At a desert command post, MacGyver comes in over the rooftop and climbs down on a rope to a second-story window. He slips in to steal a map of the U.S. with specific targets indicated. MacGyver takes the map and tries to leave, only to discover the door is locked and the key is outside in the lock. He tries to climb back up the rope instead but a camel herder spots him and alerts nearby soldiers. MacGyver slips the map under the door then pokes the key out with his knife and pulls it back under the door using the map. Once outside, he relocks the doors and the soldiers waste time breaking down the door and searching while MacGyver makes a run down the stairs.
Outside, the guards spot him and open fire. MacGyver rolls up the map and uses it as a blowgun to fire a seed at a woman's ankle, distracting him so he can steal a robe she's hanging up to dry. One of the soldiers corners MacGyver, who strolls casually up to the armed man waving the paper map. He hits the soldier with the map: he's previously rolled it up around a steel bar. MacGyver runs for it out into the desert and gets to the top of the dune. As the soldiers approach, he uses the map as a sled to slide down the dune and evade his pursuers long enough to escape in a hot-air balloon. One of the soldiers shoots and punctures the balloon. MacGyver climbs up to the hole and uses duct tape to fasten the map over the hole, stopping the leak and making good his escape.
Next, MacGyver is off to Central America to help a newspaper publisher with a missing photographer. He arrives in town and spots soldiers harassing peasants. When they harass a woman, MacGyver intervenes and slips them a bribe while the woman escapes. He then goes to the newspaper office and asks after Kate Connelly. The printer, Diego, draws a gun and demands answers. Kate, in the darkroom in the next room, overhears their conversation and invites him in. MacGyver sees that Kate is working on photos of Dave Ryerson, who was deported from the U.S. MacGyver met him once, and is responsible for Ryerson's deportation. Kate says she's working on a big story to get rid of General Antonio Vasquez, in charge of the secret police and looking for weapons. Ryerson, a crime syndicate dealer, is providing Vasquez with arms. Kate insists MacGyver can get her out of the country if he helps her get photos of Ryerson and Vasquez together at Vasquez's hacienda. MacGyver reluctantly agrees on the condition that she leaves with him as soon as she has the evidence.
At the hacienda wall, MacGyver uses Kate's camera strap with plastic clips to pull apart the electrified wires and slip through. They spot Ryerson and Vasquez arriving to make the arms deal, driving through a gate controlled by a panel on the lawn. Kate gets her photos of the two men together and then tries to get closer as Ryerson shows off his sample weaponry. Vasquez also wants tanks and Ryerson says it'll take three months but they can ship everything else now. Vasquez warns it's a risky deal but agrees, and Kate gets a photo of them shaking hands. Ryerson spots them and the soldiers quickly move in and capture them. The two are brought before Vasquez and Ryerson, who are unimpressed with Kate's journalist credentials. As Ryerson gloats, MacGyver spots a block of plastic explosives. When Ryerson demands her cameras, MacGyver provides them but detaches the flash and puts the electrical trigger wire into a wad of the plastic explosives. He sets the timer on the flash and grabs the rest of the plastic explosive, then ducks for cover as the smaller piece goes off. They grab the film and head for the gate, and MacGyver activates the gate. They get through just ahead of the soldiers before the gate closes. Ryerson assures Vasquez that if they use his army, they can capture them.
MacGyver and Kate go back to the newspaper office only to see the soldiers hauling out Diego's corpse. MacGyver spots some fireworks hanging up and gets Kate into a nearby church. He assures her that Diego died for what he believed in and Kate warns that the troops will cut off every escape route. MacGyver proposes they head for the Mexican border a hundred kilometers away. He takes the strap from one of her bags and one of the church candles, then goes up into the bell tower. He sees a nearby bus and spots Vasquez and Ryerson as they arrive. MacGyver fastens the bell to the rope using the strap, then tapes the candle to the rope as a timed fuse to set off the firecrackers taped inside the bell and burn through the strap. He then goes downstairs, leaves a coin for the church poor box, and gets Kate outside. He then crawls under the bus and fastens the winch cable on a jeep to the soldiers' truck. The candle sets off the firecrackers and everyone goes running while they get into the bus. MacGyver rigs a bus mirror and a compact as a periscope and drives away. When the soldiers follow in the jeep, the jeep flips over.
Vasquez and Ryerson lead the pursuit and coordinate with a plane flying overhead. Meanwhile, Kate admits she's down to her last lucky camera and asks MacGyver what his story is. He talks about how he left Minnesota to see how the world works. The plane spots them and MacGyver drives the bus off the road while Kate snaps pictures. They finally go down a hill and into a river, and wade to shore. That night, they set up camp and MacGyver cooks a lizard that he captures with a trap. Kate reluctantly eats it and admits he keeps her off balance, but she likes it that way. She offers to share her bed, such as it is, and he accepts and they kiss.
The next morning, Vasquez and his men find the bus and Ryerson figures they can catch them. Vasquez's temper starts to fray but Ryerson suggests he have his men prevent MacGyver and Kate from backtracking, and push them to the only spot on the border they can cross over. The general warns that if they fail to capture the fugitives, he'll execute Ryerson. MacGyver and Kate spot a jeep and Kate fakes being unconscious. MacGyver carries Kate up to them and offers to surrender, tosses Kate to one soldier, and knocks out the other one. The first one recovers and Kate knocks him out with her lucky camera, breaking it. MacGyver apologizes and she assures him it's okay. They drive the jeep toward the border but spot Vasquez's soldiers waiting for them at the river. Two Mexican border patrolmen watch them from the other side but there's nothing they can do.
MacGyver drives to a nearby abandoned farm and has Kate drain oil from one engine, then pour it over an overheated engine block to make a smoke screen. Next MacGyver loads up barrels on a cart and hooks it up to the jeep. They drive toward a hill overlooking the border while the plane spots them from overhead. As some soldiers drive up and others open fire, MacGyver unloads he barrels and then locks the jeep's steering wheel with straps and tapes the accelerator down. He sends the jeep down the hill where it slams into another jeep, setting off an explosion. Next, Kate and MacGyver start rolling barrels down the hill, and the smoke screen and various explosives MacGyver has rigged go off. The soldiers open fire and the barrels explode. Finally, MacGyver and Kate get in one of the barrels and roll themselves down the hill and into the river, unnoticed by the soldiers. The fugitives swim across the river to safety and the Mexican border patrol greets them. Vasquez tells Ryerson it's too late, but he'll keep his promise and orders his soldiers to dispose of his "partner."
On the other side of the border, Kate and MacGyver pose for a timed photo with the border patrolmen using Kate's lucky camera: she fixed it using duct tape.