Jack Dalton is at a diner in Smiley, Arkansas. He calls MacGyver and gets his answering machine, and leaves a message saying he's in big trouble and needs MacGyver's help. He ends the phone call by faking a fight and then goes over to the counter. He flirts with the waitress, Louella, and insults the local sheriff, "Bull" Bodine. Bodine throws Jack through a window and then arrests him for destruction of property. As Bodine hauls him away, Jack smiles in satisfaction.
MacGyver and Pete return home from a fishing trip and discover Jack's message. Pete warns MacGyver that it's just another one of Jack's attempts to suck him into some kind of scheme or bail him out. MacGyver agrees and vows not to go help Jack… for about five minutes. He's soon on his way to Smiley. He ends up in the diner and talks to Louella, who knows who Jack is because he offered to start her career as a Hollywood model. MacGyver also meets Lyle Hudson, the local banker, who says Jack had a run-in with the sheriff and then took off for Little Rock. MacGyver prepares to leave town but Bodine gets word that he's asking questions. The sheriff quickly trumps up some charges against MacGyver and then arrests him.
Bodine takes MacGyver to the Bayonne County Correctional Facility. Warden Renfro tells them to behave or they'll end up in the hot box or on the whipping post. MacGyver asks around about Jack and meets Pepe Sanchez. Pepe says that there was a man named Jack who got shot down trying to escape. He takes MacGyver over to the prison cemetery where there's a grave marker labeled "JD". However, MacGyver hears Jack's voice coming from the sweat box, demanding to be released. The guards let Jack out and the two friends are reunited, and Jack confirms that somebody else named JD was killed. Pepe knows Jack as "The Chief" and didn't know who MacGyver was talking about.
Jack takes MacGyver back to the prisoner barracks where they have a meal of chicken. Jack explains that he got himself arrested so he could track down $5 million stolen by bank robber D.B. Bartel. Bartel was arrested and shared a cell with Jack's Uncle Charlie, but never revealed to the authorities where the stolen money was hidden. However, he gave a map to Charlie indicating where in a local zinc mine he hid the money. Bodine and Renfro know that the money is somewhere in the zinc mine and force the prisoners to dig there so they can find the money and keep it for themselves. Jack plans to get the money and the 15% finder's fee and split it with MacGyver and Pepe. He also has a map showing it's at Portal 6, where the men haven't dug yet.
The prisoners are taken to the mind and MacGyver refuses to help until Jack guilts him into it, remind him that he sacrificed his plane for MacGyver the last time they were in trouble. MacGyver agrees to help and collects the carbide from the mining helmet's lamps. He then pours the carbide into the water-filled helmets, causing a release of acetylene gas. Finally he rigs a hammer to swing into the wall and generate a spark, creating a fake gas explosion. Pepe plans to use his share of the reward to get married and wants to go with them to Portal 6. MacGyver has him warn the prisoners and promises they'll come back later to rescue him and the others. The gas explodes and Jack and MacGyver head for Portal 6. However, Renfro and Bodine spot them and the sheriff prepares to shoot. Pepe throws a rock to distract him and Bodine guns him down instead. Jack and MacGyver come back and Pepe dies in Jack's arms. Bodine prepares to shoot Jack but Renfro says they need to make an example out of him.
Later, Bodine has Jack whipped and then sent to the barracks with MacGyver. Jack is depressed over Pepe's death but MacGyver assures him that he has a plant to escape. One of the prisoners, Wrigley, listens in. The next morning, he checks to make sure MacGyver and Jack are asleep in their bunks and then goes to Renfro and tells them MacGyver is planning an escape. Bodine goes to get them only to discover they've stuffed their blankets with chickens and escaped through the floorboards. He mobilizes his men and sends the prisoners away. Once everyone is gone, Jack and MacGyver emerge from the sweat box. They steal Renfro's car and break through the gate, and Jack says they should go to Louella's nearby house to call the authorities. They arrive only to discover that Louella is sleeping with Lyle. He realizes they've escaped and draws a gun on them while explaining he owns the zinc mine.
Renfro and Bodine arrive and prepare to kill Jack and MacGyver. MacGyver stalls for time by saying he has the only copy of the map memorized and they need him to find the money. The crooks take Jack and MacGyver to Portal 6 while explaining that Uncle Charlie came to Smiley looking for the money, they found out, captured him, and tortured him for the information before killing him. Inside the shaft, they find a light bulb above a mud pit with an X painted on it, marking the spot. MacGyver turns on a winch and pulls a large suitcase wrapped in plastic out of the pit. Renfro opens it to confirm the $5 million is inside and then prepares to seal in Jack and MacGyver with a stick of dynamite. MacGyver hooks the winch on the handcuffs on Bodine's belt and then activates the engine. As the sheriff is pulled into the pit, Jack and MacGyver struggle with Renfro, knocking over their lamp and starting a fire. Renfro drops the dynamite into the fire, igniting the fuse. MacGyver grabs it, throws it in the suitcase with the money, and tosses it into another shaft. The dynamite explodes but the money and the suitcase muffle the explosion, destroying the $5 million.
Later, MacGyver and Jack watch as the state police take away Lyle and Louella. MacGyver tells Jack this is the last time he's getting sucked in, and that Jack has lied to him and connect him for the last time. Jack figures that that's what friends are for.