The Arctic Circle, 1944. A plane is flying over and the engine gives out. The plane crashes and a crate full of gold bullion is broken open.
Pete calls MacGyver and asks him to lead a joint U.S./Soviet expedition to recover a million dollars in gold lost during the last days of World War II. The planet’s navigator, Colonel Turk West, survived the crash and is participating in the expedition. The Russians get the gold and Turk isn’t thrilled with the idea. The two Russians members arrive: General Sergei Barenov and Natalia Velskaja, an old friend from five years back. MacGyver isn’t thrilled to see her. They meet with West, who previously served with Barenov during World War II. Barenov was the air flight commander at the time. West has spotted the plane on satellite photos after the winds exposed it. A storm is coming in and they don’t have enough time to wait for the Russians to bring in a helicopter.
The four members of the team take a Snowcat out into the wilderness and MacGyver stops to check the trail. Natalia goes after him while inside, Barenov notes that West’s official report doesn’t describe the storm in 1944. West talks about how the pilot ordered him to bail out after one of their engines caught on fire. The colonel insists they could have found somewhere to land.
Outside, Natalia offers MacGyver her help and he tells her to stay out of his way. She insists she’s there to make a difference and she wants to use the gold to fund earthquake relief. He points out she expressed similar sentiments in Helsinki five years ago when she claimed her uncle wanted to defect. Natalia says that she had no choice then but times have changed.
Once they get their bearings, the expedition continues and they arrive at the plane. Using a prototype ultrasound scanner, MacGyver determines that the pilot put it down in one piece. The cargo door is missing and they have to dig their way down. They finally enter the plane and discover that the men aren’t there and all but one bar of gold has disappeared. MacGyver figures that the Russian crew couldn’t have moved the gold far. Natalia asks for a chance to clear the air and explains that her uncle did want to defect, but the KGB threatened his life if she didn’t help steal papers from MacGyver in Helsinki. MacGyver accepts her apology and they go back to the plane.
West and Barenov are searching the plane and find bottles of vodka. Barenov and Natalia enjoy a drink and examine the single remaining gold brick. As they continue to search the plane, West notices latitude and longitude coordinates written on the underside. However, he writes them down and doesn’t say anything to the others. In the cockpit, MacGyver realizes that there’s still fuel in the plane and sends Barenov to find the log. The Russian goes back and sees West writing down the coordinates. He doesn’t say anything and mentions the extra fuel, but West claims it’s just the result of a blocked fuel line. Once West goes outside, Barenov finds the coordinates. Outside, West gets some hidden plastic explosives. As Barenov emerges, he sees West and realizes something is going on. He watches as West goes out into the woods.
MacGyver finds an opened box with a broken label. He has Natalia translate and discovers it’s a box sealed by the U.S. intelligence. Inside is a Dictaphone and recording cylinders. One cylinder is on the machine and MacGyver and Natalie figure the crew left a message.
In the woods, West plants the explosive charges as Barenov watches from hiding. Finally he approaches West and accuses him of sabotaging the plane. Barenov tells him to give it up but West refuses, insisting that he’s thought about the gold every day since and he’ll get it this time. He attacks Barenov and the two men fight. West gets the upper hand and throws a climbing axe into Barenov’s chest before running off into the woods.
MacGyver uses a pencil to rotate the cylinder and a needle attached to a paper cone. The message from the crew is for West, stating that they knew he sabotaged the fuel line. The Russian message says for West to follow the coordinates on the gold brick and he’ll have his treasure. MacGyver and Natalia hear West driving away in the Snowcat. They go out just as he activates the charges, bringing an avalanche down on them.
As MacGyver tries to dig his way out, he explains that West must have calculated how much fuel was left and where it would land. However, the storm threw the plane off course. The plane is hopelessly buried but MacGyver sees the vodka and gets an idea. He takes the string off of a sleeping bag and soaks it in alcohol, then grabs a fire extinguisher and wraps it in rubber. MacGyver then soaks it in more alcohol and places it in a hole in the snow blocking the cargo hatch. Finally he blocks the door with metal to redirect the charge and prepares to light the string fuse. Fortunately, Natalia has a book of matches from the hotel in Helsinki where they met. He lights the fuse and they get to cover. The explosion blasts the snow clear so that they can escape and follow the Snowcat tracks. Before they can leave, MacGyver spots Barenov’s corpse. Natalia vows to find the gold and make sure the earthquake victims know of his efforts.
West finds a cave at the coordinates. He goes in and comes face-to-face with the frozen corpse of one of the Russian crew. Unimpressed, West proceeds onward… and sets off a tripwire, causing a propeller blade to drop out of the ceiling toward him.
MacGyver and Natalia find the cave and go inside. They find the propeller blade and blood, and footprints leading way. Following the tracks, they discover the wounded West. He draws a gun on them and plans to use them as a shield to set off any other booby traps. They get past the propeller and Natalia almost sets off another trip wire. MacGyver realizes that the trip wire runs to bottles of acid and aviator fuel, rigged to smash together and cause an explosion. MacGyver suggests they simply leave the bottles where they are and West agrees. They step over the trip wire and enter a large ice cavern. Inside is the second crewman, dead, and the crate of gold on the missing cargo hatch.
As they step toward the gold, Natalie steps on a pressure plate. She freezes and MacGyver checks the ice and snow beneath. There’s a mechanism rigged to some kind of explosive, but MacGyver doesn’t know what. He wants to use the gold to weigh it down but West refuses to give it up. MacGyver asks for West’s pack and uses the frame to jam the mechanism. Once he’s succeeded, West kicks MacGyver off the slope. As Natalia tries to pull him up, West notices that the second corpse is holding two gold bricks. He takes them… and discovers they’re rigged to the bottles. The two bottles smash together, exploding. Falling debris knocks West off into the chasm to his death.
Natalia pulls MacGyver up and they realize there’s only one way out. They get on the cargo hatch and ride it out through the ice to safety. They jump clear as the gold continues down the mountainside on the hatch.
Back at camp, MacGyver and Natalia warm up and Natalia regrets that Barenov won’t get the chance to see the gold put to its intended use. They start to kiss… just as Pete arrives. He tells them to continue whatever he interrupted but MacGyver tells him that they’re done. Natalia agrees… for now.
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