MacGyver and Pete Thornton are at the docks to take charge of the Ming Dragon, a rare Chinese artifact that is part of a traveling exhibition to promote U.S./Chinese relations. Commissioner Chu, the Chinese government representative and a friend of Pete's, is on hand to make sure everything is secure. When he wonders what MacGyver's involvement is, Pete explains his friend will be working as a troubleshooter.
A blonde Russian woman, Tanya Lyaschenka, watches the transfer via binoculars from a nearby building. When a security guard challenges her, she gets close enough to knock the man unconscious and then throw him down an elevator shaft to his death. She then sends a homing pigeon with a message to the manor where the Soviet delegation is staying. Nicholai Kossov, KGB agent, receives the pigeon and the message confirming that the Ming Dragon has arrived and MacGyver is involved. He informs his superior, General Racoubian, who assures Kossov that they will dispose of MacGyver.
At the exhibition hall, Pete has the Foundation's man Pettigrew demonstrate the laser grid, key lock, and pressure plate that guard the Dragon's display case. Chu wants to hear MacGyver's assessment and he quickly demonstrates how to bypass the laser grid using cleaning powder and his Swiss Army knife to open the lock. MacGyver then provides some suggestions to improve the security, including the regular presence of a guard and an alarm wired to the pressure plate. Chu mentions the security guard's death but Pete assures him that all signs indicate the man's death was accidental. The Commissioner warns that if anything happens to the Ming Dragon, the diplomatic repercussions would be extreme.
Later, Pete and MacGyver exit the exhibition hall and Pete says they'll be working around the clock to upgrade the security systems. MacGyver notices a woman on an escalator that he thinks looks familiar, but she goes out of sight before he can pursue her. Pete wonders who he saw but MacGyver figures it's just his imagination. MacGyver then takes Pete to a stage at the exhibit hall to show him an old friend's new act. It's Jack Dalton, working as a magician. Jack invites them to his show that night.
At the show, MacGyver is watching, unaware that Tanya and her man Karel are watching him. After the show, he goes backstage to talk to Jack, who invites himself to the diplomatic reception. As they leave, MacGyver spots the same woman from earlier. She gets onto an elevator and leaves before he can catch up to her. When Jack asks who she is, MacGyver explains that the woman is Lisa Kohler… who MacGyver killed two years ago.
Back at his hotel room, MacGyver explains to Jack that Lisa was his contact in an underground resistance movement in the Baltics. Despite the risks they fell in love and MacGyver proposed to her. However, Lisa insisted on going along on a mission to blow up a weapon depot despite MacGyver's misgivings. MacGyver escaped but could only look on as Lisa was shot down and seemingly killed while trying to escape. Jack tries to assure MacGyver it wasn't his fault but MacGyver doesn't believe it. He goes back to his room and finds a note from Lisa saying to meet him at the ferry the next day.
MacGyver goes to the ferry and finds Lisa, alive and well. They embrace and she explains that she was injured but survived her wound. The authorities then sent her to a Russian gulag and she met Nicholai, a disgraced KGB agent. Without Nicholai's help, she would have died in the prison. He engineered their escape and they married. Now they need his help to defect from Russia. However, Lisa explains that Nicholai is Major Nicholai Kossov, the KGB agent who tried to thwart MacGyver's escape during a mission in Hungary two years ago.
MacGyver tells Pete what's happening, and Pete wonders if MacGyver is giving Kossov a chance because of his feelings for Lisa. MacGyver figures both Russians deserve a chance and Pete agrees to help. They meet with the Russian delegation, under the command of Racoubian. Jack invites them to his afternoon performance. Outside, MacGyver approaches Kossov in private and questions his motives. Kossov knows about MacGyver and Lisa's relationship and asks MacGyver to help no matter what he decides about Kossov. He explains that he managed to alter Lisa's records to get her out of prison. MacGyver, deciding to trust him, tells him to make sure he and Lisa are at the magic show.
At the show, Jack calls Tanya and Lisa up to the stage as volunteers for his next illusion. Jack has Lisa enter a cabinet and makes her "disappear," and MacGyver get out the backstage door. Tanya shoves past Jack and goes after them while Kossov follows, telling Racoubian he needs to stop Tanya before she creates an incident. Outside, MacGyver and Lisa head for a nearby motorcycle. Kossov emerges and attacks Racoubian's men, telling MacGyver to get Lisa out. Tanya arrives and opens fire as MacGyver and Lisa drive away.
Tanya and Karel pursue in a van while Racoubian boards a helicopter to pursue. MacGyver heads for the docks and makes a last-second jump onto a departing ferry. He assures Lisa that Pete will help get Kossov out. Meanwhile, Racoubian follows by helicopter and coordinates with Tanya to intercept the ferry. When the boat docks, Tanya gives pursuit and forces the motorcycle off the road and into the woods. With gas running low, MacGyver takes refuges at a logging plant. He and Lisa enter the processing plant and manage to bypass Tanya and get back to her van. However, Racoubian lands the helicopter, blocking their escape and taking them prisoner.
As Tanya holds Lisa, Racoubian admits he has no choice but to kill them rather than risk more attention. MacGyver suggests they make a deal and Racoubian responds by taking out two jeweled collars. He attaches one to a nearby wooden post and explains that it's filled with explosives, armed to go off when the collar is tampered with or if he chooses to activate it by remote. He explodes the one on the post by way of demonstration and then puts the other one on Lisa's neck. He then tells MacGyver he has 24 hours to bring him the Ming Dragon or Lisa dies. He leaves with Tanya and Lisa as MacGyver looks on helplessly…