MacGyver slips into a Middle Eastern command post in a village by climbing down from the roof. His mission: find a map of the U.S. marked with primary and secondary targets. MacGyver takes the map and tries the interior door, only to discover it's locked from the other side and the key's still in the hole. He starts to go out the window, but a camel herder spots him and alerts the soldiers. Ducking back inside, MacGyver slips the map underneath the door and pokes the key out of the lock using his knife. After pulling the key back on the map, he unlocks the door and slips out just ahead of the arriving soldiers. The soldiers spot him outside, and MacGyver hides. He spots a woman surrounded by chickens hanging up robes and rolls up the map to use as a blowgun. He shoots a pebble at her ankle, and when she berates the chickens, he steals a robe.
As MacGyver flees down an alleyway, a soldier corners him. MacGyver casually approaches and offers him the rolled-up map then hits him with it; he hid a steel bar inside. Escaping into the surrounding desert, MacGyver gets ahead of the soldiers by using the map to slide down a sand dune and get to his hot air balloon. As he takes off, one of the soldiers shoots the balloon. MacGyver climbs up and tapes the map over the hole, creating a makeshift patch. And then flies to freedom.
A newspaper publisher asks MacGyver to check on Kate Connelly, a photographer who has failed to report back from her assignment in a Central American country. MacGyver arrives in town and helps a young woman by bribing the soldiers harassing her. He gets to her newspaper office, and the printer, Diego, draws a gun and asks who he is. MacGyver claims he's harmless, and Kate, overhearing from the darkroom, invites him in. Kate is developing photos of Dave Ryerson, an arms dealer who was deported from the U.S. thanks to MacGyver. Now he's selling arms to the country's head of the secret police, General Antonio Vasquez. She agrees to leave if MacGyver will help her get photos of Ryerson and Vasquez meeting at Vasquez's estate. MacGyver reluctantly agrees.
MacGyver uses Kate's camera strap and its plastic clips to part the electrical wires on the manor's fence. Inside they spot Ryerson showing weapon samples to Vasquez. Vasquez is nervous about the risks but Ryerson assures him everything will be fine. They shake hands and Kate gets photos of them making their deal. However, Ryerson spots her and the soldiers quickly capture them. Kate protests but Vasquez isn't interested, and Ryerson is eager to dispose of MacGyver. MacGyver spots a block of plastic explosives. When Ryerson asks for Kate's cameras, MacGyver starts to hand them over and manages to pull off a small piece of plastique. He plugs the flash attachment into the piece and sets the timer. He pulls Kate to cover as it goes off and they get off the grounds during the distraction. Vasquez is worried but Ryerson tells him to mobilize his army and search the surrounding town.
MacGyver and Kate go back to the newspaper office only to watch as Vasquez's men carry Diego's corpse out. MacGyver grabs some fireworks and goes into a nearby church with Kate. She warns him that Vasquez will have his men cut off every escape route. He says they'll have to get to the Mexican border a hundred kilometers north. Using one of her camera straps, some candles, and the fireworks, he rigs the church bell to ring and the fireworks to go off when the candle acting as a timed fuse burns down. They hide outside and MacGyver attaches a winch cable on the soldiers' Jeep to a truck. The fireworks go off, and the bell starts to ring, and MacGyver and Kate get onto an old bus. He rigs a periscope out of a side mirror and Kate's compact and then drives away through a hail of bullets. When the soldiers try to follow in the Jeep, it flips over.
Vasquez sends up a spotter plane while MacGyver and Kate drive north, talking about MacGyver's background. The plane spots them, and MacGyver is forced to go cross-country. They end up going down a hill into a stream and are forced to proceed on foot. That night, they make camp and MacGyver cooks a lizard for supper. Kate admits that he keeps her off balance, and she likes it. They end up sharing a bedroll together.
The next morning, Vasquez's men find the abandoned bus and Ryerson tells the general to have his men cut off any escape route and then head for the Mexican border. Vasquez, irritated, warns that if Ryerson is wrong then he'll execute the arms dealer if it's the last thing he does.
MacGyver and Kate hijack a Jeep by having Kate feign unconsciousness. MacGyver carries her up to the soldiers and tosses her to one of them, and together they take out the two men. Kate uses her last "lucky" camera to knock one of them out, breaking it. They drive to the border but discover Vasquez's men have sealed the river where they have to cross over. The Mexican border patrol is watching from the other side but can't do anything.
MacGyver spots an abandoned farm and comes up with a new plan. They drain dirty oil from one engine and then pour it over the Jeep's engine. MacGyver improvises explosives and puts them in the barrels, then loads the barrels on a wagon behind the Jeep. They drive to a hill overlooking the soldiers and unload the barrels, while the Jeep gives off oily smoke, obscuring their actions. When the soldiers approach, MacGyver and Kate light the fuses on the barrels and roll them down the hill. The barrels explode, scattering the soldiers, and Kate and MacGyver get in a larger barrel and roll themselves down the hill and into the river. They swim to the other side as the border patrolmen greet them. Vasquez tells Ryerson that he plans to keep his earlier promise, while MacGyver and Kate pose for a photo with the patrolman. Kate has repaired her lucky camera, using MacGyver's duct tape.