MacGyver is at the home of silent film star Pinky Burnett watching one of his old movies. Pinky talks about his film star Violet Meredith and how she disappeared once the talkies came out. As two masked men pull up outside and break into the house, Pinky directs MacGyver's attention to a comedy construction scene where the entire facade comes down around him. MacGyver congratulates Pinky and his old partner Carl Bankey on how they pioneered special effects. Pinky admits that his partner retired after the talkies came out and he was a bit of a screwball. He also confesses that he's strapped for cash and is thinking about selling his old prints and found the vintage film. The Phoenix Foundation plans to restore the three rare films so Pinky can show them and make enough money to keep his house. Pinky claims that Carl burned the negatives two months before he died because he hated Pinky so much, but he burned the films to hurt him more. They fought over Violet before she left.
MacGyver promises to take care of the films and starts to leave with the suitcase. The two masked thieves come in and order them to turn over the films. Pinky recognizes one of the men's voices as Carl Bankey, and it's clear he knows Pinky. The thieves force them to the floor and go their truck. The leader uses a radio detonator to activate explosive squibs on the window, making it look like they're shooting, and escape in their truck. MacGyver realizes they've been tricked. The thieves have left the radio detonator behind and Pinky recognizes it as the radio detonator he and Carl made. The logo of Pinky's old studio is on the box. Pinky started to head to studio, which is now a movie ranch, and warns MacGyver that Bankey will burn the films before they can call in the police. MacGyver offers to help. However, the wheels explode when MacGyver turns on the ignition. Pinky goes to get his antique car and offers a MacGyver a ride.
The car breaks down short of the studio and MacGyver realizes that the thieves sabotaged the radiator with sulfuric acid and the entire thing is a set up. As they walk to the studio, the two thieves watch. Karl insists that Pinky is his for cheating him out of what is rightfully his. Meanwhile, MacGyver suggests that they find the movies first. Pinky is surprised that MacGyver wants to help him but insists that he's got no time for a plan. As they go in, Karl's partner Neil insists that he gets his share and they're taking a chance by committing murder. Karl assures him that Pinky is an old man and they'll make it appear as if he died by accident.
MacGyver and Pinky find the thieves' truck but there's no sign of the films. Pinky promises to stay with the truck while MacGyver goes to take a look. Once he's gone, Pinky notices smoke drifting from a building and figures Karl is burning his movies. He goes to investigate while Karl watches on a closed-circuit camera. He then turns on a spotlight trained on the suitcase of films, sitting on a catwalk. Pinky climbs up to get them.
MacGyver returns to the truck and discovers that Pinky is gone. He spots the smoke, goes into the building, and spots Pinky on the catwalk. As Karl closes the door via remote, MacGyver climbs up to help Pinky. Pinky ignores him and opens the suitcase, which shoots out a pile of snakes. Pinky falls off the catwalk and MacGyver pulls him to safety, so Karl activates an explosive charge that leaves both men dangling in mid-air. Using Pinky's wallet and his own knife, MacGyver manages to slide down the nearby backdrop to safety.
They try to leave but Karl has locked the door. Pinky takes pills for his heart while Karl lowers another suitcase on a rope. When they go to the suitcase, Karl drops a net on them. Neil suggests they just shoot them but Karl reminds him they want an accident. He pulls a lever that releases gas from the suitcase, knocking them out. They wake up tied to a pair of railroad tracks in the desert. Pinky remembers that he filmed the same scene with Violet and kicked the switch to send the train on a sidetrack. There's no sidetrack this time and they hear a train coming. The light comes down the tracks and Pinky's heart starts to start up. The "train" passes over them and they realize that they're on a sound stage. Karl turns on the lights once he realizes it won't be so easy to scare Pinky to death. He and Neil go to free them and Karl explains that Violet Meredith was his mother and Carl Bankey was his father. He explains that his parents married secretly and Carl died a month before he was born. He believes that Pinky swindled his parents out of their profits, running up the debts. Pinky explains that Carl was the one who ran up the expenses on his exorbitant special effects. Karl doesn't believe it.
Karl and Neil take MacGyver and Pinky to a water tank while explaining that when Pinky dies, the rights to the films reverts to his mother's estate. The crooks chain MacGyver and Pinky's hands together, walk them out onto a plank, and then dump them into the water. Karl figures they'll eventually run out of energy and drown, and Neil pulls the rope out of the tank and drops it on the other side. Once they drown, Karl will open the feed pipe and they'll be dumped into the Mojave River. Karl and Neil leave and MacGyver tries to hoist Pinky up to grab a hose. It breaks off and MacGyver attaches his boot to the hose and throws it up the edge of the tape. He hooks the rope ladder and pulls it back into the tank and they climb to safety.
Neil and Karl return and discover they've escaped. Karl finally agrees with Neil to shoot them and get it over with. Meanwhile, MacGyver breaks the manacles open while Pinky admits it's the best time he's had in 60 years. MacGyver decides to make a stand and starts working on the supports for a building facade. He asks Pinky to distract Neil and Karl. The crooks are driving by when they see Pinky standing on his head in the middle of the road. They drive toward him, unaware that Pinky has hidden a board with nails in the dirt. Their tires blow out and Pinky runs to join MacGyver. The two crooks spot MacGyver and Pinky standing in front of a hotel, their hands up. MacGyver yanks on a rope and pulls down the entire facade. Pinky and MacGyver are standing where the windows are so the facade misses them and collapses on Karl and Neil.
Later, the films are previewed at the Paramount Theater and MacGyver comes outside to find a nervous Pinky worried that the people are laughing at him. He's got a sweet distribution deal and an offer to appear in a new picture. The audience inside bursts into applause and MacGvyer congratulates Pinky.