The Phoenix Foundation is running a pilot program at Dillard High School, a troubled inner-city school. MacGyver is doing hands-on teaching in a remedial class and demonstrates leverage to a skeptical football player, Deron. When MacGyver manages to topple him, Deron is impressed. As the class leaves, the regular teacher, Gus, admits that MacGyver's teaching techniques seem to work. As they talk, one student, Tony Milani, walks by and complains that the whole demonstration was stupid.
Pete is talking with the principal, Mrs. Juarez, who is trying to deal with a pregnant student. They spot two teenagers running by, wearing gang colors, and Juarez tells them to take them off. Pete and MacGyver go to see the new science lab, and Gus has one of the students, Mike, demonstrate a project he's working on for a scholarship competition. Tony sneaks in and uses a remote control to blow up the project. Mike chases after him and MacGyver goes after them both. He breaks up the fight and tells Tony that he's impressed with his electronic skills. As the security guards take Tony away, one teacher, George Fraley, comes over to complain that Tony isn't interested in learning anything. He thinks that Pete and MacGyver are idealists who have no idea how the real world works.
The school calls Tony's father, Nick, who has to take time off work from his job at a construction worker to go collect his son. As he leaves, the company owner, Neil, tells his foreman Buck Clovis that they're behind schedule and losing money. Neil tells his foreman to get the work back on schedule no matter what it takes.
Nick goes to the school and visits Mrs. Juarez. As MacGyver listens in, he snaps at Tony and tells him that if he isn't going to try in school, then he needs to quit and come to work at Nick and get a decent job.
Later, Pete and MacGyver meet with the teachers to explain their Mentor Program works by picking out potential dropouts and supplying two mentors: one a teacher and the other a community volunteer. Fraley still doesn't believe that it has any chance of working. He asks who the first student is and MacGyver explains that Tony is their first subject. MacGyver will be the community volunteer and he suggests that Fraley become the teacher mentor.
Juarez appoints Fraley against his wishes and the two men go to see Tony at his home. They inform Nick and his wife Sophie that Tony is no longer suspended. MacGyver gives Nick the letter informing them that Tony's suspension has been lifted but Nick casually tosses it aside after glancing at it. Nick insists that Tony would be better off out of school and working a regular job. MacGyver and Fraley go downstairs to see Tony in his homemade electronics laboratory. MacGyver admits he's impressed but Tony isn't interested. He asks Tony to come to class the next day for his own sake but Tony ignores him. Outside, Fraley tells MacGyver that the boy won't show up. MacGyver offers him a wager: if Tony doesn't show up, MacGyver will get Fraley out of the Mentor Program. If Tony does show up, Fraley takes over the program after MacGyver is gone. Fraley agrees, confident that Tony won't show.
The next day, MacGyver is wheeling a project into the remedial class while Fraley points out that Tony isn't there yet. Tony shows up and tells them that his father thinks he's out looking for work. He plans to put off telling his father what he's doing until he can find the right time. In the class, MacGyver demonstrates the project, which involves a densometer that uses radioactive material to test underground areas for potential earthquake faults. The project works as planned and Tony notes it would be useful in construction to test for weak spots in the earth.
At home, Tony shows his mother his readmittance slip. She's glad to hear it but Nick comes in and tells Tony that he's got Tony steady work at the construction site.
Pete informs MacGyver and Fraley that they've got a week to get the program working before the government sends an observer to make a determination. Fraley warns them that he checked and Tony has dropped out of school.
At the construction site, nick notices that some of the concrete they're using is weaker than what they tested. Buck says it's nothing and goes to deal with an inspector checking the site. MacGyver arrives at the site and talks to Tony. The teenager defends his choice and MacGyver says he should do what he feels is right, but he has to consider what he'll be doing in thirty years. Nick comes over and points to a "Hard Hatâ€ sign, saying that there's no trespassing. MacGyver reluctantly leaves, assuring Tony to call him if he needs any help.
Buck meets with the building inspector in a construction trailer and pays him off. Tony comes in to get some supplies and overhears their conversation. The inspector hands over his report and Buck throws it in the garbage. Once they're gone, Nick gets the discarded report and takes it to his father. Nick glances over the report but says that there's nothing to it. When Buck notices and comes over, Nick says it's nothing and gives the report to the foreman. Buck sets the paper on fire and tosses it into a butt can while Tony watches.
That night, MacGyver is writing up a report on the project when Fraley comes in to complain. When MacGyver wonders what happened to him, Fraley admits that he used to be young and enthusiastic but overcrowded classes, underfunding, and increasing poverty among his students crushed his spirits. MacGyver tells him he has to stop taking his frustrations out on his students and get in touch with his younger self again. Tony runs by as another teacher chases him. They stop Tony, who explains that he's there to get the densometer and test the concrete at his father's construction site. Fraley agrees to handle the matter and Tony explains what happened. He's worried that his father is involved in the scheme because he saw the report and dismissed it. When Tony describes how Buck burned the report, MacGyver suggests that they get it and find out what it says.
Tony and MacGyver go to the site and MacGyver sneaks in while Tony stands watch. MacGyver goes to the butt can and gets out the burnt piece of paper. A security guard comes by, almost spotting MacGyver. Tony provides a distraction, pretending to lose his wallet and asking the security guard to help him find it. While the guard is distracted, MacGyver gets back outside and meets with Tony. The two return to the school where MacGyver uses glycerin to soften the paper. He then places it between two sheets of glass and captures the phosphoresce ink with infrared film. The writing confirms Tony's suspicions that Neil and Buck are using substandard materials. When Tony wonders why his father ignored the report, MacGyver explains that his father is illiterate and has managed to cover it up for years.
As MacGyver and Tony go to the construction site to warn Nick, Buck assures Neil that he has everything taken care of. However, the concrete floor that Nick is working under collapses due to the substandard concrete. Although trapped and injured, Nick manages to signal that he's still alive. MacGyver organizes a rescue effort, using a steel support beam as a lever to lift the concrete slab high enough to get Nick to safety. As Neil and Buck try to escape, MacGyver stops them and warns that they have a lot to answer for. Nick starts to explain that he can't read but Tony tells him that he already knows and that he loves his father.
Later, Tony tells MacGyver, Pete, and Fraley that his father will be okay, and plans to take night classes to learn how to read. Fraley offers to help tutor the man and admits that he's regained his enthusiasm for teaching.