Angus MacGyver (Lucas Till) works for the Phoenix Foundation, a covert agency operating under the disguise of a think tank.
MacGyver’s mother died when he was 5. His father James MacGyver (Tate Donovan) didn’t deal well with his wife’s death; becoming emotionally distant to his son due to feeling constantly angry. He eventually left when MacGyver turned 10, leaving him in the care of his grandfather Harry MacGyver (Michael O’Keefe). It was Harry who gave him his first Swiss Army Knife (SAK) to help him bend paperclips into new shapes.
MacGyver’s best childhood friend is Wilt Bozer (Justin Hires). Bozer and MacGyver bonded over the loss of beloved family members, due to Bozer saving him from school-bully Donnie Santos and because both prefer being called by their last names. They spent many hours building their tree house as kids and moved in together into Harry’s house when coming to LA as adults.
MacGyver attended MIT at the age of 17 before dropping out to join the military as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) expert. He worked alongside his mentor Alfred Pena and his friend Charlie Robinson (Emerson Brooks). In Afghanistan, he was partnered with Jack Dalton (George Eads).
After being recruited to DXS, MacGyver worked in a core team with Jack and Nikki Carpenter (Tracy Spiridakos) under Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt). Mac and Nikki dated two years prior to the events of Season 1.
In the Pilot Episode, Mac and the team infiltrate a party in Italy to steal a biological weapon from a terrorist. The mission goes awry, with Mac and Nikki getting shot and falling into Lake Como. While Mac survives, the bioweapon is stolen and Nikki’s body can’t be retrieved. The team recruits Riley Davis (Tristin Mays) who’s currently serving time in prison. Riley is the daughter of Jack’s ex-girlfriend Diane (Michael Michele) and manages to track Kendrick and the bioweapon – and Nikki, who’s apparently still alive and working with Kendrick. At the end of the episode, the DXS packs shop and rises under a new think-tank-cover called the Phoenix Foundation.
In Episode 1×03 (Awl), Jack urges MacGyver to get in contact with James; knowing from his own experience that Mac might regret wasting so much time to make up with his father. MacGyver agrees to write James a letter; stating that his father is a bit old-fashioned.
In Episode 1×06 (Wrench), Charlie calls MacGyver to New York. He needs Mac’s expert opinion on a bomb; suspecting that it has been made by a notorious bomb maker called “The Ghost”. Over the course of the episode, they realize that The Ghost installs a digital camera into his bombs so he can watch as his victims try to deactivate the bomb and fail. As it turns out, the records go back over a decade – and there’s also a recording of MacGyver’s mentor Alfred Pena getting killed by one of the bombs in Afghanistan. Mac feels guilty over Pena’s death because Pena had taken over to disarm the bomb while MacGvyer worked on a faulty tech equipment.
Bozer doesn’t know about MacGyver’s true occupation until he is almost killed by Murdoc (David Dastmalchian) in Episode 1×08 (Corkscrew). MacGyver convinces Thornton to hire Bozer for the Phoenix Foundation as a lab tech and to help work on robot Sparky. Later, Bozer is allowed to join the team on field missions.
In the midseason finale episode (1×12: Screwdriver), it’s revealed that Nikki worked undercover for the CIA to bring down the Organization and the mole that infiltrated DXS/Phoenix. As it turned out, Thornton had framed Nikki and hired Murdoc to take out MacGyver. In Episode 1×13 (Large Blade), Thornton is replaced by Matty Webber (Meredith Eaton), Jack’s former boss at the CIA.
In the Season 1 Finale, MacGyver tells Jack that the letter got returned and he can’t seem to find another way to contact his father. Jack agrees to accompany Mac to go looking for James.
In the Season 2 Premiere, MacGyver and Jack are called back to work after being more or less unsuccessful in the hunt for James MacGyver. During the season, Mac follows several clues that his dad seemingly left him. Frustratingly, the clues (i.e. his old watch) lead to nowhere, but MacGyver finds evidence that Matty knew his father and investigated him. Confronting Matty about it, she denies having ever met James MacGyver.
In the Season 2 Finale, Mac meets up with Matty to quit since he still feels she’s hiding the truth. It’s later revealed to the audience and Team Phoenix that James MacGyver is Oversight and therefore not only the head of the Phoenix Foundation, but also actually MacGyver’s boss since he joined DXS. It was also him that arranged for MacGyver and Jack being partnered up; guiding his son’s education and career while staying in the background. Feeling betrayed, MacGyver hands in his resignation; stating that he can’t work for someone he doesn’t trust.
For 3 months, Mac stays in Nigeria, building wells and fixing stuff. He falls in love with Nasha (Sibongile Mlambo), a local school teacher.
In the Season 3 Premiere, James MacGyver visits his son in Nigeria; stating that he needs to come back because Jack got himself into trouble. MacGyver agrees to come back for this one mission. After his Phoenix co-worker Jill Morgan (Kate Bond) gets killed by Murdoc, he decides to stay with Phoenix for a while, planning to go back to Nasha as soon as Murdoc is put behind bars again.
At James’ insistence, MacGyver agrees to try to build a relationship and to get to know each other a bit better. They start with having regular lunch dates in his father’s favorite Diner.
In Episode 3×06 (Murdoc + MacGyver + Murdoc), Murdoc kidnaps and hides Nasha to get MacGyver to help him retrieve’s son Cassian (Brady Bond). While MacGyver reluctantly joins Murdoc on a mission to save Cassian, Jack and Bozer manage to free Nasha mostly unharmed. At the end of the episode, MacGyver realizes that it’s too dangerous for Nasha to be with him and decides to “take a break”.
In Episode 3×08 (Revenge + Catacombs + Le Fantome), Team Phoenix is approached by Irish military intelligence officer Eileen Brennan (Holland Roden); claiming she knows the whereabouts of “The Ghost”. Charlie joins Team Phoenix and Eileen to finally get hold of the bomb maker. It’s later revealed that Eileen is the daughter of The Ghost who had killed her mother by accident. She only asked for the Phoenix Foundation’s help because she finally wanted to get revenge. Before she kills her father, he tells MacGyver that there is one more bomb hidden out there, waiting for Mac and his friends.
In Episode 3×14 (Father + Bride + Betrayal), Jack is tasked to lead the hunt for wanted murderer Kovacs. He asks MacGyver to stay back and gets his friend Desiree “Desi” Nguyen (Levy Tran) to stand in for him to watch over Team Phoenix. While Desi does things very differently from Jack, the team warms up to her quickly.
After getting suspicious that James is once again hiding things from him in Episode 3×17, MacGyver discovers that his father has Stage 4 cancer.
In the Season 3 finale (Mason + Cable + Choices), Charlie is used as a pawn against Mac and James; locked in an elaborate trap that either kills him or sets off a bomb underneath a fully-booked hotel. Charlie asks Mac to find his murderer, then sacrifices himself to save his friends and the hotel-guests. Although they catch Mason (Peter Weller) within the same episode, he manages to escape.
At the end of the episode, Mac and Desi agree to go on a “date”; him telling her about Cairo and her telling him what she owns Jack. Later, James confesses to MacGyver that he kind of sacrificed Masons son to get his own son rescued during a mission. Mac is appalled that his father favored his life over that of another agent – especially without that agent and his team knowing about the risks. Stating that this is against everything he stands for, he asks James to leave.