he figures thereâ€™s only one way out: the same way the Russian flight crew brought the gold in. He and Natalia board the cargo hatch and slide down a slope to the hole that the flight crew pulled the gold through into the cavern. Smashing through the ice, they emerge halfway down the mountainside and jump clear to safety.
Later at the base camp, MacGyver and Natalia are trying to get warm. Natalia wishes that Barenov would have had the chance to see the gold he helped find put to use. As they start to kiss, Pete arrives. Unaware of what they were doing, he apologizes for arriving late and tells them to continue with their work. MacGyver says theyâ€™re done for now, and Natalia agrees with him but says theyâ€™ll have to finish some day.