Angus “Mac” MacGyver (Lucas Till) works for the Phoenix Foundation, a covert agency operating under the disguise of a think tank.
His mother Ellen MacGyver (Scottie Thompson) died when he was 5. His father James MacGyver (Tate Donovan) didn’t deal well with her death; becoming emotionally distant to his son and being absent a lot. 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 treehouse 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, MacGyver 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). She 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 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. Mac 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 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. While she warms up to Bozer immediately, she questions MacGyver and his tendency to improvise in the field. In Episode 1×15 (Magnifying Glass), Matty changes her opinion after the team helps her finding the murderer of her god-daughter.
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 MacGyver Senior. During the season, Mac follows several clues that his dad seemingly left him. Frustratingly, the clues 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 thinks she’s still 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, Mac 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 Mac 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” (Sean Cameron Michael). 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 Tiberius Kovacs. He asks MacGyver to stay back and gets his friend Desiree “Desi” Nguyen (Levy Tran) to stand in for him as Mac’s new overwatch. 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.
By Episode 3×20 (No Go + High Voltage + Rescue), Sparky is programmed to assess human emotion. He comes to the conclusion that MacGyver and Desi share a mutual attraction for each other. Bozer is not too happy about it; thinking that the two dating each other would end messy.
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 Elliot 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 owes Jack. Later, James confesses to MacGyver that he kind of sacrificed Mason’s 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.
After the events in the Season 3 Finale, the Phoenix Foundation was disbanded and the team members were stripped of their high-level clearances. Being blacklisted to work for another agency, MacGyver teaches chemistry. In Episode 4×01 (Fire + Ashes + Legacy = Phoenix), Russ Taylor (Henry Ian Cusick) turns out to be the new owner of the Phoenix Foundation. He approaches Mac and convinces him to get “Team Phoenix” back together. During the first few episodes, they encounter an organization called “Codex”.
As it turns out, MacGyver and Desi have dated for several months before the relationship fell apart. The two had even adopted a parakeet. After the break-up, Desi got “custody”. During the first few episodes, Mac and Desi keep bickering; clearly having unresolved issues and questions about why exactly their relationship fell apart. After Desi almost gets killed in Episode 4×05 (Soccer + Desi + Merchant + Titan) by Codex member “The Merchant” (James Callis), Mac kisses Desi after saving her. They start dating again.
In Episode 4×07, Mac and Desi go on a double date with Riley and her boyfriend Aubrey (Leonardo Nam). Not surprisingly, the date turns into another mission. At the end of the episode, Mac and Desi wonder why their relationship only seems to thrive when they’re in danger and why they can never have a “normal” date. They come to the conclusion that maybe that’s their thing and that with being agents, they’re not like “normal” people anyway.
While MacGyver didn’t have any contact with James for months, Matty contacts Oversight; talking to him about her suspicions of James’ sister-in-law Gwendolyn Hayes (Jeri Ryan) still being alive and involved with Codex.
When tracking down Mason in Episode 4×08 (Father + Son + Father + Matriarch), James reveals to MacGyver that his cancer is back and that he only has a few months left. They find Mason, but soon realize that it was all a trap by Gwendolyn. She used Mason to lure in MacGyver, wanting him to join Codex and “reset the world”. Mason and the MacGyvers have to join forces. At the end of the episode, James sacrifices himself so MacGyver can escape; pointing out beforehand that his son is the more valuable asset and the only one who can stop Codex from destroying the world. Gwendolyn, Scarlett (Amber Skye Noyes), and the other mercenaries pack shop and relocate.
In Episode 4×10 (Tesla + Bell + Edition + Mac), Scarlett and her team is sent to retrieve items left by inventor Nikola Tesla. Following Team Phoenix into a mine, her team is stunned by Tesla’s weapon Shiva, but she is able to escape.
In Episode 4×11 (Psy-Op + Cell + Merchant + Birds), MacGyver pretends to be a prisoner in a Chinese prison in order to try and trick The Merchant into revealing what he knows about Codex and what their plan is. Everything seems to be going well until the Merchant eventually realizes the prison is just a “film set”; signaling Codex for help and getting into MacGyver’s head. When trying to break out her fellow Codex colleague, both The Merchant and Scarlett are arrested.
To make it look like he defected and joined Codex, MacGyver helps Scarlett breaking out in Episode 4×12 (Loyalty + Family + Rogue + Hellfire). With the help of Riley, they retrieve Shiva and bring it into Codex’s headquarters.
In the Season 4 Finale (4×13: Save + The + Dam + World), Head of Codex Leland (Tobin Bell) questions MacGyver and reveals to him that he once tried to recruit Russ Taylor. When Leland later realizes that MacGyver is still loyal to Phoenix and that both him and Scarlett might be too much of a distraction for Gwendolyn, he sends the head of security to kill them. While Riley and Mac can escape, Scarlett and the other Codex members in the warehouse don’t. Gwendolyn is furious with Leland and sacrifices herself to prevent Codex from detonating a nuke inside a dam. Leland and the rest of the surviving Codex members disappear.
In Episode 5×05 (Jack + Kinematics + Safe Cracker + MgKNO3 + GTO), Jack Dalton’s body is returned to the US; apparently dying in pursuit of Tiberius Kovac in Zagreb (Croatia). A few days after the wake, MacGyver receives a coded postcard from “Ozzy Ulrich” – a postcard that Jack ordered to be sent upon his death. Team Phoenix heads to Zagreb, where they are double-crossed by local contact Anya Vitez (Bojana Novakovic). It later turns out that Tiberius Kovac never existed, but was created by Anya to cover up her crimes.
Reboot series (main character)
James MacGyver (deceased)